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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hekate Suppers At The Crossroads

A practice particularly associated with the sacred three-way crossroads of Hekate was the Hekate Supper, or depina Hekates. It may be that these offerings were made to appease ghosts and keep them at the crossroads, avoiding trouble from them whilst traveling etc. Alternatively these offerings were described as being made to placate the goddess and ensure that she would look favorably upon those who made regular offerings.

It has been suggested that the crossroads was sacred to Hekate due to her having been abandoned at a crossroads as a baby by her mother Pheraea, and then rescued and brought up by shepherds. This Thessalian tale comes from a scholiast to Lycophron's 3rd century BCE play Alexandria, and was a late invention.

Aristophanes recorded that offerings to Hekate were made "on the eve of the new moon" which is when the first sliver of the new moon is visible, signifying a possible connection with Hekate as a lunar goddess, rising, like the moon, from the underworld on the night of the new moon.

There are also references to the offerings being made on the thirtieth day of the month, but keep in mind that this was calculated on the Greek calendars, it would vary from state to state as there was no uniformity in the calendar system being used.

It has further been suggested that the offerings made at the Hekate Suppers were a form of charity, and certainly the consumption of the food by the poor was noted by Aristophanes (5th century satirist):

"Ask Hekate whether it is better to be rich or starving; she will tell you that the rich send her a meal every month and that the poor make it disappear before it is even served."

The 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia, the Suda, paraphrased this quote and added the following:

"From her one may learn whether it is better to be rich or to go hungry. For she says that those who have and who are wealthy should send her a dinner each month, but that the poor among mankind should snatch it before they put it down. For it was customary for the rich to offer loaves and other things to Hekate each month, and for the poor to take from them."

Various sources mention different foods offered to Hekate at the suppers. These were:
  • Magides - A type of loaf or cake
  • Mainis - Sprat
  • Skoroda - Garlic
  • Tigle - Mullet
  • Psammeta - Sacrificial cake somewhat like the psaista
  • Oon - Eggs (raw)
  • Tyros - Cheese
  • Basunias - A type of cake
Another type of food offering which was left to Hekate on the eve of the full moon was the amphiphon, a type of cake. Amphiphon means light-about, an appropriate name for this flat cheesecake which was surrounded by small torches.

The supper, or leaving of offerings at the crossroads was one of the hardest practices for the Christian church to stamp out. Records indicate it was still taking place in the 11th century CE, and it may well have continued far longer.

From: Hekate Liminal Rites
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