The Y-Junction

The goddess Hecate is often referred to as “Goddess of the Three-Formed Crossroads,” a title which strengthens my belief that she was originally a goddess of the waterways. By “three-formed” the title refers to a junction of three roads meeting in a “Y.” In Greece a statue of the goddess was sometimes placed at such a crossroad, her three faces pointing in three directions. Offerings of food would be placed there, particularly by those embarking on a journey.

Hecate of the Trivium. Roman copy of Greek statue.


Why is Hecate worshiped where three roads meet? While roads and paths do occasionally fork, we think of a crossroad as being a cross, with two joining roads creating an intersection of four directions. I was unable to discover if roads in the ancient worlds were more commonly crossing or forking, and I wonder if anyone has thought to ask the question. One travel route where the meeting is almost always forked, however, is the joining of rivers. We do know that long distance travel in prehistoric times was heavily dependent on water, rather than roads.

An interesting difference between roads, or even trails, and rivers is that the course of rivers is predestined. The river may be dredged or banked, but by and large the goddess decides where the river flows. Hecate’s divine priestess, the witch Medea, can control the course of rivers, but ordinary mortals merely decide which fork to take.

Hecate is often portrayed carrying a torch to light the road by night.



In life it is an inexorable fact that there are three passages, and three passages only. These are: the passage you take, the passage you don’t take, and the passage you leave behind. Being at the place where the three meet, however you are traveling, is a place of change and of risk. It is a threshold, a place of beginnings, and a place where departure from the past becomes inevitable. It is a place between worlds, the point of your greatest power.

During this time, as the sun crosses its nadir, we often experience a point of departure. If you find yourself at such a turning point, pray to Hecate to lead you in the best direction. Pray to follow your path with conviction and to avoid obsessing over the route you never took or the one you put behind you. And if your situation is intolerable and you cannot see your way out, pray to Hecate to open a fork in the passage.

Hecate is sometimes pictured with a horse, emphasizing her command of travel. As a horse goddess she is called “The Distant One” or “The Far Fleeting One.”




Sources

Goddess Gift. Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads.

Hellenica World. Hecate.

Hesiod. Theogeny, part V.

Jordan, Michael. Encyclopedia of Gods. New York: Facts on File, 1993.

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  • Jamie

    This is wonderful information, thank you. I love your hypothesis about the ‘road’ being water. Animal trails also fork for more than they meet in a cross. Roads were often built up from trails, as I’m sure you know. Blessings of this season to all.

    • hearth

      The forked animal trail is a good point (even though from our point of view “deer paths” peter out and go nowhere). I admit it weakens my hypothesis. However, Hecate’s association with the water loving willow tree makes me stick to my original idea.