Hekate, What She Controls And Her Liminality
In the religion of the ancient Greeks, there is a deity by the name of Hekate (also spelled Hecate). She is a deity that is associated with a great number of things including crossroads, entrances, gates, magic, witchcraft, light and darkness, herbs and poisonous plants and the knowledge of what to do with them, ghosts and other kinds of spirits and necromancy, other general sorcery, snakes, dogs, keys, torches, triple nature, other forms of knowledge, and even more.
Hekate’s nature in this way shows the state of her liminality. She is the in-between of everything. When you are moving from one point to another, you are doing that because of Hekate’s presence and allowance.
When you cross through a gate, open a door and go through, or anything else of that matter, what you are doing is part of Hekate’s design. This also applies to nonphysical things such as when you move from one idea or belief to another or transition from the type of person you used to be and into the type of person you are today.
This can also work with things that are not related to people as well, such as when the day changes to night and vice versa. Changes in animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and everything else are also within the application of this law.
In that sense, Hekate controls quite a lot of power over the course and direction of the world and holds quite a lot of responsibility for the way that the world functions and the way that things develop over time. This role gives Hekate a noteworthy kind of relationship to other deities as well who also manage the conduction of things to one point or another for their own purposes, such as Hermes and Hades.
With all of this power, is Hekate a Titaness or a Goddess?
Hekate The Respected Titan
Hekate has a great amount of honor, respect, and privilege in all three domains such as in the sky (the domain of Zeus), in the underworld (the domain of Hades), and in the sea (the domain of Poseidon). The reason why she earned such a powerful amount of title and prestige to herself is from her alliance with Zeus and the Olympian Gods during the Titanomachy, the war between the Gods and the Titans.
Despite the fact that Hekate chose the side of Zeus in the war, she is actually a Titan (Titaness is the name for female Titans but Titan can also be used neutrally). However, there is a bit of a catch when it comes to this answer.
Titans and Gods may be separate names, but all Titans are also Gods. Gods (or Goddesses) are the general name for deities. A Titan (or Titaness) is just a specific type of God (or Goddess), that specific type in question being those who were in power BEFORE the reign of the Olympian Gods.
Usually Titans are identified as those who sides with Cronus, the father of Zeus, in the Titanomachy to fight by his side instead of Zeus’s side. However, there were actually also other Titans who remained neutral or sided with Zeus against Cronus for various reasons.
Hekate is one of the few female Titans to actually engage in the fighting of the Titanomachy, and she also engages in the Gigantomachy later. She is even one of the few deities recorded killing a giant all by herself, showing the colossal power that Titans such as herself hold.
Why Is Hekate A Titan?
Now that we know that Hekate is a Titan and that she is still around due to siding with Zeus and the winning side of the Titanomachy, why is this the case? Why was she a Titaness to begin with?
The reason why Hekate is considered a Titaness comes primarily out of lineage and generation. Within Greek mythology, there are three main stages of deities: Primordial, Titan, and finally God. However, there are also generations within each of those stages that establish when each deity was born or created as well as who or what each deity came from.
For example, the first generation of the Gods can be considered the six children of Cronus and Rhea who founded the Olympian Gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades (not actually an Olympian but related to them), Hera, Demeter, and Hestia. There are now additional Olympian Gods like Hermes, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Hephaestus, Athena, and Dionysus. As well as non-Olympian Gods like Heracles, Hebe, Harmonia, Persephone, Boreas, and many more.
Within the Titans, there are three distinct generations. The first generation are the Titans who were born straight from the Primordial Gods, particularly the ones born from Gaea.
This most prominent members of this first generation are the twelve Titans born from the union of Uranus and Gaea. Their six male children are Oceanus, Koios, Krios, Iapetus, Hyperion, and Cronus while their six female children are Thea, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys.
The first pair that we need to focus on for the purpose of understanding Hekate’s genealogy is Koios and Phoebe. These two are actually Hekate’s grandparents, and you can see some of her traits through them.
Koios is the Titan of the North, the second eldest son of Uranus and Gaea, and he reigns over questions and intelligence itself. Koios represents the idea of rational knowledge and the exploration of knowledge, when you think about things and research things this is essentially entering his domain.
Phoebe is the Titaness of “Shining Knowledge,” a middle daughter of Uranus and Gaea, and she reigns over prophetic knowledge, spiritual knowledge, and irrational knowledge. Phoebe is also believed to have an association with the moon due to her name and also the fact that a fair number of her descendants have a relationship with the moon as well.
Koios and Phoebe produced several children from their marriage including Asteria, a second generation Titan who would become the mother of Hekate. Asteria is the Titaness of stars and has a strong relation to astrology.
The second pair of first generation Titans that we need to focus on are the ones that would lead to Hekate’s father, and those Titans are Krios and Eurybia. Eurybia is a first generation Titaness that is not a child of Gaea and Uranus, she is instead the child of Gaea and Pontus, another Primordial God.
Krios is the Titan of the South. Not much is known about Krios but from his name and description we can gather that he is associated with rams, he has the horns of one on his head.
Krios appears to have an association with the zodiac and the passing of seasons. There is also a chthonic nature associated with him in the classical texts.
Being the least individualized of all the primary twelve Titans, there is not much more to say about Krios at this time. However, his consort Eurybia does have some interesting known facts.
Eurybia is related to the sea, being a daughter of Pontus who was the deity of the Primordial Sea before Oceanus replaced him and he went into a deep slumber. The specific aspect that Eurybia is related to is the mastery of the sea, being able to navigate it through things like maps, the wind, the sun, and constellations.
The union of Krios and Eurybia produced several children including Perses, a second generation Titan who would become the father of Hekate. Perses is the Titan of ravaging and destroying, like in relation to the sacking and pillaging of cities.
While the union of Perses and Asteria’s details are unknown, we know that the two of them are the ones who would parent Hekate according to Hesiod. We are also unsure what happens to Perses as Perses is not mentioned in or after the Titanomachy, it may be possible that he sided with Cronus and was sent to Tartarus like most of the others who took Cronus’s side in the war.
Being the daughter of the Titan of destruction and the Titaness of stars and astrology, as well as a granddaughter to other Titans related to things such as knowledge, spirituality, and navigation among other things, this made for quite the interesting blend of chaotic and liminal energies. Thusly, Hekate was born from all of this unity and is now perhaps the most prominently known third generation Titaness.