Hekate is a well-known Goddess among modern witches. Hekate’s Deipnon is a celebration that has become increasingly popular among Her devotees and witches alike in recent years.
This post should give a little backstory and context on Hekate’s Deipnon and how to celebrate it.
A Little History
Hekate’s Deipnon is an ancient Athenian celebration that occurs on the last day (dark moon) of the lunar month. The Greeks of Athens followed a lunisolar calendar and used the phases of the moon to determine their months. The new moon signified the start of a new month while the dark moon marked the end of the month.
They (like Celtic and Jewish society) also marked the beginning of a new day at sunset rather than midnight. So the Deipnon would officially begin the night before the dark moon.
The word ‘deipnon’ (δεῖπνον) means ‘evening meal’ and Hekate’s Deipnon is simply an offering of a meal for the Goddess Hekate and the restless dead (wrongfully killed). She was thought to lead the ghosts from Hades to the surface and wander on Deipnon night lead by howling dogs.
The Goddess Hekate
Hekate is mostly associated with witchcraft in the modern era but that wasn’t ever Her only field of responsibility. In antiquity, Hekate was regarded as a protectress of the home, psychopomp and patroness of liminal spaces, such as crossroads.
Ancient Greeks would keep a hekataion (household shrine) near their entranceways to protect themselves and their home from malicious spirits and witchcraft. Shrines were, also, kept at crossroads where Hekate was presented in Her triplicate form.
As a psychopomp and chthonic (underworld) Goddess, She was associated with keys to represent the keys to Hades and Her ability to travel between the realms of Gods, humans and the dead.
Other associations include: necromancy, dogs, weasels, snakes, the Strophalos, torches, & poisonous plants.
For more information on Hekate: theoi.com is the most reliable source.
cleansing & Miasma
Important elements of Hekate’s Deipnon are cleansing and purification. As the dark moon heralds the end of the month, it was considered an appropriate time to clean the home ready for a new month.
Miasma is a commonly misunderstood concept from ancient Greece. It roughly translates to ‘pollution’ or ‘ritual impurity’ and is often compared to sin from Christianity but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s more like ‘spiritual dirt’ that should be washed off before ritual involving Hellenic deities.
At the beginning of a typical Hellenic ritual, adherents reach a state of katharsis (ritual purity) by washing their hands with khernips (lustral water). I talk about how to make khernips briefly in this post. Once miasma is cleansed, the ritual can continue.
Traditionally, if a family believed they had offended Hekate or had a lot of miasma, they would sacrifice a dog (preferably a black one). The household would take turns to touch the dog, transferring their miasma, before slaughtering. Thus, the dog acts as a scapegoat (or scapedog) in the ritual.
The dog’s entrails would then be interpreted through divination (haruspicy) to see if the sacrifice was accepted.
The meal itself would consist of traditional offerings: raw eggs, leeks, garlic, onions and fish. This would then be left at the 3-way crossroad in front of the home after sunset. After leaving the offering, whoever placed it must not look back as it would anger the wandering ghosts and drive them mad.
Hekate’s Deipnon today
- Set up your altar in honour of Hekate: dark candles, Hekate image, incense, decorations such as keys.
- Recite hymns and prayers to Hekate such as the Orphic hymn to Hekate.
- Cleanse your home thoroughly by wafting incense, such as frankincense, though each room.
- Sacrifice your own scapedog: you can do this a number of ways. I like to draw an outline of a dog, cut it out, and burn it over an open flame. You could also craft a dog using clay or fabric and either smash it or bury it at a crossroads if it’s biodegradable.
- Make Hekate’s meal and leave it at the end of the path outside your home or at a nearby crossroads. Remember not to look back!
If you have your own Deipnon traditions, please leave them in the comments!