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THE ORPHIC HYMN TO HECATE 


1. Ἑκάτης


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Introduction to the Orphic Hymn to Ækáti


It is significant that the Orphic hymns open with the hymn to Ækáti (Hecate; Gr. Ἑκάτη). She is found in the Orphǽohs Argonaftiká (Orphic Argonautica; Gr. Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικά); Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) invokes her in order to gain entry into the grove which harbors the Krysómallon Dǽras (Gr. Χρυσόμαλλον Δέρας), the Golden Fleece. She is also found in the mythology of Dimítir (Demeter; Gr. Δημήτηρ) as she seeks out her Daughter in the great story connected with the most famous of all the Mystery cults, the Ælefsínia Mystíria (Eleusinian Mysteries; Gr. Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια), for Ækáti has heard the cries of Pærsæphóni (Persephone; Gr. Περσεφόνη) as she was abducted by Ploutohn (Pluto; Gr. Πλούτων). And Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) in his Theogonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία) 410-452 says that Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) reveres (τίμησε) her above all and that she is greatly honored by all the Deathless Gods in Starry Heaven (ἀστερόεντος ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ); the poem goes on to enumerate many benefits the Goddess bestows on people. It is said that Ækáti holds the hands of those who pray and that she takes particular notice of those people who wish to develop Virtue (Arete; Gr. Ἀρετή). So who is this mighty Goddess? Perhaps her hymn will provide us with some clues to understanding her and getting closer to her.


T
ranslation by Thomas Taylor [1] :

1. Ækáti (Hecate; Gr. Ἑκάτη)

I call Einodian Hecate, lovely dame,
Of earthly, wat'ry, and celestial frame,
Sepulchral, in a saffron veil array'd,
Leas'd with dark ghosts that wander thro' the shade;
Persian, unconquerable huntress hail!
The world's key-bearer never doom'd to fail;
On the rough rock to wander thee delights,
Leader and nurse be present to our rites
Propitious grant our just desires success,
Accept our homage, and the incense bless.


Original Greek Text:

1. Ἑκάτης

Εἰνοδίην Ἑκάτην κλῄιζω, τριοδῖτιν, ἐραννήν,
οὐρανίαν χθονίαν τε καὶ εἰναλίαν, κροκόπεπλον,
τυμβιδίαν, ψυχαῖς νεκύων μέτα βακχεύουσαν,
Περσείαν, φιλέρημον, ἀγαλλομένην ἐλάφοισι,
νυκτερίαν, σκυλακῖτιν, ἀμαιμάκετον βασίλειαν,
θηρόβρομον, ἄζωστον, ἀπρόσμαχον εἶδος ἔχουσαν,
ταυροπόλον, πανdὸς κόσμου κληιδοῦχον ἄνασσαν,
ἡγεμόνην, νύμφην, κουροτρόφον, οὐρεσιφοῖτιν,
λισσόμενοις κούρην τελεταῖς ὁσίαισι παρεῖναι
βουκόλωι εὐμενέουσαν ἀεὶ κεχαρηότι θυμῶι.


Transliteration: 

This is a transliteration into English to help those who may wish to learn the hymn in Greek, following the Reuchlinian method of pronunciation, as the Greeks do.

Einodíïn Ækátin klíïzoh, triodítin, ærannín,
ouranían khthonían tæ kai einalían, krokópæplon,
tymvidían, psykhais nækýohn mǽta vakkhevousan,
Pærseian, philǽrimon, agallomǽnin æláphisi,
nyktærían, skylakítin, amaimákæton vasíleian,
thiróvromon, ázohston, aprózmakhon eidos ǽkhousan,
tavropólon, pandós kózmou kliïdoukhon ánassan,
iyæmónin, nýmphin, kourotróphon, ouræsiphítin,
lissómænis kourin tælætais osíaisi pareinai
voukóloi evmænǽousan aei kækharióti thymói.


BREAKDOWN OF THE HYMN

Ἑκάτης - The title to the hymn, simply the name of the Goddess, is written in the genitive case as all titles are written in the genitive.

Εἰνοδίην (crossroads) Ἑκάτην (
Ækátiκλῄιζω (call) - I call Ækáti of the crossroadsΕἰνοδίην (fem. acc.) is a form of εἰνοδία (fem. nom.) or ἐνόδιος (masc. nom), a common epithet of the Goddess meaning "of the crossroads." And κλῄιζω is a form of κλύω, "hear" "listen."

τριοδῖτινÆkáti is τριοδῖτις (fem. nom.; τριοδίτης is masc. nom.), worshipped at the meeting of three roads.

ἐραννήν
This word is ἐραννός, an adjective meaning "lovely."

οὐρανίαν (sky) χθονίαν (earth) τε (both) καὶ (and) εἰναλίαν (of the sea) - in the sky, earth, as well as the sea.

κροκόπεπλον -
Ækáti is κροκόπεπλος (fem./masc. nom.), adored with saffron-colored robes.

τυμβιδίανfunereal

ψυχαῖς (life or soul) νεκύων (corpse) μέτα (among) βακχεύουσαν (revel) -
Daimohn, celebrating among the corpses!

Ækáti is associated with the Middle Sky, the area which extends from just above the sea and the land up to just below the moon. This is the place where the souls dwell, the souls of those whose mortal bodies have died and are awaiting rebirth. 
Ækáti likes to dwell in this region and assist the mortals and deities who reside there. The idea that the souls of the dead inhabit the lower sky can be found in various texts such as:

"All soul, whether without mind or with it, when it has issued from the body is destined to wander <in> the region between earth and moon..."

(Πλούταρχος Ἠθικά Concerning the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon Chap. 28, 943C; trans. Harold Cherniss and William C. Helmbold, 1957, as found in the 1967 Loeb reprint entitled Plutarch's Moralia Vol. XII, Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge MA]-William Heinemann [London] p. 201.)

This idea can also be found in Pythagorean writings:

"When cast out upon the earth, it (ed. the soul) wanders in the air like the body. Hermes is the steward of souls, and for that reason is called Hermes the Escorter, Hermes the Keeper of the Gate, and Hermes of the Underworld, since it is he who brings in the souls from their bodies both by land and sea; and the pure are taken into the uppermost region, but the impure are not permitted to approach the pure or each other, but are bound by the Furies in bonds unbreakable. The whole air is full of souls which are called Genii or Heroes; these are they who send men dreams and signs of future disease and health, and not to men alone, but to sheep also and cattle as well; and it is to them that purifications and lustrations, all divination, omens and the like, have reference. The most momentous thing in human life is the art of winning the soul to good or to evil. Blest are the men who acquire a good soul; [if it be bad] they can never be at rest, nor ever keep the same course two days together."

(Διογένης Λαέρτιος The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book 8.31, trans. by C. D. Yonge, 1828; Henry G. Bohn Publ. [London]).

Περσείαν - Persian, because she is the daughter of Pǽrsis (Perses; Gr. Πέρσης).

φιλέρημον - fond of solitude (
φιλέρημοςfem./masc. nom.)

ἀγαλλομένην (exult) ἐλάφοισι (deer) - delighting in deer

νυκτερίαν
Ækáti is called Νυκτέρια (fem. nom./voc. sing.), nocturnal, because her knowledge and activities are difficult to comprehend, as though hidden in the night. Her rituals were usually performed at night by torchlight. She is associated with the night sky, for her parents are stars, great sources of light which are only visible in the dark.

σκυλακῖτιν - Ækáti is σκυλακῖτις (nom., etym. from σκύλαξ, dog or whelp), protectress of dogsÁrtæmis (Artemis; Gr. Ἄρτεμις) uses "dogs" to hunt down the beautiful souls; Ækáti uses the "dogs" to deliver prayers to Gods. All people have an Agathós Daimohn (Gr. Ἀγαθὸς Δαίμων), a soul who accompanies you always and who loves and protects you; the Agathós Daimohn is thought of as like the faithful dog who follows its master everywhere and tries to protect him from danger.

ἀμαιμάκετον (irresistible) βασίλειαν (queen) - Ækáti is the irresistible or indomitable queen (ἀμαιμάκετος [masc./fem. nom.] βασίλεια [fem. nom.]).

θηρόβρομον
Ækáti is Θηρόβρομος (fem./masc. nom.), heralded by the roar of wild beasts. (L&S)

ἄζωστον - ungirded or unarmed

ἀπρόσμαχον (irresistible) εἶδος (form) ἔχουσαν (bearing) - having an irresistible form

ταυροπόλον - This epithet, 
ταυροπόλος (fem. nom.), has various meanings. It may mean drawn in a carriage yoked by bulls or it may mean bull-herder.

παντὸς (all) κόσμου (Kózmos) κληιδοῦχον (holding the keys) ἄνασσαν (queen) - You are the queen who holds the keys to all the Kózmos.

ἡγεμόνην - from 
ἡγεμονέω, she who holds authority.

νύμφην - divine N
ýmphi (girl or brideνύμφη is nom.).

κουροτρόφον - 
Ækáti is the κουροτρόφος (fem./masc. nom.), the nurturer of children and youths.

οὐρεσιφοῖτιν
Ækáti is οὐρεσιφοῖτιςshe who haunts the mountains.

λισσόμενοις (pray) κούρην (maiden) τελεταῖς (rituals) ὁσίαισι (hallowed) παρεῖναι (let fall) - Pray, Maiden, attend our hallowed rituals.

βουκόλωι (
βουκόλῳherdsman) εὐμενέουσαν (graciousness) ἀεὶ (always) κεχαρηότι (rejoice, hail) θυμῶι (incense) - Be always gracious to your herdsman (βούκολος [no fem. form], a devotee of the Mysteries) and rejoice in our gifts of incense.


A more literal translation of the hymn to Ækáti:

The translations presented in this series are not intended to replace the beautiful work of Thomas Taylor in our rituals. If anything, they make obvious his brilliance in capturing the spirit of the hymns while framing them in lovely poetry. Rather, we are simply trying to deepen our understanding of each hymn producing a more scholarly translation, word-for-word accurate.

1. Ækáti (Hecate; Gr. Ἑκάτη)


I call Ækáti of the Crossroads, worshipped at the meeting of three paths, oh lovely one.
In the sky, earth, and sea, you are venerated in your saffron-colored robes.
Funereal Daimohn, celebrating among the souls of those who have passed,
Persian, fond of deserted places, you delight in deer.
Goddess of night, protectress of dogs, invincible Queen.
You are heralded by the roar of beasts, ungirded, with your irresistible form,
Drawn by a yoke of bulls, you are the queen who holds the keys to all the Kózmos.
Commander, Nýmphi, nurturer of children, you who haunt the mountains.
Pray, Maiden, attend our hallowed rituals;
Be forever gracious to your mystic herdsman and rejoice in our gifts of incense.


NOTES:

[1] The Hymns of Orpheus, trans. by Thomas Taylor, 1792; we are using a facsimile of the original edition, London, England (printed for the author) where this quotation may be found on pp. 113-114. In this first edition, Taylor did not number this hymn which cause all of his numbering to be off by one increment. He included it in the opening section entitled To MusæusIt should have been counted as the first hymn. This numbering problem has been corrected in the current edition of the Taylor translations published by Prometheus Trust and entitled Hymns and Initiations, 1994 and revised again in 2003.



The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as 

, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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