Cycles, Thresholds, and the Best Black Lab in the World
In honor of our upcoming event in September, I had every intention of devoting this blog post to an exploration into some of the historical representations of Hecate — looking at the ways she has appeared throughout different regions and in different forms, exploring some of her symbology, and so on.
But, then my mom’s dog died on Sunday night, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I could write about anything else right now.
Ruby, the best black lab in the world, had been with my mom for nearly 12 years before she succumbed to a cancer we didn’t know she had. I had helped unite the two of them, and I was absolutely heartbroken to get the call that she was gone. I sure loved that dog, even though I never lived with her. Knowing how intensely my mom loves animals, particularly her own, hearing the utter heartache in her voice as she described what happened was overwhelming.
Dogs are sacred to Hecate. One story tells of the Trojan Queen Hekabe, who leapt off a cliff at the fall of Troy. Hecate rescued her and transformed her into a black dog. That dog never left Hecate’s side, becoming the goddess’ familiar. Her approach was regularly heralded by the howling and barking of dogs.
Ruby was a therapy dog. My mom volunteered for an organization that would send Ruby to visit assisted living facilities, hospitals, and associations that supported the elderly, among other places. Neighbors would go out of their way to come visit and bring Ruby treats. Her daily walks made her a neighborhood celebrity with the kids on the route. Ruby was a healer just by being the sweet, loveable, and calm presence that she grew to become as she matured.
Hecate was a popular goddess, and altars to her were often placed at the gates of cities and entrances to homes as a protector and guardian who brought prosperity and daily blessings to the family. Her presence at the threshold would avert evil and enemies that would do harm.
Someone once told me that pets help us define eras. That because they are with us for such short periods of time, the ones that have the greatest impact can define stretches of our own lives. I certainly remember “The Theo Years” as a time where I learned resilience, a deeper sense of independence, and a well of courage I didn’t know I had. Not that it was all due to my cat (although successfully caring for an insulin-dependent diabetic cat while on a single income certainly taught me some life skills), but I can remember who I was based on who was with me, and Theo was one of my few constants. I think our time with our animal companions help us mark beginnings and endings.
Hecate is often depicted carrying a key or set of keys, denoting her place as guardian and goddess of the threshold and other liminal spaces. She alone was granted unlimited and unhindered passage between the Underworld and the realm of the living. No other deity could claim such a privilege. Doorways, crossings, crossroads, anywhere there is movement from one place to another — you will find her there.
Ruby is gone, and I am unbelievably sad about it. But, I also believe that too-short time that our animal companions give us is a blessing. It’s a reminder that all things change. Nothing is permanent. That doesn’t mean avoid love or or love less. It means love fiercely. It means cherish moments, but understand that moments have endings. Cycles begin. Cycles end. We will cross threshold after threshold in our lives, and what we do in between those liminal spaces is what counts.
So, Hecate… I am asking you keep an eye out for a black lab mix who was unerringly devoted to her family, loved a nap on the couch as much as a romp on the farm or a ride in the truck, and who was a bright spot in my mom’s life and in the life of so many others. I’m sure she’d love to take a walk with you.
Photo credit: Cynthea Jones
This post was written by River Roberts