Halloween, hailing Hekate, witch-goddess of ghosts…and a true ghostly tarot tale

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Halloween is designated the season of ghosts. Why is that?

Halloween or All Hallows Eve is celebrated 31 October each year, marking the cross- quarter of the year, half-way point between the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere, 22 September, and the winter solstice, which in 2021 will occur on Tuesday 21 December.

Halloween began as a pre-Christian Iron Age festival 2000 years ago among the various peoples of Britain and Northern Europe popularly known as the Celts.

In parts of Britain and the Republic of Ireland Halloween is still called Samhain (pronounced Sow-an, from Gaelic/Irish) meaning ‘summer’s end.’

This is a critical turning point of the year from the ancient survival point of view of food production, harvesting and storage, as the days grow shorter, the nights longer, vegetation decays, temperatures drop – and possibly more people get sick. We are now in the zodiac sign territory of Scorpio, and the Tarot card correlating with Scorpio is the Death card.

From Halloween in the Anglosphere, to Alfblot in Scandinavia, to The Day of the Dead in Spanish speaking countries, the period 31 October – 3 November is a festival marking the end of the harvest season.

Now we are preparing for the decay of vegetation, the coming darkness, the time of hibernation of many animals, and the hardships of winter. This seems a natural time to be marking the remembrance of the Dead.

Scorpio Photo by Jo Kassis on Pexels.com

Russia does not celebrate Halloween as such. It is not recognized by the Orthodox Church, though it has been gaining popularity among young people since the 1990’s.

In France, again, Halloween is not a traditional festival, though certain elements may be catching on nowadays, cultural imports in the twentieth century. But La Toussaint or All Saints Day, is a widely celebrated national holiday celebrated on the first of November.

Liminal Spaces

From The Gilded Tarot Royale, illustrator Ciro Marchetti

The Tarot card that in a reading can suggest a vivid dream, a vision, a psychic or supernatural experience or even a ghost is The Moon card.

This time of year represents a ‘liminal’ space, a threshold – a doorway of some kind, an ‘in-between’ space between outside and inside, one room and another, or between summer and winter, night and dark, and therefore symbolically, between Life and Death.

Being half-awake or half-asleep is an ‘in-between’ state of mind or consciousness, when we are might have a powerful frightening or psychic dream experience or even experience sleep paralysis, traditionally known as a visit from The Night Hag, as portrayed in his famous painting, The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli.

This is a not uncommon experience that can occur when the brain is in-between deep and lighter sleep stages. The person thinks they are awake when they are not. There is a strong sense of threat, a malevolent presence, and they cannot move a muscle to defend themselves. I have experienced it myself, very unpleasant. Read here for the scientific medical explanation.

Any liminal ‘in-between space’ is understood as a sacred or magical space, a gateway through which ghostly or magical (magickal) things may manifest. A threshold, a doorway is a space to be protected. Crossroads are in-between spaces, representing a choice of directions or possibilities.

Hekate, goddess of ghosts

The Triple Hecate William Blake, Public Domain

There is no presiding god or deity of Halloween in northern Europe. Hekate comes from further south. She is an ancient goddess of the night, the heavens and the waning Moon. Over many ages she has become inextricably linked with ghosts and witchcraft, and by association, with Halloween. Today Hekate is viewed as the chief goddess presiding over witchcraft with followers today among neo-Pagans, Wiccans and solitary occult or magickal practitioners (NB magickal, is spelled this way to be distinguished from stage or performance magic of entertainer magicians).

Hekate, like Hermes was a necromancer- one who can speak with the dead. In a sense, we all do that, speaking to our loved ones who have gone. But in Greek mythology, Hekate and Hermes were the only personages who could enter and leave the Underworld at will.

Likewise, you don’t have to be dead to be a ghost. Perhaps when we sleep we become the ghosts who haunt our previous homes. When we dream we are back there in that house, we might be giving the current residents a fine old fright, glimpsing our ghostly ‘thought form’ somewhere round the place. Astral travel.

Mythology

The name Hekate comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘worker from afar.’

This working at a distance is in the very nature of a spell.

Hekate was the daughter of the titan, Perses, and the nymph Asteria, and this gave her powers in heaven, on land and by sea. But her story goes back way before the Greeks, to the Anatolians (Asia Minor) and before that, possibly to the Babylonians and Sumerians who knew her as Innana, Queen of The Heavens, and later as the goddess Ishtar, who was associated with love, beauty, sex, war, justice and political power.

Later, these more ancient story traditions became absorbed into Greek Mythology, passing next to the Romans, who spread the mythology as they expanded their Empire.

The Kindness of Hekate

Hecate is a patron goddess of dogs, horses, owls and serpents.

In Greek myth, the tragic queen Hecuba/Hecabe of Troy deliberately jumped overboard a Greek ship and drowned as she was being taken away into slavery after the fall of Troy. Hecuba was broken by grief, distraught at the deaths of her king, Priam, and so many of her 19 children, and at the fall of her city, and the ruin of her people at the hands of the Greeks.

And when fortune overturned the pride of the Trojans, who dared everything, so that both the king and his kingdom were destroyed, poor wretched captured Hecuba,after she saw her Polyxena dead and found her Polydorus on the beach,was driven mad by sorrow and began barking like a dog”… Dante

Hekate rescued the soul of Hecuba and transformed her into a dog, comforting her with forgetfulness. This dog is Hecate’s beloved companion, a familiar spirit, not unlike the three-headed dog Cerberus (his name means ‘Spot’) who guards the gates of the Underworld.

Cerberus, Public Domain

Sadly, once upon a time, like dogs, sheep and other animals, dogs were offered in religious ceremonies as sacrificial animals, intended as immortal gifts to Hekate, as in Thrace in 4th century BC.

But Hekate is called upon as a protector of dogs, and likewise she is a protector of the home (as is a good dog)

Pillars called Hecataea stood at crossroads and doorways, for good luck, to ask her to keep away any unwanted visitors, including evil spirits. 

Hekate became one of several deities worshipped in ancient Athens as a protector of the oikos (household) alongside Zeus, Hestia, goddess of the hearth, the messenger god Hermes, and the sun god, Apollo.

Hekate is nowadays regarded as a dark deity on account of her associations with witchcraft, but she stands for both dark and light, death and birth, and as a protector and guardian of mothers, as well as her totem animals.

Magickal Traditions, Symbols and Practice

Hekate’s colours are black and red.

Her symbols are keys and torches

Her totem animal is the dog, her bird the Barn Owl, Tyto Alba, also known as the screech owl.

The Romans feared the Barn Owl as a bird of ill omen, and European and UK farmers have sadly killed them for this reason, even until quite recently, and despite their usefulness to farmers as rodent hunters.

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What might Hekate help with?

-Protection of the household, family, mothers, children and childbirth.

-Assistance with banishing harmful situations

-Help for lost or sick pets and animals, dogs and horses in particular.

Asking help from Hekate

1/ Attitude

Care and respect is required as with any request.

2/ Naming

How do we pronounce her name? There is no wrong way as such. These days, her name is often pronounced Heh-kah-tay or Heh-kah-tee, pronouncing her name with no emphasis on the middle. But to the Ancients she would have been Hecate pronounced Heh-KAH-tay or Heh-KAH-tee with an emphasis on the middle syllable. This honours her oldest origins, so far as we can be sure.

3/ Timing

The best time to make a request of Hekate is during the time of the waning crescent Moon or at the New Moon. A free online lunar calendar will easily identify these dates.

4/ Place/rituals

Decorate and dedicate a small corner, perhaps in a window sill facing the Moon when you can see it, decorated with artwork of Hekate, Moon, dogs, owls, keys or other totems.

5/ Gifts and thanks

It is only polite to say thank you when asking for help with something, or to acknowledge receiving help.  We could for instance:-

-Burn a candle or a cone of incense (be careful not to leave it unattended)

-Offer a virtual drink; small glass of mead, or a spoonful of honey in water. Hecate likes honey, pomegranates (as did Persephone) lavender, garlic (unlike vampires) breads, sweets and anything shaped like a crescent moon (she would probably enjoy a virtual croissant)

Make a donation to support rescue dogs, or a local owl rescue centre, and tell her you are doing this in her name.

-Just like with a birthday cake, offer a slice of cake, or a cupcake with a candle. Make your request. Blow out the candle, making a gift of the fire. I leave it up to you whether you eat the cake in her honour, but why not. It’s the thought that counts, is it not?

A True Ghost story

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

Do I believe in ghosts? I have met plenty of perfectly sensible people who have told me their stories, and had no reason to doubt their common sense and the validity of their account. We have the dictionary definition.

Now chiefly, an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image and attempting to right a wrong done in life; this sense of the word is recorded from late Middle English.

The word is recorded from Old English (in form gāst) in the sense ‘spirit, soul’, and is of Germanic origin; the gh- spelling occurs first in Caxton, and was probably influenced by Flemish gheest”.Source

But the question still remains, what do we mean by a ghost? Are they sentient or merely some kind of an echo? Do they know they are there? Do they know we are there?

I recommend reading about the Cambridge archaeologist and paranormal researcher Tom Lethbridge T.C. Lethbridge

My phone rang one Saturday night, about 8 PM, a lady calling from Preston, about ten miles away from where I live. She had found my number in the psychic pages of the online telephone directory and she wanted a psychic medium.

Note. I do not advertise as a psychic medium but there is no separate listing for Tarot, and they put readers under that same heading.

The lady wanted me to come over to her house. Right away. There was ‘something’ out in the hallway and it was blocking the stairs. She, her partner and the children were huddled in the sitting room, too terrified to leave the room.

I could not go in person, sadly. Nor do I advertise such a service. There are others who do. I gave her the name and telephone number of a lady who specializes in ‘haunted houses’ and meantime reached for my cards while asking the lady what exactly had happened?

Her youngest child had been upstairs, she told me, when she heard a lady whispering in her ear. The child panicked. Then her siblings panicked. Then the mother panicked, and the partner. It had developed from there. Now there was something outside the sitting room door; a cold spot, a moving shadow.

What had this ghostly lady said to the little girl? That her hair was very pretty.

This figured. The cards confirmed a benign presence – or influence. A grandmother?

The cards indicated the lady who was calling had been under a lot of strain. She confirmed a prolonged period of acute financial and other worries.

Her mother had died three years earlier, and she was still missing her, quite badly. But the littlest child was too young to remember her grandmother. Why, the lady wondered, if the ghost was her mother, had her mother not talked to her, but to the child?

It was because the little girl happened in that moment to be the one tuned in on the ‘right’ wavelength to receive such an incoming message. The little girl had ESP in other words, and was hyper sensitive to atmosphere. This was why she alone had heard it. If there was a ghost, if the grandmother was still around, then she was tuning in to the living, seeking to deliver comfort to the mother who was her child.

The little grand-daughter was the most accessible conduit.

First things first. The lady had called to ask for help. How could I help? The lady needed to restore order in the household right away. She needed to assert herself and reclaim her territory, ‘psych it out’, and show the children it was safe to go anywhere in the house. The living can talk to a ghost, or say boo, just as it can say boo to us.There was no nastiness in these cards.

I suggested she announce, ‘it’s gone now’, put lights on, open that sitting room door, go down the hallway, put the kettle on, serve up supper. Light, movement and noise will shatter such a spell while fear is contagious.

I later heard from the medium. She and her team had gone to the lady’s house next day, taking with them an array of electronic equipment. The medium said there was an old lady’s ghost in the house, that it was the grandmother, and that the mother’s state of stress had called the ghost forth. The ghost had behaved in character, affectionately, but since the child had been startled, and the mother had reacted with fear, everyone got scared and the thing took on an unpleasant aspect. The medium said that now the mother was aware of it, the house should stay quiet now.

No suggestion of criticism attaches to the lady. None whatsoever. Fear was a natural reaction. But if it happened again, now that she had some kind of explanation, however questionable, and reassurance that it was not malevolent, she could choose a more matter of fact response, whilst not dismissing the child’s experience.

The Mind has many corridors” – Emily Dickinson

Psychic author Cassandra Eason has written a book with advice for parents with psychic children available from a range of second hand book sellers online.

https://cassandraeason.com/https://cassandraeason.com/

From my point of view, since I had never spoken with this lady medium myself before her visit to the house, but had simply provided contact details, I was interested that my tarot and this lady, this psychic medium, had told virtually identical stories.

The power of the physical, the element of Earth, is the power of the living moment, here and now. We are exalted in the Earth. We take in air. We take up space.

From The Gilded Tarot

This time is ours. Our inheritance of Earth. Our ace card in otherworldly dealings, the Ace of Pentacles. A nice cup of tea? How about a biccie? Fed the cat. Take the dog a walk.

Take it to the cemetery.

It’s nice in there.

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ALL SOULS

The transient day dies silently, and at its edge,

four grey hounds hunt for signs among the graves,

snuffling in the leaves, they lift their legs

on dead chrysanths in faded wreaths.

A wind sprite sneaks round urns and angels,

and whisks the skirt of a woman kneeling

with a basket beside a new earth mound.

Two small children crouch behind.

Lights come on as dusk draws in,

and the woman with her kids drifts away

with the mist, all grey, sky as one,

into the Hesperian town.

The hounds stay running among the stones,

backs bridged over their skittering bones.

Circling together they lift their heads

and howl for the souls of their ancestral dead;

hunters, and all the prey that gave up the ghost

dying together in the close embracing hills.

They know who they are calling; The Host,

All Souls, rising from the earth like smoke.

Torches have blazed with saxophone and drum.

Masked revellers with candles in the town

finally sleep. And, under the windy moon,

the graveyard walks.

Margaret Whyte

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