Pages


Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.

~Homer

A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Monday, 4 June 2012

Goddess Hecate, Medea, and Circe

Edited, June 4, 2012
According to the most genuine traditions, Hecate appears to have been an ancient Thracian divinity, and a Titan, who, from the time of the Titans, ruled in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, who bestowed on mortals wealth, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle; but all these blessings might at the same time be withheld by her, if mortals did not deserve them. She was the only one among the Titans who retained this power under the rule of Zeus, and she was honored by all the immortal gods.
For being as it were the queen of all nature, we find her identity with Demeter, Rhea (Cybele or Brimo); being a huntress and the protector of youth, she is the same as Artemis (Curotrophos); and as a goddess of the moon, she is regarded as the mystic Persephone. (Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 25, with the commentat.; Paus. i. 43, § 1.) She was further connected with the worship of other mystic divinities, such as the Cabeiri and Curetes (Schol. ad Theocrit. ii. 12; Strab. x. p. 472), and also with Apollo and the Muses. (Athen. xiv. p. 645; Strab. x. p. 468.)
The ground-work of the above-mentioned confusions and identifications, especially with Demeter and Persephone, is contained in the Homeric hymn to Demeter; for, according to this hymn, she was, besides Helios, the only divinity who, from her cave, observed the abduction of Persephone. With a torch in her hand, she accompanied Demeter in the search after Persephone; and when the latter was found, Hecate remained with her as her attendant and companion. She thus becomes a deity of the lower world; but this notion does not occur till the time of the Greek tragedians, though it is generally current among the later writers. She is described in this capacity as a mighty and formidable divinity, ruling over the souls of the departed ; she is the goddess of purification and expiation, and is accompanied by Stygian dogs. (Orph. Lith. 48; Schol. ad Theocr l. c. ; Apollon. Rhod. iii. 1211; Lycoph. 1175; Horat. Sat. i. 8. 35; Virg. Aen. vi. 257.) By Phorcos she became the mother of Scylla. (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 829 ; comp. Hom. Od. xii. 124.)
There is another very important feature which arose out of the notion of her being an infernal divinity, namely, she was regarded as a spectral being, who at night sent from the lower world all kinds of demons and terrible phantoms, who taught sorcery and witchcraft, who dwelt at places where two roads crossed each other, on tombs, and near the blood of murdered persons. She herself too wanders about with the souls of the dead, and her approach is announced by the whining and howling of dogs. (Apollon. Rhod. iii. 529, 861, iv. 829; Theocrit. l. c. ; Ov. Heroid. xii. 168, Met. xiv. 405; Stat. Theb. iv. 428 ; Virg. Aen. iv. 609; Orph. Lith. 45, 47; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1197, 1887; Diod. iv. 45.) A number of epithets given her by the poets contain allusions to these features of the popular belief, or to her form. She is described as of terrible appearance, either with three bodies or three heads, the one of a horse, the second of a dog, and the third of a lion. (Orph. Argon. 975, &c.; Eustath. ad Hom. pp. 1467, 1714.) In works of art she was some-times represented as a single being, but sometimes also as a three-headed monster. (Paus. ii. 28. § 8. 30. § 2.) 
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html
HERACLES & CERBERUS
ca 330 - 310 BC
Detail of Cerberus and Hecate from a scene showing the journey of Orpheus to the Underworld. Hecate is shown dressed as a huntress, and wielding a pair of Eleusinian torches. Herakles (not shown) is dragging Cerberus away on a lead.

Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"[The Titanis] Asteria (Starry One) of happy name, whom [the Titan] Perses (Destroyer) once led to his great house to be called his dear wife. And she conceived and bare Hecate."

Nyx (Night) as the mother of Hecate was probably identified with Asteria ("the Starry One"). Bacchylides, Fragment 1B (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Torch-bearing Hecate holy daughter of great-bosomed Nyx (Night)."
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html 

HECATE GODDESS OF THE NIGHT
Hecate was a torch-bearing goddess of the night, the leader of haunting ghosts and inspirer of the night-time baying of hounds. She may have been a goddess of the moon or rather of moonless starlit nights.
"Queenly Deo [Demeter] wandered over the earth with flaming torches in her hands [after the abduction of Persephone] ... But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hecate, with a torch in her hands, met her ... [and] sped swiftly with her, holding flaming torches in her hands. So they came to Helios (the Sun), ... and stood in front of his horses" - Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 19

"Hecate ... pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade ... nightly seen." - Orphic Hymn 1 to Hecate

" With a midnight offering ... Brimo [Hekate], , night-wanderer of the underworld , Queen of the dead ." - Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.840
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html
  Hecate holding a sword in the right hand, a snake in the left.
GODDESS OF NECROMANCY & GHOSTS
The gods Hecate, Persephone and Hades presided over the oracles of the dead and the art of nekromankia (necromancy), the summoning forth of the ghosts of the dead.

"The lady Hecate was minister and companion to Persephone [goddess of the underworld]." - Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 436

"Hecate ... pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade; Perseis, solitary goddess." - Orphic Hymn 1 to Hecate

"Out of Erebos and Chaos she called Nox (Night) and the Di Nocti (Gods of Night) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate ... a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air." - Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.403

"At another time you [Egyptian Isis] are Proserpina [Persephone or Hecate], whose howls at night inspire dread, and whose triple form restrains the emergence of ghosts as you keep the entrance to the earth above firmly barred. You wander through diverse groves, and are appeased by various rites." - Apuleius, Golden Ass 11.218
 
NECROMANCY OF THE CUMAEAN SIBYLLA & AENEAS
The Cumaean Sibyl guided Aeneas to the Underworld through the Oracle of the Dead near Cumae. Virgil's account of the story is partially quoted here.

"The Sibyl [performing the rites of necromankia at the oracle of the dead at Cumae] first lined up four black-skinned bullocks, poured a libation wine upon their foreheads, and then, plucking the topmost hairs from between their brows, she placed these on the altar fires as an initial offering, calling aloud upon Hecate, powerful in heaven and hell. While other laid their knives to these victim’s throats, and caught the fresh warm blood in bowls, Aeneas sacrifices a black-fleeced lamb to Nox (Night), the mother of the Furiae, and her great sister, Terra (earth), and a barren heifer to Proserpine. Then he [Aeneas] set up altars by night to the god of the Underworld [Hades], laying upon the flames whole carcases of bulls and pouring out rich oil over the burning entrails. But listen! - at the very first crack of dawn, the ground underfoot began to mutter, the woody ridges to quake, and a baying of hounds was heard through the half-light: the goddess was coming, Hecate. [a path then opened up for the Sibyl & Aeneas to travel down to Hades]." - Virgil, Aeneid 6.257

NECROMANCY OF AESON & ALKIMEDE
Aeson and his wife, the witch Alkimede, are here described performing necromancy to learn from the ghosts of the dead the fate of their son Jason, and also to bring down the curses of the dead upon King Pelias, who has sentenced them to death.

"Unto the lord of Tartarus [Hades] and unto the Stygian ghosts was Alcimede [mother of Jason] bringing holy offerings in fear for her mighty son [the Argonaut Jason], if Shades summoned forth [using the magic of Nekromankia] might give her surer knowledge. Even Aeson himself, who shares her anxiety but who hides such unmanly fears in his heart, yields and is led by his wife. In a trench stands blood and plenteous offering to hidden Phlegethon and with fierce cries the aged witch calls upon her departed ancestors and the grandson of great Pleione [Hermes guide of souls]. And now at the sound of the spell rose a face, insubstantial, and [the ghost of] Kretheus gazed upon his mournful son and daughter-in-law, and when he had sipped the blood he began to utter these words [tells him that Jason is safe, but King Pelias is plotting Aeson’s death] ... He [Aeson] returns to the holy rites  [of the Underworld Gods]. Beneath the gloom of an ancient cypress, squalid and ghastly with darksome hue, a bull still stood, dark blue fillets on his horns, his brow rough with the foliage of yew; the beast too was downcast, panting and restless, and terrified at the sight of the shade. The witch [Alkimede], according to the custom of her evil race had kept him, chosen above all others, to use him now at last for these hellish practices. When Aeson saw that the bull still remained at the hour of the awful rites unslain, he dooms him to death, and with one hand upon the horns of the fated victim speaks for the last time [cursing his half-brother King Pelias] ...
Then he appeased the goddess of triple form [Hecate goddess of earthly ghosts], and with his last sacrifice offers a prayer to the Stygian abodes, rehearsing backward a spell soon, soon to prove persuasive; for without that no thin shade will the dark ferryman [Kharon] take away, and bound they stand at the mouth of Orcus [Hades]." - Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1.730
NECROMANCY OF WITCHES
Witches were practitioners of necromancy. Their magic spells were also worked in in necromantic-like ceremonies.

ORACLES OF THE DEAD
The Oracle of the Dead in Thesprotia was a shrine dedicated to the gods Hades and Persephone. Hecate was probably invoked as the mistress of ghosts in the rituals.
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html  

Hecate holding two torches and dancing in front of an altar, beyond which is a cult statue. The whole figure and face of the goddess was once covered with gold foil, while the little floating cloak was red. Attic black-glazed oinochoe, ca. 350–300 BC. From Capua, Italy.

HECATE GODDESS OF WITCHCRAFT
1. GODDESS OF MAGIC (GENERAL)
"We are told that Helios (the Sun) had two sons, Aeetes and Perses, Aeetes being the king of Kolkhis and the other king of the Tauric Chersonese, and that both of them were exceedingly cruel. And Perses had a daughter Hecate, who surpassed her father in boldness and lawlessness; she was also fond of hunting, and when she had no luck she would turn her arrows upon human beings instead of the beasts. Being likewise ingenious in the mixing of deadly poisons she discovered the drug called aconite and tired out the strength of each poison by mixing it with food given to the strangers. And since she possessed great experience in such matters she first of all poisoned her father, and so succeeded to the throne, and then, founding a temple of Artemis and commanding that strangers who landed there should be sacrificed to the goddess, she became know far and wide for her cruelty. After this she married Aeetes and bore two daughters, Circe and Medea, and a son Aigialeus.
Although Circe also, it is said devoted herself to the devising of all kinds of drugs and discovered roots of all manner of natures and potencies such as are difficult to credit, yet, notwithstanding that she was taught by her mother Hecate about not a few drugs ...
Aeetes, partly because of his own natural cruelty and partly because he was under the influence of his wife Hecate, had given his approval to the custom of slaying strangers. But since Medea as time went on opposed the purpose of her parents more and more, Aeetes, they say, suspecting his daughter of plotting against him consigned her to free custody [that is, on parole]; Medea, however, made her escape and fled for refuge to a sacred precinct of Helios on the shore of the sea." - Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.45.1
"[Athena] sprinkled her [Arakhne] with drugs of Hecate (Hecateidos herbae), and in a trice, touched by the bitter lotion [the girl was metamorphosed into a spider]." - Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.139 

2. MAGIC OF THE WITCH MEDEA
Hecate was the source of the magical power of the witch Medea. Most of her magic is described as nocturnal and / or necromantic.

"As a rule she [Medea] did not spend her time at home, but was busy all day in the temple of Hekate, of whom she was priestess." - Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.250

"She [Medea] reinforced her words with magic, scattering to the four winds spells of such potency as would have drawn wild creatures far away to come down from their mountain fastnesses." - Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.442

"Medea who now is consectrated to Diana of the Underworld [Hecate] and leads the holy dance." - Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5.238
3. MAGIC OF THE WITCH CIRCE
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html
HECATE or ARTEMIS
Museum Collection: State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
Date: ca 500 - 450 BC
SUMMARY
Hecate (or Artemis) is here depicted crowned and holding a pair of burning torches.

HECATE IDENTIFIED WITH ARTEMIS
Artemis was frequently identified with the goddess Hecate. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Artemis the playmate of Persephone perhaps becomes Hecate, the companion of Demeter in the search for her stolen daughter. Hekatos (the far-shooter) was also a common Homeric epithet applied to Artemis' brother Apollo. Depictions of the two goddesses were near identical. The attributes they had in common included a short-skirt and hunting boots, torches and a hunting dog.
"We pray that other guardians be always renewed, and that Artemis-Hecate watch over the childbirth of their women." - Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 674

"O Artemis, thou maid divine, Diktynna, huntress, fair to see, O bring that keen-nosed pack of thine, and hunt through all the house with me. O Hecate, with flameful brands." - Aristophanes, Frogs 1358

"Aeetes succeeded to the throne, and then, founding a temple of Artemis [usually described as a temple of Hecate, but the author equates the two] and commanding that strangers who landed there should be sacrificed to the goddess." - Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.45.1
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html  
 HECATE
Museum Collection: Metropolitan Museum, New York City, USA
Period: Classical
SUMMARY
Detail of Hecate from a painting depicting the return of Persephone to the upper world. The goddess holds a pair of burning torches.

TRIAD OF HECATE, ARTEMIS & SELENE
The triad Hecate-Artemis-Selene was popular in Roman-era poetry.
"[Medea cries out to Hecate:] `Thou [Hecate-Selene] who doest show thy bright face as witness of the silent mysteries, O three-formed (triformis) Hecate.'" - Seneca, Medea 6
"[The witch Medea casts her spells:] `Now, summoned by my sacred rites, do thou [Hecate], orb of the night [i.e. the moon], put on thy most evil face and come, threatening in all thy forms." - Seneca, Medea 750
"The hour is at hand, O Phoebe [Hecate-Selene], for thy sacred rites." - Seneca, Medea 770

 "[The witch Medea summons the power of Hecate:] `I see Trivia’s [Hecate-Selene-Artemis] swift gliding car, not as when, radiant, with full face [i.e. the moon], she drives the livelong night, but as when, ghastly, with mournful aspect, harried by Thessalian threats, she skirts with nearer rein the edge of heaven. So do thou wanly shed form thy torch a gloomy light through air; terrify the peoples with new dread, and let precious Corinthian bronzes resound, Dictynna [Artemis-Selene], to thy aid. To thee on the altar’s bloody turf we perform thy solemn rites." - Seneca, Medea 787
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html 

Wenzel Hollar, The Greek gods. Diana.
 Hecate

SACRED ANIMALS

DOG (Greek kuôn, skylax)
"Hekate Brimo ... hearing his words from the abyss, came up ... and hounds of the underworld (kunes khthonioi) barked shrilly all around her." - Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.1194
A goddess Hecate  is depicted with a bow, dog and twin torches.

HECATE & IAKKHOS
Museum Collection: State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
 ca. 350 BC
 Detail of Hecate and Iakkhos from a painting depicting the gods of Eleusis. Other figures (not shown) include Pluto, Persephone, Demeter, Eros, Triptolemos, Herakles, Zeus and Nike. Hecate stands between the enthroned goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, holding a pair of burning torches in her hands. Iakkhos holds one upturned and one downturned torch.
In Greek mythology, Iacchus (also Iacchos, Iakchos) is an epithet of Dionysus. Iacchus was the torch bearer of the procession from Eleusis, sometimes regarded as the herald of the 'divine child' of the Goddess, born in the underworld, and sometimes as the child itself. Iacchus was called "the light-bringing star of our nocturnal rite", giving him possible associations withSirius and Sothis.
summon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iacchus
THE RETURN OF PERSEPHONE ca 350 BC
Hades returns Persephone to the upper world in his chariot, accompanied by Hermes and Hecate. The gods have their usual attributes: Hades a bird-tipped staff, Hermes a herald's wand, winged boots and petasos cap, and Hecate a four-headed Eleusinian torch. 

The Hecate Chiaramonti, a Roman sculpture of triple Hecate, after a Hellenistic original (Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican Museums
      Sacrifice to HecateDelos

HECATE & HERMES
Hecate was probably described as the consort of Khthonian (Underworld) Hermes in the cults of Thessalian Pherai and Eleusis. Both gods were leaders of the ghosts of the dead, and were associated with the spring-time return of Persephone.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 38. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The hero Eleusis, after whom the city [of Eleusis] is named, some assert to be a son of Hermes and of Daeira [Hecate?], daughter of Oceanus."

Propertius, Elegies 2. 29c (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"Brimo [Hecate?], who as legend tells, by the waters of Boebeis [in Thessalia] laid her virgin body at Mercury’ [Hermes’] side."
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html 

Hecate with horseface,Sanctuary of the mother of the Gods,  3rd - 2nd c. BC 

HEKATE & THE WITCH GALE

Aelian, On Animals 15. 11 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"I have heard that the land-marten (or polecat) was once a human being. It has also reached my hearing that Gale was her name then; that she was a dealer in spells and a sorceress (Pharmakis); that she was extremely incontinent, and that she was afflicted with abnormal sexual desires. Nor has it escaped my notice that the anger of the goddess Hekate transformed it into this evil creature. May the goddess be gracious to me : fables and their telling I leave to others."
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html 
        HecatePergamon Zeus Altar  

John William Waterhouse - Magic Circle
Henry Fuseli,  The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches

Let's look at Medea.

Medea was a devotee of the goddess Hecate and one of the great sorceress of the ancient world.
King Aeetes' most valuable possession was a golden ram's fleece. When Jason and the crew of the Argo arrived at Colchis seeking the Golden Fleece, Aeetes was unwilling to relinquish it and set Jason a series of seemingly impossible tasks as the price of obtaining it. Medea fell in love with Jason and agreed to use her magic to help him, in return for Jason's promise to marry her.
Jason fled in the Argo after obtaining the golden fleece, taking Medea and her younger brother, Absyrtis, with him. King Aeetes pursued them. In order to delay the pursuit, Medea killed her brother and cut his body into pieces, scattering the parts behind the ship. The pursuers had to stop and collect Absyrtis' dismembered body in order to give it proper burial, and so Jason, Medea and the Argonauts escaped.
After the Argo returned safely to Iolcus, Jason's home, Medea continued using her sorcery. She restored the youth of Jason's aged father,Aeson, by cutting his throat and filling his body with a magical potion. She then offered to do the same for Pelias the king of Iolcus who had usurped Aeson's throne. She tricked Pelias' daughters into killing him, but left the corpse without any youth-restoring potion.
After the murder of Pelias, Jason and Medea had to flee Iolcus; they settled next in Corinth. There Medea bore Jason two children before Jason forsook her in order to marry the daughter of Creon, the king of Corinth. Medea got revenge for Jason's desertion by killing the new bride with a poisoned robe and crown which burned the flesh from her body; King Creon died as well when he tried to embrace his dying daughter. Medea fled Corinth in a chariot, drawn by winged dragons, which belonged to her grandfather Helios. She took with her the bodies of her two children, whom she had murdered in order to give Jason further pain.
Medea then took refuge with Aegeus, the old king of Athens, having promised him that she would use her magic to enable him to have more children. She married Aegeus and bore him a son, Medus. But Aegeus had another son, Theseus. When Theseus returned to Athens, Medea tried to trick her husband into poisoning him. She was unsuccessful, and had to flee Athens, taking Medus with her. After leaving Athens, Medus became king of the country which was later called Media.
   Medea killing one of her sons
Medea is slitting Aeson’s throat and catching his thin blood in a chalice, preparing to pour the elixir down his throat to make him younger. On the far left, is Medea praying to her patron gods to grant her the power to make Aeson young again. The cauldron boils and bubbles with the magical potion that will rejuvenate Aeson. Devils fly above, signifying Medea’s evil. The sky swirls and bellows, showing approval of the gods to Medea. In both sections, there is a white billowing cloud near Medea, showing the potency of her magical art. On the altar, there are numerous incense candles, further showing the mysticism of the scene.http://owlnet.overlake.org/Academics...astor/art.html

Medea rejuvenated an old ram into a young lamb. She is holding a knife with which she killed the ram, and the lamb inside the cauldron is the old ram reborn. The woman on the left is Pelias’s daughter. She is here to witness the rebirth of the lamb. Pelias’s daughter is exclaiming that the ram is now a lamb, and that her father could be young again.
  Andrea Meldolla, Medea

"She [Medea] prays to Hecate to send her now more potent spells and mightier powers, nor abides contented with the drugs she knew. Then she girds up her robe and takes forth a Caucasian herb, of potency sure beyond all others, sprung of the gore that dropped from the liver of Prometheus, and grass wind-nurtured, fostered and strengthened by that blood divine among snows and grisly frosts, when the Vulture rises from his feasting on the flesh and from his open beak bedews the cliffs. That flower knows not the languor of life, but stands, immortally fresh, against the thunderbolt, and in the midst of lightnings its leaves are green. Hecate first, plying a blade that Stygian springs hardened, tore forth the strong stalk from the rocks; then showed she the plant to her handmaid [Medea], who beneath the tenth shining of Phoebe’s [Selene the Moon’s] light reaps the harvest of the mountain-side and rages madly among all the gory relics of the god; fruitlessly doth he groan, beholding the face of the Colchian maid; then over all the mountain pain contracts his limbs, and all his fetters shake beneath her sickle [Prometheus suffers anguish when the plant sprung from his blood is gathered]. The Colchian [Medea] began to move through the dark night with sound of magic spells ... and when they came to the tall trees and the shade of the triple goddess [Hecate] ... so in the midnight shadows of the grove did they two [Jason & Medea] meet and draw nigh each other, awe-struck, like silent firs or motionless cypresses ... And already had she begun to take the Titanian herbs and Persean [Hekate's] potencies from her bosom … and forthwith with groans and tears she proffered the poisons to the youth [Jason]." - Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 7.352 
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Hekate.html 

Medea, Evelyn de Morgan
  Eugène Delacroix, Medea
"They [the Argonauts] made fast their stern cables on the Paphlagonian coast at the mouth of the River Halys. Medea had told them to land there and propitiate Hecate with a sacrifice. But with what ritual she prepared the offering, no one must hear. Nor must I let myself be tempted to describe it; my lips are sealed by awe. But the altar they built for the goddess on the beach is still there for men of a later age to see." - Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.245
http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/HekateGoddess.html   

  Henri Klagmann, Medea    
  John William Waterhouse - Jason and Medea 1
John William Waterhouse - Jason and Medea 2
  Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, Medea
 Alphonse Maria Mucha - Medee

 Jason and  Medea, Gustave Moreau
Paul Cezanne, Medea  
 
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 45. 1 (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"[A late rationalisation of the myth of Circe :] She [Hecate, the daughter of Perses brother of Aeetes] married Aeetes and bore two daughters, Circe and Medea, and a son Aigialeus."
Circe ( or Kirke) was a goddess pharmakeia (witch or sorceress) who lived with her nymph attendants on the mythical island of Aiaia. She was skilled in the magic of metamorphosis, the power of illusion, and the dark art of necromancy. When Odysseus landed on her island she transformed his men into animals, but with the help of the god Hermes, he overcame the goddess and forced her to release his men from her spell. Cirke's name was derived from the Greek verb kirkoômeaning "to secure with rings" or "hoop around"--a reference to her magical powers.
Circe, a mythical sorceress, whom Homer calls a fair-locked goddess, a daughter of Helios by the Oceanid Perse, and a sister of Aeëtes. (Od. x. 135.) She lived in the island of Aeaea; and when Odysseus on his wanderings came to her island, Circe, after having changed several of his companions into pigs, became so much attached to the unfortunate hero, that he was induced to remain a whole year with her.
Circe was sometimes regarded as the inventress of magic and spells. In the Homeric Epigram she is invoked almost as the daimona (spirit) of magic.
Homer's Epigrams 14 (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Invocation to Kirke :] Daughter of Helios, Kirke the witch (polypharmake), come cast cruel spells; hurt both these men and their handiwork."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 50. 6 :
"[Medea] said [to the Argonauts] that she had brought with her many drugs of marvelous potency which had been discovered by her mother Hecate and by her sister Kirke; and though before this time she had never used them to destroy human beings, on this occasion she would be means of them easily wreak vengeance upon men who were deserving of punishment."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 54. 5 :
"[Medea] entered the palace [of King Kreon of Korinthos] by night, having altered her appearance by means of drugs, and set fire to the building by applying to it a little root which had been discovered by her sister Kirke and had the property that when once it was kindled it was hard to put out."
http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Kirke.html
Circe transformed her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions. She was known for her knowledge of drugs and herbs,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circe 
CIRCE
ca 460 BC
SUMMARY
The witch Circe transforms one of Odysseus' men into a boar. The man is depicted partially transformed with a beast's head, tail and hooves. Circe holds the potion and a wand in her hands.
ODYSSEUS & CIRCE
Museum Collection: Metropolitan Museum, New York City, USA
Period: Classical
SUMMARY
Odysseus threatens the witch Kirke with his sword. She flees from her chair, dropping her wand and potion. One of Odysseus' men is shown in partially transformed with the head and tail of a boar.

"Then Circe turned to prayers and incantations, and unknown chants to worship unknown gods, chants which she used to eclipse Luna’s (the Moon’s) pale face and veil her father’s [the Sun’s] orb in thirsty clouds. Now too the heavens are darkened as she sings; the earth breathes vapours ... They [Picus’ courtiers] changed on Circe (who by now had cleared the air and let the wind and sun disperse the mists) and charged her, rightly, with her guilt and claimed their king and threatened force and aimed their angry spears.

She sprinkled round about her evil drugs and poisonous essences, and out of Erebos and Chaos called Nox (Night) and the Di Nocti (Gods of Night) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate. The woods (wonder of wonders!) leapt away, a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs  began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air. The woods (wonder of wonders!) leaps  away, a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bar, black snakes searmed on the solid and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air. Stunned by such magic sorcery, the group of courtiers stood aghast; and as they gazes, she touched their faces with her poisoned wand, and at its touch each took the magic form of some wild beast; none kept his proper shape." - Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.369


"She [the witch Circe] sprinkled round about her evil drugs and poisonous essences, and out of Erebos and Chaos called Nox (Night) and the Di Nocti (Gods of Night) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate. The woods (wonder of wonders!) leapt away, a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air." http://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Nyx.html 
PARMIGIANINO, Circe and the Companions of Ulysses
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione Circe
 
Sorceress John William Waterhouse 

 Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus, by John William Waterhouse
 Circe Invidiosa - John William Waterhouse
  Dosso Dossi, Circe
 Lorenzo Garbieri Circe
  Franz von Stuck Tilla Durieux als Circe
Circe , Edward Burne-Jones
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Wine of Circe
Year written: 1869
Written for the picture 'The Wine of Circe' by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Large watercolour, 1863-9. Crouching Circe puts potion in jar, as new ships put into her harbour; black panthers, ex-sailors, earlier potion drinkers, snuffle about their female bewitcher. Exhibited 1869.
Dusk-haired and gold-robed o'er the golden wine
She stoops, wherein, distilled of death and shame,
Sink the black drops; while, lit with fragrant flame,
Round her spread board the golden sunflowers shine.
Doth Helios here with Hecate combine
(O Circe, thou their votaress?) to proclaim
For these thy guests all rapture in Love's name,
Till pitiless Night give Day the countersign?
Lords of their hour, they come. And by her knee
Those cowering beasts, their equal heretofore,
Wait; who with them in new equality 
 To-night shall echo back the unchanging roar
Which sounds forever from the tide-strown shore
Where the dishevelled seaweed hates the sea. 
 John Melhuish Strudwick.Circë and Scylla.
George Holt discovered Strudwick’s work in the collection of rival Liverpool shipowner William Imrie at the Holmstead, North Mossley Hill Road. In 1890 he decided he wanted his own painting by the artist and purchased this subject, taken from Greek mythology as retold by the Roman author Ovid. The enchantress Circe, jealous of the maid Scylla with whom her favorite Glaucus has fallen in love, poisons the water in which Scylla is about to bathe, turning her into a sea monster.
 Elisabetta Sirani,Circe
  Giovanni Domenico Cerrini, La maga Circe    
  John Collier, Circe
  Briton Riviere Circe and her Swine

Arthur Hacker, Circe
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, GiovanniBenedettoCastiglione-Circe-Changing-Ulysses-Men-into-Animals
 Dosso Dossi, Witchcraft