This article was originally published on my Patreon and old blog.
The practical aspect of the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina is a three-stage process, taking place within a year, from March to December. More accurately the three stages take place on the Full Moons closest to the Spring Equinox, the Perseids meteor shower, and the Winter Solstice. Each stage must be completed before the next one can be performed. Otherwise, the subtle transformative process of the Mysteries will be disturbed and the practitioner performing the rituals will not properly experience the intended journey and transmutation of the spirit. That isn’t necessarily catastrophic since the prospective initiate can try again next year (barring any divination explicitly advising the opposite) by starting the process anew.
Each stage builds onto the next. Very much like the seasons, there is no true beginning and the entire process must be viewed in a cyclical or spiral manner. The designated “First” Stage is essentially an arbitrary choice for practical and pragmatic reasons, just like the beginning of the secular year on January is artificial; the seasons never “begin” from our perspective but cycle through one another perpetually. Still, we need a means to enter this perpetual dance, and the designated First Stage is, in my opinion and examination, the most inviting and helpful for the beginning of this transformative journey. The title of the practitioner also changes along the journey, to reflect the changes within. During the First Stage, the practitioner is the Iketēs, the Supplicant. During the Second Stage, the practitioner is the Odoiporos, the Wayfarer. And lastly, during and beyond the Third Stage, they are the Mystēs, the Initiate (literally “the initiated”).
The three stage process is, somewhat paradoxically, technically a four-stage process since the Third Stage is actually a two-part procedure. Let’s start at our chosen starting point though, shall we?
The First Stage, properly called “The Light Obscured in the Waters”, is observed on the Full Moon of the Spring Equinox and it requires the practitioner to symbolically participate in a ritual drama: The Iketēs awakens the earth and the Titan Anytos opens the gate of the cave of Despoina, where the Obscured Light can be found. The Iketēs must draw the Waters of Rejuvenation from the Spring of Poseidon and venture into the cave via the performance of the Snake Dance. There, the Light is found and revealed. By conjoining the Light Unveiled with the Waters of Rejuvenation, the Luminous Waters are created, of which both the earth and the Iketēs must partake. The Iketēs becomes spiritually quickened and their transformative journey begins. The first glimpse of the Mysteries is attained and the Iketēs learns and utters the Secret Name of Hekate-Despoina. With the First Stage completed, the path to the Second Stage is open and the practitioner is now the Odoiporos.
In the Second Stage, properly called “The Sidereal Journey” and observed on the Full Moon of the Perseids, the Odoiporos, having been spiritually rejuvenated and their soul transformation initiated, undergoes the anabasis process that will allow them to gain the blessings and empowerment of celestial Gods and to glimpse the magnitude of Hekate-Despoina. This process is facilitated by Hekate’s mother, the divine Asteria, and the empowerment – necessary to face the challenges of the Third Stage – is conveyed by the group of deities dubbed “the Star Gods” (Astraios, Astraia, the Astra Planeta, and the Titans of Light, i.e. Helios, Selene, and Eos). Unlike the First Stage, the Sidereal Journey is less sacred drama and more theurgic ritual, clearly possessing of a more magical (albeit still hieratic) character due to the alchemical nature of its processes. The Odoiporos is prepared through preliminary rituals involving Asteria and the Star Gods, and becomes spiritually empowered and reforged in the main rite of the Second Stage. This allows the Odoiporos to undertake the Third Stage as the Mystēs at the appointed time fully prepared and equipped to experience it without adverse effects.
The Third Stage, properly called “The Glory of Hekate”, is observed on the Full Moon of the Winter Solstice, and it leads the Mystēs through an ecstatic experience of the Goddess in Her full glory, engineered through a katabasis and followed by an anabasis. This allows the Mystēs to glimpse the domains of Hekate-Despoina, Her greatness, and to gain profound insight and understanding of Her Secret Name and Her multitudinous, ineffable nature and power. The two-part process is akin to a visionary journey in ritual form. The first part involves the descent to the Underworld where Hekate as Unconquerable Queen of Those Below (Amaimaketos Anassa Eneron) is approached and propitiated, and where the Mystēs undergoes their most dramatic spiritual transformation, being remade by the Goddess or rejected and sent back if their life’s path lies elsewhere. This “failure” can be hard to stomach but the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina are only for anyone, not everyone. Some people’s fate leads to other destinations and that is neither sin nor folly. If sent back, the Mystēs becomes the Eusebēs, the Pious, and completes the process in a different manner, enjoying the blessings granted thus far and forging their own path towards other horizons.
If accepted and remade by the Goddess in Her terrible visage, the Mystēs must climb back to this realm through a ritual process similar to a baptism or birth. Through earth and water, the Mystēs returns from the Underworld, reborn in spirit, and looking ever towards the shining stars ahead.
After the entire three-stage process has been completed, the Mystēs ought to commemorate the three stages every year, with celebratory rituals; a different process from the one they underwent but one that keeps the memory of the Mystery alive. These simple ritual celebrations and commemorations are governed by Mnemosyne and undertaken in devotion to Hekate-Despoina.