Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Hec’ate (3 syl. in Greek, 2 in Eng.).

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Hec’ate (3 syl. in Greek, 2 in Eng.).
A triple deity, called Phœb or the Moon in heaven, Diana on the earth, and Hecate or Proserpine in hell. She is described as having three heads—one of a horse, one of a dog, and one of a lion. Her offerings consisted of dogs, honey, and black lambs. She was sometimes called “Tri’via,” because offerings were presented to her at cross-roads. Shakespeare refers to the triple character of this goddess:   1
“And we fairies that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team.”
Midsummer Night’s Dream, v. 2.
   Hecate, daughter of Perss the Titan, is a very different person to the “Triple Hecate,” who, according to Hesiod, was daughter of Zeus and a benevolent goddess. Hecate, daughter of Perss, was a magician, poisoned her father, raised a temple to Diana in which she immolated strangers, and was mother of Mede’a and Circ. She presided over magic and enchantments, taught sorcery and witchcraft. She is represented with a lighted torch and a sword, and is attended by two black dogs.   2
   Shakespeare, in his Macbeth, alludes to both these Hecates. Thus in act ii. 1 he speaks of “pale Hecate,” i.e. the mother of Meda and Circê, goddess of magicians, whom they invoked, and to whom they made offerings.   3
“Now … [at night] witch craft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings.”
   But in act iii. 2 he speaks of “black Hecate,” meaning night, and says before the night is over and day dawns, there   4
“Shall be done
A deed of dreadful note;” i.e. the murder of Duncan.
   N.B. Without doubt, sometimes these two Hecates are confounded.   5



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