Mispronunciation of Hekate are VERY common and is traced to specific / localized mispronunciation that took root and spread like wildfire. I’m not at all surprised that you’re looking for how to pronounce Hekate, given the number of varied – and very incorrect – pronunciations online.
Plus, it’s made more complicated by the gaps in knowledge about the origins of the word and Goddess, Hekate. And finally, there aren’t many people trying to respect and honor the path of the Mother of Magic and Witchcraft. It’s entirely possible that the mispronunciation is a form of intentional erosion of Hekate as a Goddess, and of witchcraft as a practice.
Not to worry, misunderstandings can be cleared up with a bit of info and understanding. Let’s Honor Hekate by correctly pronouncing her name, finally!
Let’s dive in.
Origin of Hekate – Greek or Pre-Greek
While there is much disagreement about whether Hekate was a Greek Goddess, Pre-Greek or an encroaching deity from an external belief, the region and time still guide us on language and correct pronunciation. We might not know where she came from but we know how language was different in this time. So this is something we can confidently sort out without too much disagreement, though perhaps some bruised ego for the truly stubborn.
If you go to Greece today, language has evolved. (How do you say YOLO in Greek? . . . YOLO, duh.) We are going to be focusing on the Ancient Greek language, specifically, to ensure we are going as far back as possible to get an accurate representation of how Hekate would have been pronounced in the time and region.
One of the first and most obvious inconsistencies with the name Hekate is that there are some that spell the name with a ‘c’, as Hecate. As we are going back to the origins, deferring to how the name originated as you should with any name, we observe that there is no letter ‘c’ in Greek. The ‘c’ comes from Latin renderings of the Greek letter ‘k’ at a later time. While phonetically, a ‘c’ and ‘k’ are indistinguishable to the ear, we are looking at and honoring the spelling of the name.
The Ancient Greek language didn’t have a ‘c’ which leaves our only option with the name being spelled with a ‘k’.
The literal written translation into English is ‘ekáte’ with an accent mark above the ‘a’.
Syllables & Emphasis
With Greek words of three syllables, the accent is generally on the middle/penultimate/second/second-to-the-last syllable. When you break up Hekate, we’re looking at three syllables. He – ka- te.
If we utilize this rule on emphasis, the accent that *should* appear above the “a” indicates that the “a” in Hekate is what is stressed.
Taking that a step further, if you’re speaking Ancient Greek, this would cause that syllable to result in being modulated up a bit.
This means the correct pronunciation is one of two options (uh oh… )
“Heh – KAH – teh” or “Heh – KAH – tee”
Both of these are actually correct. The mispronunciation really comes down to incorrect number of syllables and incorrect emphasis / inflection on that middle syllable. As long as you have the correct emphasis and it’s a three syllable pronunciation with ‘KAH’ as the middle/ second syllable, then you’re correct.
That final teh or tee option comes down to what you feel comfortable with.
Personal Preference – Which way does the HFS Headwitch use?
“Heh – KAH – teh”
Mispronunciations & Misinterpretations
The two common mispronunciations are from American and British (anglo-american) pronunciations.
With ‘HE-ka-tee’ and ‘HEH-kate” as an example of both being incorrect, mostly because of how these languages translated / read, especially when it comes to disregarding emphasis. Being only two syllables, though, makes it a glaring difference in pronunciation. The origin of Hekate matters in determining the correct pronunciation, as this name would not be read (clearly) the same way today by modern people as it were in Ancient Greece, where Hekate is believed to have originated. (an argument that is still left unsettled! And we aren’t settling it)
Does Pronunciation Even Matter?
It does. Hear me out.
If you petition Hekate for favor as a powerful Goddess, I think she would want her name pronounced correctly. If you asked me for a favor but you kept mispronouncing my name… I mean, I wouldn’t be thrilled. However, correct pronunciation in a world full of butchering my name? I’d be sitting up and listening, and appreciate the effort & respect. If I’m ever a powerful Goddess that people seek favors from, I’ll say it right now – pronounce my name right! haha.
And if you want to honor the oldest among our ways, it comes down to respecting our ancestors and our origins, above our pride at having to admit we were mistaken, misinformed, wrong. Spend the time it takes to unlearn the wrong way and relearn the correct way. Help to do what you can to preserve what truth we can about our origins and in witchcraft, in a world where so much is left open to unknowns. Either because records were destroyed or because no one thought to keep them. Do the work NOW to preserve as much as we can and honor what little knowledge has survived.
Plus, just SAY it. There’s power in that name.
“Heh – KAH – teh”
Supporting Resources & References:
- Audio of Hekate pronunciation: https://forvo.com/search/hekate/
- “words of more than one syllable usually have an accent mark over the vowel in the syllable that receives the spoken stress” https://www.translation-services-usa.com/greek_grammar.php
- The stress on Greek names used in English is not easily predicted from their English spellings. On short words, go for the penult (the syllable before the last): Achilles ( ͐Αχιλλευς) = ah-KILL-eez.” http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/resources/PronouncingGreek.html