by Michael Scott
When the twins meet Hekate, the Greek and Roman goddess of witchcraft and magic, they are awed by her imposing stature:
Tall and broad, the woman looked as though she had been carved from a solid slab of jet-black stone. The merest fuzz of white hair covered her skull like a close-fitting cap, and her features were sharp and angular: high cheekbones; straight, pointed nose; sharply defined chin; lips so thin they were almost nonexistent. Her pupils were the color of butter. She was wearing a long, simple gown made of shimmering material that moved gently in a wind that didn't seem to touch anything around her. As it shifted, rainbow colors ran down its length, like oil on water. She wore no jewelry, though Sophie noticed that each of her short blunt fingernails was painted a different color. (13.50)
Hmm. What comes to mind here? For Shmoop, it's the word otherworldly. And you know what? Hekate is otherworldly; Hekate is one of the Elder Race, a race that existed long before humans. That means this woman is special.
Goddess With the Three Faces
Believe it or not, her looks aren't the most striking thing about her. No, we'll reserve that label for the fact that she transforms daily into three different forms. Crazy, right? But hey, she's not called the Goddess with the Three Faces for nothing.
As Flamel says, "Hekate is cursed to age with the day. Maiden in the morning, matron in the afternoon, crone in the evening" (17.79). No wonder Hekate is sensitive about her age! But we have to ask, why are these powers of transformation a curse? Aren't magical abilities supposed to be a good thing?
What's so great about this description is that the ambiguous nature of her magical abilities reminds us of another character in the novel—the Witch of Endor. Both Hekate and the blind Dora (who gave up her eyes for the power of Sight) are Elders with tremendous abilities that may be considered both gifts and curses. Remember, the Witch of Endor, too, calls her abilities a "curse" when she bestows them upon Sophie: "do not thank me. This is not a gift. What I give you is a curse!" (36.63).
Hekate (along with Dora) reminds us that magic isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Often, it's a challenge to live with one's powers, and it certainly puts them in the line of fire. Remember kids, a life of magic is a life of danger.
One of the coolest things about Hekate is her awesome tree house. That's right—Hekate calls the Yggdrasill, or the World Tree, home. In other words, this super awesome goddess lives in a super awesome tree. Let's check out the description:
"The house is alive," Sophie said in wonder as they turned into another twisting, spiraling corridor that was completely composed of the gnarled and bulbous roots of the great tree that rose above them. "Even with us moving around inside, with the rooms and the windows and the pools—it's still a living tree!" She found the idea both astonishing and frightening at the same time. (24.36)
Not only is the tree alive, it's also deeply tied to Hekate herself. If the tree lives, Hekate lives. Unfortunately, this also means that if the House is alive, however, it can also die, and Hekate could die along with it. That's just what happens when Dee drives his sword into the tree, killing both the Yggdrasill and Hekate in one blow.
If we're being honest, we might call Hekate a bit of a snob. She's very proud of her Elder Race, and can't help but consider others not of her race beneath her, even humans. She calls humans "lazy" for not using their powers, saying, "The humani have cut themselves off from the senses. Now they see only in a tiny portion of the visible spectrum, hear only the loudest of sounds, their sense of smell is shockingly poor, and they can only distinguish the sweetest and sourest of tastes (24.54).
While Hekate has a point—many creatures can hear or smell better than we can—her arrogance can't go unnoticed. She is too proud to realize that Dee might actually have the power to take down her world, and that makes her vulnerable. She thinks, "Dee fears me. He will bluster and posture, threaten me, possibly even try a few minor spells and incantations, but he will not move against me. Not alone […] and even then he would not be assured of success" (14.12).
Sadly, the joke's on Hekate. Dee does move against her, and her pride results in her death.