The Complexity of Hecate

Quianna Simpson in Hecate

Many things in life are a mystery. Why do socks seemingly disappear into thin air? What’s the meaning of life? Why do cats do… anything? One such mystery is the magic behind movies and film. This semester I took Dance Film 1 and became privy to some of those mystical secrets, but in many ways, it still remains a mystery. Sure, I’ve learned how to use editing software and what kinds of shots work well, but the magic in the storytelling and how film can convey a concept is something I’m still struggling with. 

For my final project I decided to make a film based on the mythology and imagery around Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft and magic. I felt like the mysteries of film making corresponded well with the esoteric understanding of Hecate’s lore. While crafting a film there are many components and measures to consider, likewise Hecate is a complex character with many roles across different pantheons. While she is best known for witchcraft and magic, she is also associated with the Moon, light, doorways, crossroads, and necromancy. She has the capacity for good and evil, serving as both a guardian of spirits and ghosts while also providing protection for mortal travelers on Earth. 

As I began thinking about the making of this film I knew I wanted to represent the multifaceted aspects of Hecate’s existence. Multiple locations were used as a way to symbolize her connection to travel and the straddling of two worlds. The locations I chose, a graveyard and an arboretum, reflect her association with the dead and nature. I worked with my performer, Quianna Simpson, to develop choreography which embodies spellcasting and sorcery. We also chose to use a walking and locomotive jumping motif to call back to her relationship to journeys. 

In the editing process I found myself lost in the layers of this character. How do I possibly covey the complexities of a goddess with so much history and complication? I started with the footage and began placing it in a timeline that made sense, but after a first couple of drafts it still didn’t seem right. I knew I had to make sense of the essence of this mythological figure. I began to move clips around and rearrange the order, shorten up some clips to aid in building tension, and manipulate the footage to bring an otherworldly feel to the screen. 

In the end, I got close to something that makes sense of Hecate’s core essence, but it’s not perfect. I guess that’s the thing with film and dance making and all art, it’s never perfect. We try our best to get as close as possible, but there’s always something to improve and more to do. To make something at all is an achievement, and to learn and move on from that is the bigger achievement. 

Hecate from John Cartwright on Vimeo.

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