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The mysterious tale of the goddess Hekate (DVD 19"31') 2006

Goddess of Lagina: Hecate (DVD 19"31') 2006

This DVD explores the vestiges of the cult of the goddess Hecate revealed through archaeological excavations on the goddess’s cult site of Lagina in Western Anatolia, a trail that takes us back in time more than 3000 years.

Excavations of the sacred precincts in Lagina brought to light devotional statuettes of Hecate, a temple, a monumental gateway called “propylae”, a place of sacrifice and the Sacred Way, a ceremonial road connecting Lagina to the ancient city of Stratoniceia. Presently an annual “ Lagina Festival” is held in the township of Turgut where the site of ancient Lagina is located; Turgut was formerly called Leyna, a clear phonetic echo of Lagina.

While exploring Hecate’s traces in Lagina the DVD also combines the goddess’s place in Greek mythology with her roots in pagan rites, her place in Anatolian lore and the tradition of the “Mother Goddess”. Since 2006 this 19:16-minute DVD has been shown at all of the Lagina Festivals.

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Screenplay by İkbal Çiğdem Damar 2006
This Screenplay filmed by Bodrumlife Publications in 2006
You can buy the DVD in English Subtiles clicking the "buy now" button.

The name ‘Lagina’ appears on the Muğla-Milas road, just after Yatağan, below a sign for Turgut. The road leads to the remains of the sacred area of Lagina, about 10 kilometres further on, and to the millenia-old tale of the mythological goddess Hecate...
Lagina was the official centre of worship for the Carian town of Stratonikeia and – by all accounts - the site of the most important temple, the oldest and best-known place to worship Hecate.  The name ‘Lagina’ still lives on in the name of ‘Leyne’, the locals’ name for the nearby town, which itself, has recently been renamed ‘Turgut’.

Lagina’s history as the region’s most important religious centre goes back as far as 3000 BC.  But records for the sacred area date from the time Stratonikeia was founded and Lagina became its temple area.  Because the records refer to the Hecate Temple (the ruins of which can still be seen) they must date from that era or later.

The first research into Lagina was done in 1743 by Richard Pockocke.  Initial excavations began in 1891 under Osman Hamdi Bey, generally acknowledged as Turkey’s first real curator, and founder of Istanbul’s archaeological museum and others in Turkey.
These excavations were significant, being the first scientific excavations to be done in Turkey by Turkish archaeologists.  After a long break, Prof. Dr. Yusuf BOYSAL continued the research and excavation, between 1967 and 1970.  Most recently, the site has been under excavation by Prof Dr Ahmet TIRPAN, since1993.

The large numbers of objects unearthed during the excavations are now on display in the Istanbul Museum of Archaeology, Turgut Museum and the museums of Milas and Muğla.  The Hecate statue found at Lagina can be found in front of the town hall in Turgut.

It is thought that the tradition of the Hecate cult is a remnant of the Anatolian matriarchal era.  The Roman philosopher Lucius Apuleius (125-180 AD) describes Hecate in his book Metamorphoses as a ‘Mother Goddess’.
"I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the Elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of powers divine, Queen of heaven!  the principal of the Gods celestial, the light of the goddesses: at my will the planets of the air, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of hell be deposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in diverse manners, in variable customs and in many names, for the Phrygians call me the mother of the Gods: the Athenians, Minerva: the Cyprians, Venus: the Candians, Diana: the Sicilians Proserpina: the Eleusians, Ceres: some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate: and principally the Aethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Aegyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustom to worship me, do call me Queen Isis."


Although Homer doesn’t even mention Hecate in his works, she figures several
times in Hesiod’s ‘Theogony’, the poet dedicating forty-six verses of praise
to her at the end of a passage describing the bloodlines of the Titans.


The first written source mentioning Hecate is Hesiod’s ‘Theogony’.  Hesiod was born in the 700’s BC in Kyme, not far from today’s Aliağa north of Izmir and he moved with his family to the ancient Greek town of Askra.  In ‘Theogony’, he tells of the birth of the Greek gods, their blood lines and exploits, generation by generation.  “In the very beginning there was Chaos,” he says.
Hesiod’s ‘Theogony’ is currently accepted as the main source of the genealogy of the mythological gods – for example in the Oxford University Press ‘Classical Mythology’

 Hesiod firstly tells us about Gaia, the earth.  Gaia creates Uranus, the sky, as her equal, bound to surround her on all sides.  Then she creates the high mountains and the sea.  As a result of her union with Uranus she gives birth to the male and female Titans.


Hecate comes from the sun line of the Titans.  Koios and Phoebe have two daughters: one is Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, the other Asteria.  Asteria gives birth to Hecate following her union with Perses.


Again, Phoebe came to the desired embrace of Coeus.
Then the goddess through the love of the god conceived and brought Leto, Also she bore Asteria of happy name,
whom Perses once led to his great house
to be called his dear wife.
And she conceived and bore Hecate
She is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods.
For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices
and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate
Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him;
for the power surely is with her.
For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean
amongst all these she has her due portion.
Whom she will she greatly aids and advances:
and in the assembly whom she will
is distinguished among the people

 Analysts still wonder why Hecate, belonging neither to the Olympic gods nor mentioned in their legends and myths, merits such key importance in Hesiod’s opus.  Her all-encompassing role in ‘Theogony’ is comparable only with the mother goddess Kybele.

It is not really clear whether Hecate is a Greek goddess.  Many experts believe she was only adopted by Greek mythology at a later date, because apart from the myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hecate, she only appears along with the Amazons as Zeus’s helper, in the war between the gods and the Titans.  The portrayal of Zeus’ s horses from Pergamon are among the most beautiful  interpretations of the myth...

Also, from a linguistic point of view, the name Hecate doesn’t fit with the Greek language.  It belongs to the Carian region...  It is thought that the word might have been introduced to the Carian language by Carian legionaries who served in Egypt and encountered the Egyptian midwife goddess Hekat, protector of women in childbirth.  The roots of Hekat can be traced further back, to the wise clan leader ‘Heq’, originating in the Egyptian matriarchal period.

The word ‘hecate’ can mean ‘one who imposes his/her will’, but other meanings including ‘remote’ or ‘most glorious’ are also implied.  The name of the Carian king and father of Mausolus, Hekatomnus, means: ‘Man or servant of the Hecate temple’.

Hesiod’s ‘Theogony’ is currently accepted as the main source of the genealogy of the mythological gods – for example in the Oxford University Press ‘Classical Mythology’
Beginning in the 8  B.C., a Hecatesia-Romaia festival was held in Lagina every four years, but a Hecatesia ceremony was performed every year.  This was also known as the "key carrying festival", as the key to the temple was taken in a procession on foot to Stratonikeia and back again.  This tradition stemmed from the belief that Hecate held the keys to the underworld.   According to this belief, Hecate was the guardian of all the doors on earth, as well as that of the door to the land of the dead.  In order to keep trouble and disaster away from houses, altars to Hecate were erected in front of the doors.  Receiving the souls of the dead, Hecate was also the protector of cemeteries.  The figures with horses which are especially widespread on grave steles in Thrace, associate her with the symbol of the mare.

Because of the dog Cerberus who guards the gates of Hades, all dogs belong to Hecate.  It was a widespread custom in Caria to sacrifice dogs to the goddess.  When dogs started howling in the night, the people took this to mean that Hecate had begun to wander around, because only dogs were able to see her and the souls that she set free.  Female dogs and wolves are also one of the symbols of Hecate.

Hecate is the daughter of the night and darkness.  As a goddess of the moon, she has a complementary relationship with the sun.  On the 30th of the month, when the sun catches up with the moon and they rise together, a flat cake with candles on it was offered to the goddess.

Hecate and Apollo were gods of journeys, lighting the way for travellers, Apollo with the sun, and Hecate with her torch in the night.  Hecate was called scatterer of fire, radiator of light, torch carrier, fire breather and the black one.  She was worshipped in caves and torches were lit in her honour.

The crescent moon with a torch is also one of Hecate's symbols, showing the way to spirits and travellers.  On nights when the moon was in the final quarter, offerings of cakes, fish, eggs and cheese were made to the goddess at junctions of three roads. 

In early periods she had one head and body, but was later depicted as having three bodies.  This triple form showed that she possessed power in heaven, on earth and in the land of the dead.  The trio of birth, life and death is also embodied in Hecate's triple form.  The new moon was Artemis, the full moon was Selene and the waning moon Hecate. 

Hecate's triple body also symbolizes the stages of a woman's life: girlhood, motherhood and being a grandmother. 

In the trio of Persephone, Demeter and Hecate; Hecate helps Demeter, the goddess of fertility, to find her daughter Persephone, who has been kidnapped by the ruler of the underworld.

In later periods and in Roman mythology, Hecate became less powerful and was associated with death, evil spirits and spells.  She was now a bad old woman, her witchcraft coming to the fore.  She became known as the daughter of Zeus who ruled the underworld. 

While human beings turned heaven, the land of plenty where they had once lived
 in freedom and equality, into an arena for dominance, possession and war; Hecate, one of the beautiful and powerful goddesses mentioned in Apelieus's "Metamorphoses", was transformed into a witch and an old woman in mythology.  Male gods took the place of the mother god, and Hecate became feared, known as a sorcerer believed to rule the forces of evil and darkness.     

Hear the words of the grandmother of time:
Hecate, Erishkagel, Cerridwen, Kalima, Anna, Perenna, Spider Woman- a few of her names,
Sometimes feared, sometimes loved, but never ignored,
Bringer of knowledge and awareness of eternity,
She was a virgin and remembers that joy,
She became a mother and recalls that pleasure,
But age changed her, teaching the mysteries of the unceasing wheel,
The wheel- life, death and rebirth,
She is a hurricane tracing circles, a spitting volcano, a great wave swelling higher, the tremor of the earth’s crust,
With age comes understanding of the past, and a chance to glimpse the future,
So, when the wheel turns: the past is ahead, and the future has passed,
She is the wise one, the teacher, the bringer of inevitable change,
The darkness of the moon, the hidden one, the invisible unknown awaiting us,
But have no fear, because she has no bad intention,
Though her touch be strict, it is one of love,
Only in ignorance is she held in contempt and thought ill of,
Those who know her not make fun of her as an old crone, who spoils the crops and sours the milk in the cow’s udder,
The distaste felt for the signs of her age turns to fear,
Her wrinkles to a hideous formlessness,
Her voice to a sound of devilish, self-seeking irritation,
Those who seek power on earth are afraid to confront her wisdom and unalterable truths,
But we used to sit at her feet to learn the ancient customs,
We learned the lore of healing plants and songs that shaped our lives,
She sat with honour at our councils and in our market places and homes,
She governed our state, explained our laws, gave direction to our changing seasons,
She was our teacher, our oracle, our promise of rebirth,
Come, honour her as of old, listen to the words of the Wise One, the Ancient Seer, the Old Woman!

The silence and melancholy of Hecate that has lasted for thousands of years is today transformed into exultation by the Lagina Festival, jointly organized by the Turgut Municipality, the Ministry of Culture and Konya University.  It is almost as if the old "Hecatesia" festival, celebrated in great style by the Romans every year, is brought to life again.   

Today in the west, the goddess Hecate is associated with "paganism" and "witchery" and accepted as their symbol, and especially tour groups from Bodrum, lovers of archaeology and people from local towns attend the celebrations, interest in the event growing each year. 

The festival begins with traditional drum and pipe playing, and visitors can explore the area, listen to local music, eat, learn about the excavations and watch films.  After the symbolic "Carrying of the Key" and sacrifice ceremonies organized with the help of Muğla University, the ceremonies conducted under the full moon come to a close with performances by the Bodrum Mystic and Ancient Music group.

After everyone has left, late at night among the ruins of Lagina, the secret life of Hecate continues in all its mystery and darkness.


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