Her name roughly translates as “Worker from afar”, she is a particularly mysterious other world divine being in the Greek pantheon. Hecate was seen as the goddess of magic, witchcraft, night, moon, ghosts and necromancy.
She was the only child of the titans Perses and Asteria from whom she received her powers over the heavens, earth and seas. She could bestow mortals with wealth, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to herds of cattle. She could also withhold these gifts. After the defeat of the Titans, Zeus honoured Hecate and allowed her to maintain her dominion.
She is usually depicted as a woman holding twin torches on Greek pottery. She sometimes wears a knee length maiden skirt and hunting boots, much like the goddess Artemis. In statues Hekate is often depicted in a curious triple form as goddess of crossroads.
Her familiars were a black she-dog and a polecat. The black dog was said to be the Trojan queen Hekabe who leapt intot he sea after the fall of Troy and was transformed into a dog by the goddess. The polecat was said to have originally been a witch called Gale who was transformed into a polecat as punishment for her incontinence. Others told that the polecat was Galinthias, nurse of Alkmene, transformed by the angry Eileithyia, but received kindly by Hecate as her animal.
She aided Demeter in her search for Persephone using her torches to light the goddess’ way throughout the darkness of night. After Persephone’s return Hecate became her companion and minister in Hades.
She was identified with a number of other goddesses in the ancient world which lead to some confusion which lasts to this day. These include Artemis the Virgin Huntress, Selene the Moon goddess, the sea goddess Krataeis, the Thracian goddess Bendis, Maira the goddess of the Dog Star, and the Eleusinian Daeira.
Her titles include: the destroyer (Perseis), angry/terrible one (Brimo), lady of the underworld (Aidonaia), three formed/three bodied (Trimorphis), of the crossroads (Trioditis), night wandering (Nyktipolos), tender/delicate (Atalos), nurse of the young (Kourotrophos), leader of dogs (Skylakagetis), and queen of those below (Anassa Eneroi).
She had very few public temples in the ancient Greek world however. Instead she was honoured at small household shrines. These were probably made to help ward off evil and malevolent powers of witchcraft. Her most important cultic sites were at Eleusis, and Samothrace. The mysteries of Samothrace were celebrated in Hecate’s honour.
“Hekate Einodia, Trioditis [Trivia], lovely dame, of earthly, watery, and celestial frame, sepulchral, in a saffron veil arrayed, pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade; Perseis, solitary goddess, hail! The world’s key-bearer, never doomed to fail; in stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen, and drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen; Leader, Nymphe, nurse, on mountains wandering, hear the suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere, and to the herdsman with a favouring mind draw near.” - Orphic Hymn 1 to Hecate