In the Greco-Roman world, crossroads were sacred to the elder Diana under the name of Hecate Trevia (Hecate of the Three Ways), mother of the Lares compitales, "spirits of the crossroads." Travelers made offerings to the Goddess' three-faced images, and regular festivals called Compitalia were celebrated at her roadside shrines.(1)
Four-way crossroads were sometimes dedicated to Hermes, whose ithyphallic herms stood beside them until replaced by Christians' roadside crosses. However, the Christian sign of the cross was copied from Hermes' cult and traced his sacred numeral 4 on the worshipper's head and breast. Hermetic crosses were left at the crossroads of 10th-century Ireland and simply re-interpreted as Christian symbols, though they plainly displayed the twin serpents of the pagan caduceus, another sign of the older deity.(2)
Cross, herm, and caduceus merged in northern symbolism with the gallows tree of Odin/Wotan, "God of the Hanged," which led to the Christian custom of erecting a gallows at crossroads as well as a crucifix. The god on the gallows once played the same role as Jesus on the cross: a dying-god image rendered the crossroads numimous. Pre-Christian Europeans held waymeets, or moots, at crossroads to invoke their deities' attention to the proceedings; hence a moot point used to be one to be decided at a meet. The Goddess as Mother Earth, dispenser of "natural law," and creatress of birth-and-death cycles, was always present where the dying god died - as the women long remembered. the English monk Aelfric complained of female customs dedicating newborn infants to the ancient Mother. Women would "go to the crossways and drag their children over the earth, and thereby give both themselves and the children to the Devil."(3)
|The Key of Solomon.|
Thus Hermes and Hecate, who led the souls of the dead in antiquity, became dread spirits of "witchcraft" in the same places that they once benevolently ruled.
(1) Hyde, 137.
(2) Campbell, M.I., 337.
(3) Briffault 3, 58.
(4) Wedeck 153.
(5) Summers, V., 154-57.
* Key of Solomon
(Clavicule de Salomon)
A popular "Black Book" or magic book much used between the 11th and 13th centuries A.D.
** Bernard Ragner
Author of Legends and Customs of Christmas, 1925.