While, July 8 eve to July 9 eve is the Hekatombaion Noumenia/Old Athenian New Year—an ancient Greek festival honoring all the Gods and Goddesses; during which flutes were played; prayers were said; offerings of barley, olive oil, incense, and food were burned in an offering hearth; and libations of water and wine were made, it is July 7 eve to July 8 eve that is the feast of the Greek Goddess Hecate.
The Athenian Greeks honored Hecate during the Deipnon. In Greek, deipnon means the evening meal, usually the largest meal of the day. Hecate’s Deipnon is, at its most basic, a meal served to Hecate and the restless dead once a lunar month on the night when there is no visible moon, usually noted on modern calenders as the new moon.The Deipnon is always followed the next day by the Noumenia, when the first sliver of moon is visible, and then the Agathos Diamon the day after that.
The main purpose of the Deipnon was to honor Hecate and to placate the souls in her wake who “longed for vengeance.”A secondary purpose was to purify the household and to atone for bad deeds a household member may have committed offended Hecate, causing Her to withhold Her favor from them. The Deipnon consists of three main parts: 1) the meal that was set out at a crossroads, usually in a shrine outside the entryway to the home 2) an expiation sacrifice, and 3) purification of the household.
Hecate was the goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts and necromancy. She was the only child of the Titanes Perses and Asteria from whom she received her power over heaven, earth, and sea.
According to the most genuine traditions, she appears to have been an ancient Thracian divinity, and a Titan, who, from the time of the Titans, ruled in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, who bestowed on mortals wealth, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle; but all these blessings might at the same time be withheld by her, if mortals did not deserve them. She was the only one among the Titans who retained this power under the rule of Zeus, and she was honored by all the immortal gods.
It was Hecate that assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, guiding her through the night with flaming torches. As contained in the Homeric hymn to Demeter she was, besides Helios, the only divinity who, from her cave, observed the abduction of Persephone. With a torch in her hand, she accompanied Demeter in the search after Persephone; and when the latter was found, Hecate remained with her as her attendant and companion. She thus becomes a deity of the lower world, for after Demeter and Persephone’s reunion she became Persephone’s minister and companion in Hades. Thereby becoming the Goddess of ghosts and necromancy.
There is another very important feature which arose out of the notion of her being an infernal divinity, namely, she was regarded as a spectral being, who at night sent from the lower world all kinds of demons and terrible phantoms, who taught sorcery and witchcraft, who dwelt at places where two roads crossed each other, on tombs, and near the blood of murdered persons. She herself too wanders about with the souls of the dead, and her approach is announced by the whining and howling of dogs.
A number of epithets given her by poets contain allusions to her form. She is described as of terrible appearance, either with three bodies or three heads, the one of a horse, the second of a dog, and the third of a lion. In works of art she was some-times represented as a single being, but sometimes also as a three-headed monster. Small statues or symbolical representations of Hecate were very numerous, especially in Athens, where they stood before or in houses, and on spots where two roads crossed each other. At the close of every month dishes with food were set out for her, and other averters of evil, at the points where two roads crossed each other. The sacrifices offered to her consisted of dogs, honey, and black female lambs.
Two metamorphosis myths describe the origins of her animal familiars: the black she-dog and the polecat. The dog was originally the Trojan Queen Hekabe, who leapt into the sea after the fall of Troy and was transformed by the goddess into her familiar. The polecat at was originally the witch Gale who was transformed into the polecat to punish her for her incontinence. Other say it was Galinthias, the nurse of Alkmene, transformed by the angry Eileithyia, but received by Hecate as her animal.
Hecate was usually depicted in Greek vase painting as a woman holding twin torches. Sometimes she was dressed in a knee-length maiden’s skirt and hunting boots, much like Artemis. In statuary Hecate was often depicted in triple form as a goddess of crossroads.
Hekate was described as a virgin goddess, similar to Artemis. As a virgin goddess, she remained unmarried and had no regular consort, though some though some traditions named her as the mother of Scylla.
Hecate was not always thought of as “terrible”. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hecate is called the "tender-hearted", perhaps intended to emphasize her concern with the disappearance of Persephone, when she assisted Demeter with her search for Persephone following her abduction by Hades.
The frog, significantly a creature that can cross between two elements, also has become sacred to Hecate in modern Pagan literature
The yew, in particular, was sacred to Hecate. Her followers would drape wreathes of yew around the necks of black bulls which they slaughtered in her honor and yew boughs were burned on funeral pyres. Hecate was also said to favor offerings of garlic, which was closely associated with her cult.
A number of other plants (often poisonous, medicinal and/or psychoactive) are associated with Hecate. These include aconite (also called hecateis),belladonna, dittany, and mandrake.
In addition, many other herbs and plants are associated with Hecate, including almonds, lavender, myrrh, mugwort, cardamon, mint, dandelion, hellebore, and lesser celandine.