“Come not nigh, ye uninitiate! Now has divine madness driven all mortal thoughts from my breast, and my heart is filled with Phoebus’ inspiration; now see I the shrine reel and its foundations totter while the threshold glows with radiant light, telling that the God is at hand. And now I hear a loud din from the depths of the earth… Look! From afar rises Hecate with Her three heads and with Her comes forth Iacchus smooth of skin, His temples crowned with ivy. There clothes Him the pelt of a Parthian tiger, its gilded claws knotted together, and the Lydian thyrsus guides His drunken footsteps.”
“Hail Mother of the Gods, who has many names, blessed with wonderful children. Hail Hekate Prothyraia, of great strength. But You too, hail forefather Janus, Zeus imperishable; hail supreme Zeus”
The first to be invoked is the Mother of the Gods, appropriately since “She is the Lady of all life and the cause of all generation, who most easily confers perfection on Her creatures, and generates and makes things without passion, in conjunction with the father of the universe. She is also a virgin, without a mother, the advisor of Jupiter, and the true parent of all the Gods: because by receiving in Herself the causes of all the intelligible supramundane Gods, She becomes a fountain to the intellectual Gods” as correctly pointed out by our beloved Julian. Counsel and Pronoia (Providence) She is, in accord with Rhea and Demeter, because the place occupied by Rhea in the series of the noeric Gods (Life Principle) is that of Demeter among the Hyper-encosmic Gods (the Life-making Triad).
In fact Proclus himself celebrates Her after the discussion about the Three Kings in his Theology of Plato by saying: “Rhea, the cause of generation, has proceeded from Her principle, having received the rank of mother among all the paternal orders (the Demiurgic orders and the Three Kings) and introducing the Demiurge before all the other Gods, the universal Demiurge and the inflexible safe-keeper.”
She is in fact the intermediary centre of the Triad of the Nous and the receptive womb of the generative power inherent in Kronos, Her husband. The universal Demiurge Zeus, that is revealed by Her, is filled with overabundance of generative power by this Goddess – that is why He is said to be “the causal principle of life for all things”. The creative overabundance of this Goddess is characterized by Plato and Proclus as “rheymasin”, “streams”, as She is among the “Source-Gods” (the Pegaion Theôn) “the Goddess that encompasses all life in its wholeness”. Quoting the Oracles in his commentary to the Cratylus, Proclus says: “Concerning Rhea, the generative source, from whom all divine life, intellectual, spiritual and mundane, is generated, the Oracles speak as follow, ‘Truly Rhea is the source and stream of blessed and intellectual (realities) – Rheie toi noerôn makaron pegé te rhoé te. Because She, the first in power, receives the birth of all beings in Her inexpressible womb and pours forth (this birth) on the All as it runs its course”.
In fact Damascius too, quotes this very interesting Orphic fragment, directly attributed to Orpheus: “en toîs kolpois tês Rheas”, “in the womb of Rhea”, which are in fact the same words of the Oracles. It is also important to remember that the word kolpois is associated both with the World Soul or Hekate and with the fecundating power of the Father (“as in the womb of this Triad all things are sown”), so we may understand why these three highly powerful Gods are mentioned together in this hymn and why this order has been chosen: first the Mother, then the median principle of the World Soul and then the Father and Demiurge. The Oracle says: “a worker that it is the dispenser of life-giving fire that fills up the life-giving womb of Hekate”.
About Prothyraia: this name is attested only in the Orphic Hymns (2) and here, to salute a particular form of Lady Hekate, i.e. Hekate Artemis, guardian of the gate, standing on the threshold. To better understand this aspect of the Goddess, we find a hint in the Philebus, where it is said that, among the products generated by a cause, some remain in the cause, while some others emanate from it. Among these, the entities that emanate first are said to be “put as if in the prothyria of the Gods”, revealing their cause, a cause that remains inaccessible. This is the relationship between the Mother of the Gods (Rhea, “who has Her home in inaccessible regions – en abatois – beyond the universe”) and Hekate/Artemis Prothyraia. The triad composed by Artemis-Hekate, Persephone and Athena (the Life-making triad among the Leading Gods) comes from the monad of Rhea (the noeric Life).
In particular Hekate, being the source of the individual souls, is the link between us and the higher, inaccessible regions. Hekate is standing before the doors, on the threshold of the palace of the Mother: we have seen that the entities that are first to proceed from a cause are posted in the porch of that source. This is precisely the position of the Leading Gods in relationship to the Demiurge (Zeus). In fact, after the Mother and the Hekate of the gates, we find forefather Janus, the supreme Zeus: “Zeus, the all embracing God of the universe – Zeus is all things and the cause of them all”. Hekate is in the intermediate position; She looks both upward to Rhea and downward to the things that She imbues with life. In fact this beloved Goddess is always assigned the intermediate position as the World Soul and the cosmic ensouler, because She mediates between the intelligible Realm and the sensible one, as we can see clearly in the Oracles: “It is said by the Gods that ‘the centre –kentron – is born in the midst of the Fathers”.
According to the Neo-platonic exegesis, Hekate is situated between the Paternal and the Demiurgic Intellects, and thus She is equivalent to the Dynamis, power, of the primordial Triad. The Chaldean Oracles also applied, according to Damascius, to the principal transcendent entities of that system, through the definition of Existence, Life and Intelligence (Permanence-Procession-Reversion). Between the highest principle, the Paternal Monad (equated with Existence) and the demiurgic Intellect, they placed an intermediate principle they call Hekate. This role of Hekate is equated with the power of manifestation of the Paternal Monad.
We need to clarify this point about the Chaldean system: the first supreme Father is beyond existence (as hapax epekeina) but He also consists of a Triad comprising Himself or His Existence, His Power, and His Intellect. Below Him is the Demiurgic Intellect proceeding from the Father who Himself remains aloof, confining Himself along with His Intellect and His Power, but apparently not confining His “Fire” or proceeding Intellect. The actual hypostatic Intellect of this system is a demiurgical Intellect and is called a Dyad, contemplating the intelligible realm of the Father’s intellect and bringing sense perception to the world. Furthermore, this Intellect, said to be “dyadically transcendent” (dis epekeina) is also triadic because it contains the “measured triad” flowing from both it and the triadic Father. But this “measured triad” also seems to be identified with Hekate, who is called the “membrane” that separates the first and second fire, i.e. the Father and the Intellect. Indeed, Hekate’s threefold nature (three heads, six arms) is well-known since the most ancient times. Hekate was considered by the Chaldeans as the transcendent World Soul who generates the immanent World Soul, from which in turn the world of Nature was derived. And finally, Hekate has also been identified with the intermediate term of the triad Existence, Power and Intellect, that characterizes the supreme Father.