Hekate, Liminal Rites: A study of the rituals, magic, and symbols of the torch-bearing Triple Goddess of the Crossroads
By Sorita D’Este and David Rankine
I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of this book for some time now, so when I got my hands on it I read it voraciously, devouring it in a matter of hours! This sudden hunger for the knowledge contained within the pages of Hekate: Liminal Rites, however, was not just fuelled by months of anticipation but also by a genuine enjoyment of the journey of discovery it became.
This latest work from co-authors Sorita D’Este and David Rankine who have previously given us such works as The Isle of Many Gods, The Guises of the Morrigan, and Wicca: Magickal Beginnings, is a well-researched examination of the Goddess Hekate in Greek religion, literature, and magic. It is an excellent contribution to the subject area, since too many books and other materials on Hekate are available that completely ignore her ancient sources and origins, fabricating instead some modern travesty of information about her. Here, Sorita and David return to the source of Hekate’s personality, symbols, and worshipers to begin to create a coherent, informed view of this mysterious and popular Goddess.
Hekate: Liminal Rites treats us to an overview of the ancient writers and figures (such as Empedocles and Medea) who have been associated with, or shown to be in, the service of Hekate. The reader finds out Hekate’s role in the mysterious Rites of Eleusis, her relation to death magic and the Underworld, and how she was used in the ancient world in other kinds of magic and worship. Most interesting, perhaps, for modern servants of Hekate are the chapters exploring her many fusions with other Goddesses, her evocative symbols, and the animals she was depicted as. The book also gives two hymns used in the ancient world to invoke Hekate, which could undoubtedly be used by any modern practitioners wishing to do the same.
Undeniably the best section of Hekate: Liminal Rites is aimed at the reader who wishes to continue after finishing the book with their own research (as any good reader should!): “Charms from the PGM” and “Literary Sources”. Not only are we given an overview of some of the spells in the Graeco-Roman Magical Papyri that invoke or mention Hekate in some way, and of the writers and their writings about Hekate in the ancient world, but we are also given tables with detailed references for these sources. In my own experience, any attempt to catalogue a subset of the spells from the huge PGM collection is brave at best and madness at worst, but Sorita and David have succeeded and given us a comprehensive list of all the spells with Hekate in. As a PGM scholar myself I all but orgasmed when I saw the list, and in fact recall skipping around the garden maniacally in joy. (Us PhD researchers are easily pleased.) Even more useful is the list of literary sources – all 98 of them – given in chronological order on pages 31-36. It would be a joy for any reader to go and find these source texts to further their understanding of Hekate, and thankfully such a task has been made easy and accessible by this book.
Hekate: Liminal Rites has managed to be scholarly and well-researched, without being dense or difficult to read. It does not use obtuse language or jargon that only an ancient professor who lives in a library and can translate twelve different dead languages can understand. Rather, it is aimed at the average person interested in occultism and magic, but does not dumb itself down like so many publications these days. The result of this is that readers have been given a work that can be verified, a work that allows them to do their own research, a work that is a joy to read, and a work that remains on the level without sacrificing academic awareness. In places I found that my own academic background made me want more from the chapters, but I understand that a book does not have room for everything, and the authors have, as mentioned above, opened up ways for people like me to find out more ourselves. This is most important, as several of the chapters contain tantalizing pieces of information that unfortunately due to brevity and book size the authors were unable to explore further. (However, I understand that this is not the last work on Hekate we can expect from Sorita and David… Yay!)
Overall, this is an enjoyable book to read that also retains its depth of information. It would be excellent for anybody interested in Hekate and would provide them with an excellent examination of the source of Hekate. For those with an academic bent this book is indispensible and would be a great starting point for further research. I highly recommend any such reader to take a look at the extensive Bibliography for material for further study! I cannot think of a better introduction to the mysteries of Hekate.
Kim Huggens is a 24 year old Pagan Tarot reader and PhD student in the Ancient History Department of Cardiff University. She is the co-creator of “Sol Invictus: The God Tarot” (recently published by Schiffer Books) and the forthcoming “Pistis Sophia: The Goddess Tarot”. She has had recent work published in “Horns of Power”, and “Priestesses, Pythonesses, and Sibyls”, with forthcoming in “Both Sides of Heaven” edited by Sorita D’Este, and is the Editor of online Pagan magazine Offerings. She is currently working on a homestudy Tarot course book for Llewellyn, due for publication Autumn
2010. When not getting orgasmic about ancient voodoo dolls and Sumerian cunieform writing, she works in a vetinary clinic, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and practices Vodou.