Hekate in Magna Graecia: Enna



Enna is located in central Sicily, and according to Diodorus Siculus, is the famed mythical location for Persephone’s abduction, which was said to have happened near Lake Pergusa. Enna was one of the most prominent locations in Sicily for Demeter and Persephone’s cult. Near Lake Pergusa is an archaeological site known as Cozzo Matrice, where one will find the remains of a fortified village believed to be dated to about 8000 BCE. Other archaeological remains date back to a little over 2000 years old, and they include a citadel, remains of a necropolis, and remains of a temple to Demeter. Today, the area of Lake Pergusa is home to a park called “Proserpina Park”, named after Persephone (Proserpina or Proserpine is how Persephone was referred to by the Romans). Nearby, the Rocca (or Rocco) di Cerere Geopark is now known as the land that was once consecrated to the chthonian deities of the Eleusinian mysteries, and their power and presence is very much felt to this day.

The story of Persephone’s abduction and Demeter’s subsequent search is recounted in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, in which Hekate plays a very prominent role. It is also lays the foundation for the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Persephone was picking flowers, when Hades emerged from a nearby cave and stole her away to his realm in the underworld. Hekate and the sun god Helios witnessed this abduction, though Hekate did not see it happen; She only heard Persephone’s cries for help. Demeter wandered all over the earth for Persephone for nine days, and on the tenth day Hekate appeared before Demeter to tell her what She had witnessed, as told in this passage from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter:

“But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hecate, with a torch in her hands, met her, and spoke to her and told her news: “Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of good gifts, what god of heaven or what mortal man has rapt away Persephone and pierced with sorrow your dear heart? For I heard her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was. But I tell you truly and shortly all I know.”

Together, Demeter and Hekate went to Helios to ask for his help in finding Persephone. Helios told Demeter where her daughter was taken, but also tried to tell her that she should remain where she was. Demeter did not want to accept that, and continued to wander until she ended up at Eleusis, where she decreed that a temple be built in her honor. During this time when Demeter was in despair, the earth and it’s fruits wasted away. Zeus took notice of the suffering of the earth and it’s inhabitants, and arranged for Hermes to mediate between Hades and Demeter for Persephone’s return. Hades agreed, but, tricked Persephone into eating some pomegranate seeds, which then forever bound her to the underworld for part of the year. Persephone and Demeter were reunited, and Hekate joined them in their reunion. From that moment on, Hekate became Persephone’s torch-bearing guide to and from the underworld twice a year. One of Hekate’s epithets is “Propolos”, which means “guide”.  From the Homeric Hymn to Demeter:

Then bright-coiffed Hecate came near to them, and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter: and from that time the lady Hecate was minister and companion to Persephone.”


Rocca di Cereri – Enna – from Wikimedia


I hope you enjoyed this essay on Hekate in  Magna Graecia: Enna.

© Melissa McNair / The Torch and Key


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