Dr. Carl Jung’s concept of archetypes has always intrigued me, and it’s helped me a lot over the
years to consider which archetypes I am possibly embodying, struggling with, or neglecting to
pay attention to now! Especially fascinating to me has been the archetype of Hecate, the
“goddess of intuitive and psychic wisdom” according to Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD., a Jungian
analyst who’s written extensively on this topic.
Hecate is the one who stands at the crossroads, at the fork in the road between past, present &
future. There she meets people, and intuits where they’ve come from. She knows what choices
they’re now presented with, about which path to take going forward. Hecate is the one at the
threshold of major life transitions. So, for example, her archetype presents itself in the roles of
death doula, midwife, hospice worker.
We all have times when we hang onto old patterns, ways of thinking & acting that are no longer
working all that well for us. I find myself there when I’m holding onto old grudges, petty
resentments that I have to keep feeding to keep alive, arrrgh, negative thinking that blocks
perspective, to name a few. We are constantly evolving and being given opportunities to grow
and expand. Or to stay in our old mindset, even though there’s a disquiet about it. Something
is urging us, something wants expression or change.
This can be a very unsettling energy which we may try to push down and on the surface, we
may succeed in doing so. A life too calm, too settled and too predictable though, can also be a
life that is stuck, and too fearful to move out of that stuckness. I remember a time when I felt
this stuckness as “mud around my heart”. I was very lucky to be able to receive the guidance of
a gifted therapist, Marie Jose Dhaese; she helped me uncover what that mud was about, to
then loosen it up and bring the cleansing waters of insight to wash it away. We are always a
work in progress though, never completed, hard as our growth can be. No wonder they call it
It goes without saying that life-threatening illness or crisis can jolt us out of our comfort zone,
throwing us up close against our mortality. Many meet Hecate on those particular roads, in the
liminal time of twilight, and find more meaning in their lives by choosing the path of a wideawake
life, replete with its griefs, its sorrows and its joys. Hecate helps us let go of what is ready
to die: outworn attitudes and outgrown roles.
Hecate is also the goddess of the waning or dark moon – the Crone. Hesiod (in Theogeny,
approximately 700 BCE) said that Hecate means: “She who has power far off”; in other words,
psychic ability or clairvoyance. We old people don’t just become Crones or Elders – we must
earn that privilege by coming to terms with our own issues, grappling with what is holding us
back. We have too many blind spots to do all this work on our own, but the good news is that
we don’t have to! Teachers or guides to help us explore our depths are everywhere. These
teachers help us connect to our purpose, which may change over time. Exploring our depths
helps us connect to our grief and suffering and to that of others. It helps us be more fully
human. We can do this work by listening closely and learning from the many sources of wisdom
in the world, be they Mother Nature, a spiritual guide, insightful thought-partner, or other
mentor. I’ve found that when I am ready, teachers come, and they often come from
unexpected places. If we’re seeking, we usually know when they’ve arrived in our lives.
Bolen calls the part of us that knows and sees without the blinders on “the Witness”. Hecate is
also the Witness, with us at every juncture, there for the calling. She seeks and sees the Truth
of our existence, capital T. We may have distorted ideas or repressed material just too painful
to let into our consciousness, but Hecate is there when we are ready and humble enough to ask
for guidance. This is inner work that nourishes our souls. Like walking/being in the woods or at
the ocean, and how that feeds our whole being. When we step outside of our daily patterns
and take a dive into our psyches and look around, we emerge more whole and the world
becomes more holy. We may not have the answers but we’re seeing and holding the
complexity and we are then able to thrive in “full catastrophe living” (Jon Kabat-Zinn).
To me, it’s about listening to our inner helper, always there for us. If we are able to do so, we
can become more fully integrated and real. That makes us lighter, and truly, isn’t this a time
when we need to access our inner light?
Thanks to Jean Shinoda Bolen, Thomas Moore, James Hillman, Marion Woodman and Marlene
Schiwy, all Jungian scholars, for their wise teachings, many of which are reflected in this piece.