This goddess has its roots in the Celtic culture but was adopted, like many other gods, by the Romans when there were stationed in that area. The goddess is seated on a throne and is accompanied by a dog, which reflects loyalty. The fruits are a symbol of the goddess as a fertility goddess.
Many of these altars were found of the coast in the Netherlands as offerings to Nehalennia. Traders and travelers to Britian would promise an altar tp the goddess if she protected them on their trip across the sea.
Many of the altars have been seriously damaged by salt seawater.
Found in The Netherlands, Zeeland, Colijnsplaat, de oosterschelde.
On the amulet the Egyptian goddess Sachmet is shown with the sundisk above her head. On her head is the ureaus and the the sides of her head are two falcons. This large amulet has a ring so it could have been used as a necklace hanger.
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
The most influential and popular of all the Greek mystery cults were those of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Kore (Persephone) at Eleusis. Eleusis was an important town in Attica, about 21 km north-west of Athens.
It was believed from the most ancient times in Greek history that it was Eleusis that the gods had given mankind the gift of agriculture, in particular grain. Because of this an early agricultural cult grew at Eleusis which commemorated the yearly sowing of the grain in the Greek month of Boedromion (September/October). Like this early agricultural cult the Eleusinian mysteries celebrated fertility and life.
Before Athens took control of Eleusis (shortly before 600 BC), the mysteries of Demeter and Kore were conducted by an independent Eleusis. After Athens assumed jurisdiction of the mysteries, however, Athenian interests naturally predominated in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries from this point.
The mysteries at Eleusis focused upon the goddesses Demeter and Kore. Demeter is probably a Cretan goddess by origin (as she is in the Homeric Hymn) and is most likely the “Grain Mother” by name, though some scholars suggest her name means “Earth Mother”. Kore is the “Maiden”, and because of her kidnapping by Hades into the realm of the dead, she is often identified with the figure of Persephone, queen of the underworld. Both Demeter and Kore are personifications of grain: Demeter is the mature grain with maternal potency while Kore is the newly planted grain.
Our information of the specific features of the mysteries (secrets highly guarded in antiquity) derive mainly from the era of Athenian domination of the mysteries not before. It was during the month of Anthesterion (February) that the lesser mysteries took place near Athens, at Agrai by the Ilissos River, as something of a preparation for the greater mysteries.
The greater mysteries took place in the month of Boedromion (September/October). Using a variety of sources we can reconstruct the celebration.
On the 13th day of Boedromion, Athenian youths carried kistai (chests) and ta hiera (“sacred things” what these were remains a mystery to this day) from Eleusis to Athens where they were temporarily stored in the Eleusinion, the Eleusinian temple, in Athens.
On subsequent days a herald in Athens would exclude criminals and barboroi (those who didn’t speak Greek) from the mysteries. All those participating in the mysteries would go down and bathe in the sea. They would feast, they sacrificed young pigs to the goddesses and they put on ritual garments.
On the 19th day of Boedromion, there was a great procession along the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis called the Iacchos procession. They carried the “sacred things” back to the goddesses, they sang and danced along the root, and carried torches all the way to the Telesterion, the great hall of initation, at Eleusis.
What happened next remains one of the greatest secrets of the ancient world. Simply put we don’t know for certain. We know sacred things were spoken, performed and shown but we don’t know what these were. Later Christian writers wrote that these rites were sexual in nature however their testimonies must be treated with considerable caution.
The mythic tradition of the mysteries comes from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. It recounts the raope of Persephone and Demeter’s quest to retrieve her daughter; after which the foundation of the Mysteries at Eleusis is described.
The mysteries appear to have had a strong link with the underworld and achieving a better lot for oneself in the afterlife. One line of the hymn states:
“she showed the tendance of the holy things and explicated the rites to them all…sacred rites, which is the forbidden to transgress, to inquire into, or to speak about, for great reverence of the gods constrains their voice. Blessed earthbound men is he who has seen these things, but he who dies without fulfilling the holy things, and he who is without share of them, has no claim ever on such blessings, even when departed down to the mouldy darkness.”
In Aristophanes play Frogs initiates of the mysteries are shown in the underword celebrating the mysteries in death as they would have done in life. They are described as robed in white hold torches, singing and dancing. They are also feasting on the meat of sacrificed pigs. Demeter is described as the goddess of Salvation who allows her initiates to enjoy their afterlife as a never ending celebration of joy.
According to the Roman Cicero (Laws, II.xiv.36)
For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.
The mysteries were one of the last pagan cults to end after the advent of Christianity in the 4th century AD.
Some “binding” curses in Ancient Greece were said to physically bind victims and inflict injury upon them. Another type sought to bind victims in a different way. The goal was to incite an uncontrollable passion (eros) in the victim.
The common name for these curses, or spells, was agoge or agogimon spells meaning ‘a spell that leads’ because the aim of the spell was to lead the victim to the practitioner.
Some of these curses mention body parts, often in violent overtones, by which the speaker wishes to enjoin their invisible agents to retrieve the victim. Often spells of this type are accompanied by a figurine depicting the victim bound.
One example of erotic curses comes from a 4th century AD magical handbook which refers to spells dating back further. Philtrokatadesmos thaumastos IV.296-469 is a ‘Wondrous Erotic Binding Spell’. It instructs its user to create two figurines; a male in the form of Ares holding a sword, and a female kneeling with her arms behind her back about to be stabbed by the sword. Various vocae magicae or magic words are to be written on the female figures head, eyes, ears, shoulders, arms, hands, breast, belly, genitals, buttocks and feet. The female figure is then to be pierced with 13 copper needles- one in the brain, two in the ears, two in the eyes, one in the mouth, two in the midriff, one in the hands, two in the pudenda, and one in each foot.
During each piercing the practitioner said:
“I am piercing [body part] of her, [name of victim], so that she may remember no one but me, [name of practioner].”
The spell was then written out on a lead tablet and recited.
In Egypt, a single lead tablet and a female kneeling figure, pierced with 13 pins matches this spell has been found in a pot. However the figure itself is not inscribed. It is now housed in the Louvre and has been dated to the 2nd/3rd century AD. In this example a man named Sarapammon who wishes to attract a woman called Ptolemais. His curse tablet reads:
“I deposit this binding charm with you, chthonic gods, Pluto and Kore Persephone Ereskhigal and Adonis, also called Barbaritha, and chthonic Hermes Thoth Phokensepseu erktathou misonktaik and mighty Anoubis Pseriphtha, who holds the keys of the gates to Hades, and chthonic daimones, gods, men and women who suffered an untimely death, youths and maidens, year after year, month after month, day after day, hour after hour, night after night. I adjure all the daimones in this place to assist daimon Antinous.
Rouse yourself for me and go into every place, into every quarter, into every house, and bind Ptolemais, who Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, so that she may not be screwed, not be buggered, not do anything for the pleasure of another man, except for me Sarapammon only, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to eat, to drink, to resist or go out or to get sleep apart from me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore. I adjure you, corpse-daimon Antinous, by the dreadful and frightful name of the one at the sound of whose name the earth will open, at the sound of whose name the rivers and the rocks break. I adjure you, corpse-daimon Antinous, by Barbaratham cheloumbra barouch Adonai and by Abrasax and by Iao pakeptoth pakebraoth sabarbaphaei and by Marmaraououth and by Marmarachtha mamazagar.
Do not disobey, corpse-daimon Antinous, but rouse yourself for me and go into every place, into every quarter, into every house and bring me Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes. Keep her from eating and drinking until she comes to me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to have experience of another man except me Sarapammon only. Drag her by the hair, by the inward parts until she does not stand aloof from me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and I have her, Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, daughter of Horigenes, subject for me the entire time of my life, being fond of me, loving me, telling me what she has in mind. If you do this, I will set you free.”
Along with underworld Greek gods, a Babylonian goddess, Egyptian divinities, daimones and the dead are invoked to carry out the curse.
Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, war,love, and sex. She is the counterpart to the SumerianInanna and to the cognate north-west SemiticgoddessAstarte.
Ishtar was the goddess of love and war, above all associated with sexuality: her cult involved sacred prostitution; her holy city Uruk was called the “town of the sacred courtesans”; and she herself was the “courtesan of the gods”. Ishtar had many lovers; however, as Guirand notes,
“Woe to him whom Ishtar had honoured! The fickle goddess treated her passing lovers cruelly, and the unhappy wretches usually paid dearly for the favours heaped on them. Animals, enslaved by love, lost their native vigour: they fell into traps laid by men or were domesticated by them. ‘Thou has loved the lion, mighty in strength’, says the hero Gilgamesh to Ishtar, ‘and thou hast dug for him seven and seven pits! Thou hast loved the steed, proud in battle, and destined him for the halter, the goad and the whip.’ Even for the gods Ishtar’s love was fatal. In her youth the goddess had loved Tammuz, god of the harvest, and—if one is to believe Gilgamesh—this love caused the death of Tammuz.
Ishtar was the daughter of Sin or Anu. She was particularly worshipped at the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Ashur and Arbela. Besides the lions on her gate, her symbol is an eight-pointed star.
Like Ishtar, the Greek Aphrodite and Northwestern Semitic Astarte were love goddesses who were “as cruel as they were wayward”. Donald A. Mackenzie, an early popularizer of mythology, draws a parallel between the love goddess Aphrodite and her “dying god” lover Adonis on one hand, and the love goddess Ishtar and her “dying god” lover Tammuz on the other. Some scholars have suggested that:
“…the myth of Adonis was derived in post-Homeric times by the Greeks indirectly from Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylonia) through the Western Semites, the Semitic title ‘Adon’, meaning ‘lord’, having been mistaken for a proper name. This theory, however, cannot be accepted without qualifications.”
Joseph Campbell, a more recent scholar of comparative mythology, equates Ishtar, Inanna, and Aphrodite, and he draws a parallel between the Egyptian goddess Isis who nurses Horus, and the Babylonian goddess Ishtar who nurses the god Tammuz.