Aside from a few casual mentions like the one in this week’s B.P.R.D.: Vampire #3, Hecate hasn’t appeared in the comics for quite some time. Her last appearance was in the fourth issue of B.P.R.D.: King of Fear back in 2010, and even that was a brief one. However, she is a character connected to many of the core aspects of the Hellboy Universe’s mythology: The fall of Hyperborian empire, vampires, the Black Goddess cult, even Ragna Rok and Hellboy’s final fate. So, let’s launch into this!
Please note, this column contains spoilers for those that have not yet read up to and including B.P.R.D.: Vampire #2.
It has also been said she is the sister of the Ogdru Jahad, the seven dragons who are one, that not only is she a vampire, but she is the source of all others. Other than simply being stated, none of the elements have yet been explored in the comics. Her connection to the Ogdru Jahad is something I’m particularly curious about. Does she truly share some sort of kinship with the Ogdru Jahad, or was this “sister” in a more literary sense of the word?
The Fall of Hyperborea
Then Hecate came into the picture. She seduced Thoth, and while he slept, stole the key to his secret garden. She killed the three angels and drank their blood, then she went into Thoth’s temple. There she vomited out the blood, and with it she painted the walls with the knowledge Thoth had kept secret.
Hecate invited any Hyperboreans that wished to know the workings of the universe to come and learn them in Thoth’s temple. When Thoth awoke and discovered what she had done, he cursed her so that her body was half-changed into a serpent and could no longer bear the light of day, then he drove her from the city.
Obviously with Hecate being a pre-existing mythical figure, there’s a certain amount of history that comes with the character, but Mike Mignola has developed her much further, weaving various real-world myths into his version of her. Hecate has said herself, she has been the secret queen of a hundred empires, with temples beneath every great city in history. The Hellboy Universe Hecate is cobbled together from so many different mythologies, and a hefty chunk of Mignola’s own invention, blurring the lines until it’s difficult to tell what’s real myth and what’s not.
Furthermore, Kali is sometimes mentioned in relatively modern Wiccan petitions to Hecate, which name Isis and Kali as the other two forms of the triform goddess, though there are many variations of this, citing many different goddesses across the world. The petition to Hecate is something Mike Mignola has utilised in the comics rather frequently with several variations of his own. Common elements are:
Hellish, Heavenly, and Earthly Hecate / Infernal, Terrestrial, and Celestial Hecate
Goddess of Crossroads
Queen of Night, Enemy of Sun
Gorgo, Mormo, Moon of a thousand forms
Mignola’s versions of the petition seem to be largely inspired by the ancient incantation in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Horror of Red Hook:
“O friend and companion of night,
Thou who rejoicest in the baying of dogs and spilt blood,
Who wanderest in the midst of shades among the tombs,
Who longest for blood and bringest terror to mortals,
Gorgo, Mormo, look favourably on our sacrifices!”
“Gorgo” refers to the Gorgons of Greek mythology, women with snake-hair that turned people to stone with their gaze. Although Hecate has never turned anyone to stone in Mignola’s comics, the snake hair is certainly there. “Mormo” was the name of a vampire-like creature in Greek mythology that attacked children.
I haven’t found any mythology that implicates Hecate herself as a vampire or of having vampire-like tendencies, though she does share the company of vampires. Mormo was a companion of hers and Lamia was Hecate’s daughter. Traditionally Hecate’s primary associates are with witchcraft, the Moon, and crossroads. Her parentage is disputed, and she is at times referred to as a Titaness, the only Titan who aided Zeus in the battle of the gods and Titans, and the only Titan not cast down into the Underworld.
This is of particular interest, as it may shine some light on the origin of Mignola’s Hecate. His Watchers, the angels that fought against the Ogdru Jahad and the three-hundred and sixty-nine Ogdru Hem, are occasionally referred to as “Titans” in Mignola’s books. We do not know when or how Hecate came into the world, but this at least suggests she may have been present when the Titans fought “the old gods” (as the Ogdru Hem are often called).
The Black Goddess Cult
They appeared again during the war on the frog monsters, and fought alongside the B.P.R.D. and the U.S. military at the rebuilt Hyperborean city of Thadrethes. What happened to them after this is unknown. Perhaps they fled after the death of Memnan Saa? If they are still alive, then the Black Goddess cult surely is also.
Hecate’s Reawakening and Death
In Greek mythology, Hecate started off as a reasonably noble goddess, although over time she changed until by 500 CE in The Orphic Argonautica, she is described as a deadly monster, Hecate of Tartarus.
This change in the ancient Greeks’ perception of Hecate is likely an aspect of Hecate’s past Mignola has incorporated into his Hecate. Around this period in the Hellboy Universe, Hecate disappeared. I’m guessing at this point in time the Greeks figured out she wasn’t the fantastic goddess they thought she was and turned against her. After sleeping for a thousand years, she was found in 1492 by Greek fisherman, pulled from the water all withered and hard. The fishermen would have thrown her into the fire, but a man stopped them, the father of Vladimir Giurescu.
Giurescu Senior brought her back to Castle Giurescu in Romania. There he bathed her in ox blood, milk, honey, and oils, until she became flexible again. He built her a new temple, and gave his son Vladimir to her so that he would become her son too. This would begin the European vampire epidemic of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The Witches of Thessaly, who are in Hecate’s service at Castle Giurescu, also turn into birds of prey. One of these, Medea, was a priestess of Hecate’s in Greek mythology. She is seen briefly in her bird form in Wake the Devil heralding the arrival of Hecate, but things must have gone poorly for her after that, because in Darkness Calls it is mentioned she is one of four witch queens… and that all four are dust.
Anyway, back to Hecate. She remained in Castle Giurescu until 1997 when Hellboy came along and blew the place up (incidentally, this is probably what killed Medea). Their fight forced the pair of them outside, and Hecate was claimed by Thoth’s curse, “and she could no more bear the light of day.”Continued below
The Maiden of Joo
Hecate didn’t stay dead for long though. A part of her life force lived in her son, Vladimir Giurescu, and it left him, rebirthing Hecate in the iron body of the Maiden of Joo.
You know, I should probably go back a bit and explain what the Maiden of Joo is.
The Maiden of Joo was claimed as the new body for the spirit of Hecate shortly afterwards, and remained so for several years. It was free from Hecate’s former weakness, that she could never go out into daylight, but it came with a weakness of its own. By taking the Maiden of Joo, Hecate had also claimed the corpse of Ilsa Haupstein, and that name became her own and could be used against her.
While she waits, she is visited by Sir Edward Grey. She asks him if he has come to mock his queen. Hecate, of course, is the Queen of Witches, and Sir Edward was formerly a mortal man that spent his life fighting witchcraft, and is now an immortal exceptionally well-versed in magic (as shown in Hellboy in Hell when he fights Eligos), so I admit I am more than just a little curious as to what this is about. Was this merely a jab at Sir Edward for becoming something he had so long fought against, or something more? Clearly these two have some kind of history together, one that I’m very interested to see explored.
The Maiden of Joo is one of my favourite Mignola visuals. Whenever it showed up, it was always shifting its shape, changing into a cloaked woman or into Hecate’s half-snake body. So, you can imagine how happy I was to see it at the end of the world.
In King of Fear, Elizabeth Sherman has stepped into the future where she witnesses the ruin of the world. Everyone is dead, and only the Ogdru Hem remain. At the end of this vision, she sees Hellboy atop a mountain, and at his side is Hecate. He and Hecate tell Liz to release the full destructive force of her power on the world. Liz does so, scorching the surface of the entire planet.
This fulfils a prophecy that the world would be burned. There are many prophecies about the end of the world, and in all of them when Ragna Rok comes, Hellboy and Hecate are together. It is said they will either rule over the new world together or die. These two are eternally linked.
In fact, there are some interesting dualities between Hellboy and Hecate. Hecate is worshipped by the People of the Left Hand, and the People of the Right Hand worshipped Anum’s hand, the Right Hand of Doom that Hellboy’s father attached to him as an infant. Hellboy is “Heaven, Hell, and human come together as one” ― The hand of an angel, the son of a demon, and the Heir of King Arthur. Hecate is “Hellish, Heavenly, and Earthly” ― A vampire and a demon, she has drunk the blood of angels, and her body is that of a human woman, Ilsa Haupstein. Hellboy fights against his destiny constantly, but Hecate accepts hers. She calmly calls herself “Hecate the damned” and doesn’t rail against the cage she’s in.Continued below
I have so many questions about Hecate, but she is so tied up with the end of all things, I believe we shall be waiting a very long time for any answers. But in the meantime, it’s fun to muse on the possibilities and see what threads we can string together.
And so ends another Hell Notes. This one was a long one. I want to thank Mike and Christine Mignola for their help digging up some extra details for me. I am quite certain I missed more than a few myths referenced in the comics relating to Hecate. It is a very complicated tapestry after all. If you happen to spot any oversights, let me know.
That’s all from me. See you next time.