The next Hekate’s Deipnon begins tomorrow evening (Wednesday, December 28th) at sundown. In general, this is a time for extensive cleaning of the home, offerings to Hekate, and offerings to one’s ancestors.
I begin Deipnon by removing all still-present non-votive offerings from all of the shrines in my home. In general, votive offerings can remain on a shrine indefinitely, but if you are needing to dismantle the shrine or condense its size for some reason, then this would also be a good time to dismantle the shrine or to remove any votive offerings that won’t be kept for when the shrine is re-erected. In an ideal situation, a fire would be lit, and all of the offerings (food, remaining libations, incense ash, votives, flowers) would be burnt. In less than ideal conditions, if you have a place to do so, you can dig a hole and bury all of the organic material. Otherwise, like me, you’re left to dispose of everything the way you do everything else – in the garbage. This is ok. It’s not a dire situation that you can’t dispose of old offerings in a special way. The offerings have already been offered and anything the gods wanted, They’ve already taken. You are now cleaning the shrines and making room to make new offerings during the next month. I personally like to use Florida water in my cleaning on Deipnon because it works, but if you are concerned or bothered by cross-cultural practices, then you can stick to khernips or bay incense and your regular cleaning products.
After both the shrines and the rest of my apartment are clean, I make offerings to Hekate. If you keep an outdoor shrine for Hekate, you can leave offerings there. If not, it’s time to take a lovely (and perhaps cold) walk to the nearest crossroads. You will probably find an area within walking distance that feels right. If all else fails, even the end of your driveway forms a crossroads (T-shaped) with the road you live on. If you’re in the city, it can be a bit daunting because the cars never seem to stop coming, but I have learned that if you hold your head up high and don’t make eye contact with anyone, people are less likely to bother you. I tend to bring Hekate an egg and an onion as they are what I most often have on hand, but for about a year, I grew leeks that I harvested every month for Her. Cheese, honey, cake, pomegranates (and pomegranate flavored things), wine, garlic, fish, and mushrooms are also common gifts for Hekate’s Deipnon. This food is both an offering for Hekate and what She uses to feed the wandering dead – those who have not undergone proper funerary rites and those who were wrongfully killed and not avenged. Some people also donate to food pantries or volunteer at soup kitchens at this time every month because in antiquity, homeless and hungry people would often take food from Hekate’s shrine at this time. I think that it requires a severe level of desperation for someone to be willing to eat food left for Hekate, but the practice persisted because when you are very hungry, you do what you need to in order to survive.
When I leave the food offerings, I say a small prayer. If you have a deeper relationship with Hekate than I do, your prayer is likely to be longer and more involved. It is quite alright for the prayer to be as simple as, Khaire Hekate, please accept this offering for You and Yours. You can also choose to recite one of the Orphic hymns to Hekate or speak ex tempore. When you pray, bear in mind that this is a palms down prayer as are all prayers to the dead and the gods of the underworld.
After I have placed my offerings and said my prayer, I back away from the spot for a few feet and then turn around and return home. I don’t look back. When I am back inside, I make an offering (usually milk) to my ancestors. Some people have a very involved ancestor practice with ancestors who are rather vocal and present in their lives, but I don’t. I am unclear on which of my ancestors are even in a position to be able to accept such an offering, and so I spend this time indicating that it is for any of them who are in a position to accept it, and then I spend some time telling them anything family-related that might be of interest to them and asking for their help and intercession with anything that I think they might be able to help me with. I’m doing my part of kharis, at least, whether or not they’re actually in a position to be able to help me.
After I have cleaned, given offerings to Hekate and Her dead, and given offerings to my ancestors, my rituals for the evening are over, but there is one more piece of business to attend to. I pay my bills. We don’t want to begin a new month in debt to anyone, so it is best to pay all debts (or at least make payments on all debts) by this time each month.
If you or anyone in your family has done something during the previous month that requires more purification than khernips can provide, you can perform a pseudo-dog sacrifice. In antiquity, a dog was touched by all members of the family and then sacrificed to Hekate as the scapegoat for the family member in need of purification. Today, even for those of us who do perform animal sacrifice, a dog is not an animal that can be sacrificed due to animal cruelty laws (which vary with locale, so please be aware of the laws where you live). In lieu of a living dog, you can make a dog-shaped cookie, a paper dog, a wax dog, or even a knit or crochet dog (use cotton yarn rather than wool if you go this route) and have each member of your family hold the dog in their hands to transfer the essence of the bad deed onto the dog and then burn the dog in a ritual fire. If you need to do this, you should go the extra mile of figuring out how to have a ritual fire for this. It isn’t good enough to just throw the “dog” in the trash.
I tend to stay home after that if I can, but if I need to go out, I do. Some people very strictly do not go outside after making offerings to Hekate out of fear that this is when the restless and wandering dead are out, and it is much safer to stay home. They might be right, but as I have little to no contact with the dead, it’s not something that I’ve noticed. An extra bit of protection in whatever form that takes for you (an apotropaic amulet, head covering, whatever it is that you do) might be in order.
Other people may not perform each component of this ritual in the same order that I do, but all of the components are important. On Hekate’s Deipnon, we clear away old offerings, clean our living space, make offerings to Hekate and Her dead, make offerings to our ancestors, pay our debts, and atone for any wrongdoing we have committed. If you owe someone an apology, don’t owe it to them anymore – pay that debt, too.
I wish all of you a meaningful Deipnon to be followed by a joyous Noumenia and a wonderful new month to follow. Last month is over, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I hope it’s something good for all of us.