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Hades Hades was the Greek god of the Underworld and the dead; his consort is Persephone.  His attributes are the Cornucopia, the key, the sceptre, and the three-headed dog Cerberus.  His sacred animals include the screech owl.

He was one of three sons of Cronus and Rhea, his brothers being Zeus and Poseidon.  Following the overthrow of their father, he drew lots with them to share the universe.  Unfortunately, he drew poorly, which resulted in his becoming Lord of the Underworld and ruler of the dead.  As a chthonic god, however, his place among the Olympians is ambiguous.

In the mystery religions and Athenian literature, Pluto (the Rich) was his preferred name, with Hades referring to the Underworld itself.  His Roman counterpart is Pluto.

Halo A halo, also known as a nimbus, aureole, glory, or gloriole is a crown of light rays, circle or disk of light that surrounds a person in art.  Halos have been used in the iconography of many religions to indicate holy or sacred figures, and have at various periods also been used in images of rulers or heroes.  In the sacred art of Ancient Greece and Rome, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, among other religions, sacred persons may be depicted with a halo in the form of a circular glow -- or flames in Asian art -- around the head or around the whole body (a mandorla).  Halos may be depicted in almost any colour or combination of colours, but are most often shown as golden, yellow or white when representing light, or red when representing flames.

Halos are also found in the New Age movement (a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s), where this ‘circle of light’ denotes cosmic understanding and enlightenment.

Hammer A creative and destructive symbol of male strength linked to the power of the sun and thunderbolts, sovereign authority and gods of war.  The use of simple hammers dates back around 3.3 million years according to a find made in 2012 by Sonia Harmand and Jason Lewis of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who while excavating a site near Kenya's Lake Turkana discovered a very large deposit of various shaped stones including those used to strike wood, bone, or other stones to break them apart and shape them.

Stones attached to sticks with strips of leather or animal sinew were being used as hammers with handles by about 30,000 BCE during the middle of the Palaeolithic Stone Age.  See also Mjölnir.

Hammer & Sickle The hammer and sickle that used to decorate the coat of arms of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) -- now Russia -- is probably the most recognisable symbol of Soviet power and the ideology of the state it represented, as well as the entire history of the country.

The origin of the Soviet coat of arms is ambiguous.  Several variants were initially considered: a hammer and sickle; a hammer and rakes; a hammer and pitchforks; and a hammer and plough.  The hammer was chosen for its traditional association with workers in European countries.  In European religious symbology, the hammer is associated with aggressive male force, physical (the hammer of the blacksmith Hephaestus in Greece) as well as deadly.  Together with an agricultural tool, it was supposed to illustrate Lenin's famous slogan about the unity of the proletariat and peasants.

In various religions, the sickle is interpreted as a symbol of death.  In Christianity, the sheaves and the harvest are equated with the human souls that the Harvester, i.e. the Lord, will gather after the end of the world.  It is interesting to note that during the Middle Ages, death was depicted not with a scythe but specifically with a sickle.

In April 1918 CE the final version of the emblem was approved -- a design by the Moscow artist Yevgeny Kamzolkin (1885 - 1957).  In the summer of 1918 the Fifth Session of Soviets officially adopted the symbol.

Hamsa This ancient symbol, commonly known as the Hamsa or Hamesh hand, is used as a protective amulet by both Jews and Muslims.  The name 'Hamsa' is derived from the Semitic root meaning 'five'.  The symbol is called the 'Hand of Fatima' by Muslims, named after the daughter of Mohammed, and is sometimes said to symbolise the five pillars or tenets of Islam.  The Hamsa is one of the national symbols of Algeria and appears in its emblem.

The eye in the hand is considered a powerful talisman against the 'Evil Eye', and is usually worn around the neck or hung on walls or over the doors of homes and businesses.

In Jewish use, it is sometimes called the hand of Miriam, described in the Hebrew Bible as the daughter of Amram and Yocheved, and the sister of Moses and Aaron.  She was a prophet who first appears in the Book of Exodus, where scripture describes her alongside Moses and Aaron as delivering the Jews from exile in Egypt: “For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam”. According to the Midrash, just as Moses led the men out of Egypt and taught them Torah, so too Miriam led the women and taught them Torah.

Hand of Glory A grisly magical charm popular with thieves in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the hand of glory was a candle made from the dried hand of a hanged convict through a complicated recipe that also included herbs, horse dung, peppers, and salt.  The hand would be carefully mummified, and then joined to or turned into a candle using tallow from a hanged corpse (whether this is from the same corpse is apparently irrelevant).  Set alight, the hand was reputed to have the power to render the occupants of a household insensible, making burglary a simple task.

The processes for preparing the hand and the candle are described in 18th-century documents, with certain steps disputed due to difficulty in properly translating phrases from that era.  The concept inspired short stories and poems in the 19th century.

Hands in Prayer The clasped hands in prayer gesture is ubiquitous in Christianity.  The hands are clasped together and held before the heart in a symbol of submission and sincerity.  This particular posture became associated with praying around the ninth century CE and probably originated as a secular gesture of humility and submission, such as one would adopt before a superior.

The identical gesture is known as the anjali mudra (offering gesture) in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, a sign of greeting, respect, and veneration.  The anjali mudra is used while praying, and also as a gesture of respect toward others, an acknowledgement of their inner divinity.

Symbolically, two hands clasped represents the coming together of opposites, or a blending of forces.  Magically, the hands are the terminus of the body’s polar energy sources, and can be used to channel and direct these energies.

Hands of Svarog Svarog was the Supreme and Heavenly god in both eastern and western Slavic religions.  He was also the guardian of the sacred fire and the god of blacksmithing -- he formed all of the other gods from his sparks.  Svarog created the world with his hands, not with magic.  This symbol was found on a casket made by the Przeworsk culture from Poland.

The symbol represents Heaven and the all-powerful Svarog.  The interior swastika symbols represent the sun, which gives life to those on earth.

Harp The harp is a symbol of melancholy and is sacred to both the Jewish and Christian religions.  The harp is an emblem of Wales and Ireland and also of the Celtic fire god Dagda.

It is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers.  Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BCE.

Hathor Hathor (meaning 'mansion of Horus') is an ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood.  She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of ancient Egypt, and was worshipped by royalty and common people alike.  In tomb paintings, she is often depicted as the 'Mistress of the West', welcoming the dead into the next life.  In other roles, she was a goddess of music, dance, foreign lands, and fertility, and was believed to assist women in childbirth.

The cult of Hathor predates the historic period, so the roots of devotion to her are difficult to trace, though it may be a development of predynastic cults which venerated fertility and nature in general, represented by cows.  Hathor is commonly depicted as a cow goddess with horns in which is set a Sun disk with a Uraeus.  Twin feathers are also sometimes shown in later periods as well as a Menat (a beaded necklace or collar with a counterweight - see left).  Hathor may be the cow goddess who is depicted from an early date on the Narmer Palette (a significant Egyptian archaeological discovery dating from about the 31st century BCE which contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found), and on a stone urn dating from the 1st dynasty that suggests a role as sky goddess and a relationship to Horus who, as a Sun god, is 'housed' in her.

The ancient Egyptians viewed reality as multi-layered in which deities who merge for various reasons, while retaining divergent attributes and myths, were not seen as contradictory but complementary.  In a complicated relationship, Hathor is at times the mother, daughter and wife of Ra and, like Isis, is at times described as the mother of Horus, and associated with Bastet.

The cult of Osiris promised eternal life to those deemed morally worthy.  Originally the justified dead, male or female, became an Osiris but by early Roman times females became identified with Hathor and men with Osiris.  The ancient Greeks sometimes identified Hathor with the goddess Aphrodite.

Hathor was connected with foreign places and materials.  For instance, apart from her other 'duties', Hathor was the goddess of the desert and the turquoise mines in the Sinai Peninsula.  A large temple was built to honour her at Dendera, Egypt.  The Dendera Temple complex is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt and is located about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) south-east of Dendera.

Heart Chakra See Anaharta (Heart) Chakra.

Hecate Hecate is a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding two torches or a key, and in later periods depicted in triple form.  She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery.

She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Roman Ceres) and in Hesiod's Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess.  Hecate was a complex, ancient goddess known to the Greeks but originally worshipped by people of Asia Minor.  She held several different roles, including Earth goddess, queen of the Underworld, and goddess of magic and witchcraft.  According to Hesiod, Hecate was the daughter of the Titan Perses and the nymph Asteria.  Hesiod claimed that Hecate was a favourite of Zeus, who made her goddess of the Earth, sea, and sky.  As a Triple Goddess, she was also identified with the three aspects of the Moon and was represented by women of three different ages.  In the sky, she took the form of the old woman Selene, the Moon.  On Earth, she was linked to Artemis/Diana, goddess of the hunt.  In the Underworld, she was connected with the maiden Persephone, wife of Hades.

It was because of her association with the Moon that Hecate was seen as a goddess of the night, magic, and spells.  Magic was often practiced where roads met, which explains why the Greeks established shrines to her at crossroads, especially where three roads came together.  In her role as goddess of magic, Hecate is shown as a three-headed figure who keeps watch over the crossroads where her rites were performed.  To her worshippers, she could bring good fortune and success, but she could also be a powerfully negative force.  Later Christian tradition emphasised this side of her nature, portraying Hecate as an evil figure who was queen of the witches.  See also Hecate's Wheel below.

Hecate's Wheel The Strophalos, or Hecate's Wheel is an ancient Greek symbol, as well as being an emblem of the initiatory lunar goddess Hecate, in her triple aspect.  Only one ancient source remains to shed any light on this emblem's meaning.

The 2nd century CE Alexandrian text known as the Chaldean Oracle describes the emblem as a labyrinthine serpent (emblematic of rebirth) surrounding a spiral, symbolic of the Iynges -- 'whirlings' or emanations of divine thought.  Today, it is generally used by practitioners of Hellenic Recon or Dianic Traditions of Wicca as an emblem of religious identification.

Hedjet Hedjet is the formal name for the White Crown of pharaonic Upper Egypt (southern).  Following the unification of Egypt, it was combined with the Deshret, the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, to form the Pschent, the double crown of Egypt.

The symbol sometimes used for the hedjet was the vulture goddess Nekhbet shown next to the head of the cobra goddess Wadjet, the Uraeus on the Pschent.

Heka See Crook & Flail.

Helios Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology.  He is the son of the Titan Hyperion and Titaness Theia and brother of the goddesses Selene, the Moon, and Eos, the dawn.

Helios was described as a handsome Titan crowned with the shining aureole of the Sun, who drove the chariot of the Sun across the sky each day to Earth-circling Oceanus and through the world ocean, returning to the East at night.  In the Homeric Hymn to Helios, Helios is said to drive a golden chariot drawn by 'fire-darting steeds'.  Still later, the horses were given fire related names: Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon, and Phlegon.  The best-known story involving Helios relates to his son Phaethon, who attempted to drive his father's chariot but lost control and set the Earth on Fire.  Had Zeus not intervened by throwing a thunderbolt at Phaethon, killing him instantly, all mortals would have died.

As time passed, Helios was increasingly identified with the Roman god of light, Apollo.  However, in spite of their syncretism, they were also often viewed as two separate entities; Helios was a Titan, whereas Apollo was an Olympian.  The equivalent of Helios in Roman mythology was Sol.

Hellenic Religion Hellenic religion is any of the various systems of beliefs and practices of the people who lived under the influence of ancient Greek culture during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire (c. 300 BCE - 300 CE).  There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: the Greek gods continued to be worshipped, and the same rites were practiced as before.

Change came with the addition of new religions from other countries, including the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, and the Syrian gods of Atargatis and of Hadad, which provided a new outlet for people seeking fulfilment in both the present life and the afterlife.  The worship of Hellenistic rulers was also a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adopted earlier pharaonic practice, and established themselves as god kings.  Elsewhere rulers might receive divine status without having the full status of a god.

Magic was practiced widely, and this too, was a continuation from earlier times.  Throughout the Hellenistic world, people would consult oracles and use charms and figurines to deter misfortune or to cast spells.  The complex system of astrology, which sought to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the Sun, Moon, and planets, was also developed in this era.  The systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion, even if their impact was largely limited to the educated elite.

Helm of Awe The Helm of Awe (Aegishjalmur), is one of the most mysterious and powerful symbols in Norse mythology.  It is a type of rune stave, a magical spell of protection used by early Vikings.  According to several legends, this protective symbol, when worn between the eyes, was intended to confer invincibility on the wearer and instil fear in one's enemies.

The earliest mention of the Aegishjalmur is in the Eddas (a collection of old Norse poems from the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius (Royal Book), although pictorial representations only date from around mediaeval times.  Today, it is used as a charm for protection and an emblem of identification by Asatru believers.  See also Icelandic Magical Staves.

Hephaestus The Greek god of Fire, metalworking, and crafts, he was either the son of Zeus and Hera, or Hera alone.  He is the smith of the gods and the husband of the adulterous Aphrodite.  His forge was located under a volcano, and the work he did within it caused frequent eruptions.  He was usually depicted as a bearded, crippled man, and sometimes riding a donkey.  His sacred animals include the donkey, the guard dog, and the crane.

Hephaestus' symbols are a smith's hammer, anvil, and a pair of tongs.  Among his creations was the armour of Achilles.  Hephaestus used the fire of the forge as a creative force, but his Roman counterpart Vulcan was feared for his destructive potential and associated with the volcanic power of the Earth.

Hera Hera is the Queen of the gods, and the goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings, and empires.  She is the wife and sister of Zeus, and the daughter of Cronus and Rhea.  She was usually depicted as a regal woman in the prime of her life, wearing a diadem and veil and holding a lotus-tipped staff.  Although she is the goddess of marriage, Zeus' many infidelities drove her to jealousy and vengefulness.

Her sacred animals include the heifer, the peacock, and the cuckoo.  Her Roman counterpart is Juno.

Herald's Wand See Caduceus.

Hermes Hermes is the Greek god of boundaries, travel, communication, trade, language, and writing.  As the son of Zeus and Maia, Hermes is the messenger of the gods, and a Psychopomp who leads the souls of the dead into the afterlife.  He was depicted either as a handsome and athletic beardless youth, or as an older bearded man.  His Roman counterpart is Mercury.

His attributes include the herald's wand or Caduceus, winged sandals, and a traveller's cap.  His sacred animals include the tortoise.

Hermetic Brotherhood of Light The (Hermetic) Brotherhood of Light was a fraternity that descended from the Frates Lucis in the late 18th century CE (it in turn derived from the German Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross), and was the seed from which Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) was created, of which Carl Kellner (1851 - 1905) and Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825 - 1925) were members.  In Theodor Reuss' 1917 O.T.O. Constitution, it states in Article 1, Section 1:

Under the style and title: ANCIENT ORDER OF ORIENTAL TEMPLARS, an organisation, formerly known as: 'The Hermetic Brotherhood of Light', has been reorganised and reconstituted.  This reconstituted association is an international organisation, and is hereinafter referred to as the O.T.O.

Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (HBOL) The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (HBOL) was an initiatory occult organisation that first became public toward the end of 1894 CE, although according to an alleged official document of the order it began its work in 1870.  According to this document, authored by Peter Davidson (1842 - 1916), the order was established by Max Theon (1848 - 1927), who when in England was initiated as a Neophyte by ‘an adept of the serene, ever-existing and ancient Order of the original HBOL’.  The Order's relationship, if any, to the mysterious ‘Brotherhood of Luxor’ that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831 - 1891) spoke of is unclear.

Theon became Grand Master of the Exterior Circle of the Order.  However, apart from his initiatory role, he seems to have had little to do with its day to day running, or of its teachings.  It appears he left these things to Peter Davidson, who was the Provincial Grand Master of the North (Scotland), and later the Eastern Section (America).

The order's teachings drew heavily from the sex-magic theories of Paschal Beverly Randolph 1825 - 1875), who influenced groups such as the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (later headed by Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947)) although it is not clear whether or not Randolph himself was actually a part of the Order.

Prior to the rise of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.) in 1888 the HBOL was the only order teaching practical occultism in the Western Mystery Tradition.  Among its members were a number of occultists, spiritualists, and Theosophists.  Initial relations between the Order and the Theosophical Society were cordial, with most members of one order also prominent members of the other.

Later there was a falling out, as the Order was opposed to the later eastern-based teachings of Blavatsky (Davidson considered she had fallen under the influence of ‘a greatly inferior Order belonging to the Buddhist Cult’).  Conversely, the conviction for fraud in 1883 of the Secretary of the HBOL, Thomas Henry Burgoyne (1855 – 1894), was claimed by the Theosophists to show the immorality of the Order.

Hermetic Cross / Hermes Cross This Alchemical symbol, most often referred to as the Cross of Hermes, appears mainly in watermarks used by printers during the English Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement dating from the late 15th to the early 17th century CE, and were usually attributed patronage of their craft to the god Hermes.

The emblem's lower portion represents the hermetic maxim, 'as above, so below', and is related to the Masonic square and compass.  The upper numeral ‘4’ is the sacred number of Hermes and represents the four directions and the crossroads sacred to the god.  This is the 'sign of the cross' used by Kabbalists; this self-blessing was later adopted by the Church of Rome.

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn The original 'Order of the Golden Dawn' (G.D.) was founded in London in 1887 CE as a magical fraternity by Dr William Wynn Westcott, a London physician and coroner.  His partners were another physician, Dr William Robert Woodman, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.  All three were Freemasons, although sometime after becoming a member, Macgregor Mathers became inactive in that field.  Woodman headed a reputable Rosicrucian Fellowship, its members being well respected, high ranking Masons in London.  These three founder members were also members of an exclusive lodge, the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA), founded in 1866 by the noted Grand Lodge Freemason Kenneth MacKenzie, author of The Royal Masonic Encyclopaedia.  Members of the SRIA were required to be Christian.

Westcott, also a member of the Theosophical Society, appears to have been the initial driving force behind establishing the G.D., while Woodman, as Supreme Magus of the SRIA, was probably recruited to lend credibility to the new organisation.  Mathers was an antiquarian, translator and researcher with a brilliant talent for composing ritual works and integrating occult symbolism.  He also insisted that women be allowed to participate in the Order in 'equality' with men, unlike the men-only tradition of Masonry.  The G.D. was open to any man or woman who professed a 'belief in a Supreme Being or Beings'.

According to its founders, the G.D. was based on a charter from a supposedly 'ancient German Rosicrucian Lodge', which had written a document known as the Cipher Manuscripts containing a coded record of their secret occult rituals.  Westcott claimed he had acquired these mysterious manuscripts in 1886 from the effects of Reverend AFA Woodford, an elderly Masonic scholar.  They were discovered amongst assorted papers of the Swedenborgian Rite that MacKenzie had bequeathed to Woodford after his death in 1886, which were passed to Westcott, in his capacity as an Officer of the SRIA, by Woodford's widow.

The Cipher Manuscripts also contained the address of an aged adept, 'Fräulein Sprengel', in Germany, to whom Westcott wrote inquiring about the contents of the papers.  She responded, and after accepting the requests of Westcott and Mathers, issued them with a charter to operate a Lodge of the Order in England.  Westcott's first G.D. Temple was the Isis-Urania Lodge, styled 'No 3'.  Temple No 1 would have been Fraulein Sprengel's lodge, and No 2 was reputedly an abortive attempt at a lodge by some unnamed persons in London.

Many celebrities belonged to the G.D., including the actress Florence Farr and the Irish revolutionary Maude Gonne.  Some other well-known members included Arthur Machen, William Butler Yeats, and Aleister Crowley.  The original Lodge founded in 1888, being more of a philosophical and metaphysical teaching Order, did not teach any magical practices as such, except for basic 'banishing rituals' and meditation.  This was called the 'Outer Order', in which the G.D. existed for four years.  The 'Inner Order', which only became active in 1892, comprised the circle of Adepts who had completed the entire course of study and initiations of the 'Outer Order' contained in the Cipher Manuscripts.  This group became known as the 'Second Order', while the 'Outer Order' became the 'First Order'.

Hermeticism Hermeticism is a religious, philosophical, and esoteric tradition based primarily upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus1 (Thrice Great).  These writings have greatly influenced the Western esoteric tradition and were considered to be of great importance during the Renaissance and the Reformation.  Hermeticism claims descent from a doctrine that affirms the existence of a single, true theology that is present in all religions and that was given by God to man in antiquity.

Hermes Trismegistus is considered to be a wise pagan prophet who foresaw the coming of Christianity.  St Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274 CE) reported that Trismegistus arrived at something akin to the doctrine of the Trinity.

An account of how Hermes Trismegistus got the name Thrice Great is derived from the ‘Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus'2, wherein it is stated that he knew the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe, Alchemy, astrology, and theurgy.

Much of the importance of Hermeticism arises from its connection with the development of science during the time from 1300 to 1600.  The prominence that it gave to the idea of influencing or controlling nature led many scientists to look to magic and its allied arts (e.g., alchemy and astrology) which, it was thought, could put Nature to the test by means of experiments.  Consequently, it was the practical aspects of Hermetic writings that attracted the attention of scientists.

Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) placed great faith in the concept of an unadulterated, pure, ancient doctrine, which he studied vigorously to aid his understanding of the physical world.  Many of Newton's manuscripts detail his thorough study of the 'Corpus Hermeticum' -- writings said to have been transmitted from ancient times -- in which the secrets and techniques of influencing the stars and the forces of nature were revealed, i.e. ‘As Above, So Below’.

1 Hermes Trismegistus is possibly a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. Greeks in Hellenistic Egypt recognised the equivalence of Hermes and Thoth, so the two gods were worshiped as one in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu (the Greeks called it Hermopolis). Both Hermes and Thoth were gods of writing and magic in their respective cultures. Hermes, the Greek god of interpretive communication, was combined with Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, to become the patron of astrology and alchemy. In addition, both gods were Psychopomps, guiding souls to the afterlife.
2 The Emerald Tablet, also known as the Smaragdine Table, or Tabula Smaragdina, is a compact and cryptic piece of the Hermetica reputed to contain the secret of the prima materia and its transmutation. It was highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art and its Hermetic tradition. The original source of the Emerald Tablet is unknown, although Hermes Trismegistus is the author named in the text.

Hestia The Greek virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and chastity, Hestia, is a daughter of Rhea and Cronus, and a sister of Zeus.  Not often identifiable in Greek art, she appeared as a modestly veiled woman.  Her symbols are the hearth and kettle.

In some accounts, she gave up her seat as one of the twelve Olympians in favour of Dionysus, and she plays little part in Greek myths.  Her Roman counterpart, Vesta, however, was a major deity of the Roman state.

Hexagram The Hexagram, a six-pointed star composed of two overlapping triangles, is used by a number of faiths and cultures.  Apart from various versions of the Cross and the Swastika, the hexagram is one of the oldest and most universal spiritual symbols.  It is also known as 'Solomon's Seal' and the Star of David.  It has been an important and universal mystical sign over the ages, representing the union of Fire and Water, and of Male and Female, the Star of the Macrocosm -- the universe.

The Sri Yantra in India symbolises the complete interpenetration of the sexes, while in Tantric belief the triangles represent the Shiva (male) and Shakti (female) energies combining with form and matter.  Basically, the hexagram points at the whole mystery surrounding the creation.

In Ritual Magic, the hexagram is called the 'Seal of Solomon', and represents 'Divine Union'.  The inverted triangle symbolises the feminine aspect, water, while the upright triangle is representative of the male aspect, Fire.  The traditional elemental triangles of Earth,   See also Air, Water, and Fire are derived from the seal.  Additionally, the hexagram is the symbol of the resurrected God, representing the number six (the Sephirah Tiphareth) on the Kabbalistic 'Tree of Life' signifying the fusion of spirit with matter in balance -- perfection.  See also Yin yang, Unicursal Hexagram and Star of David.

This is the fear of the number 666.  While the origin of the word may be Greek, the phobia itself comes from the Bible (Revelation 13:18), in which the number 666 is told to be the number of the Beast (Satan).

Hieroglyphic Monad / Monas Hieroglyphica The Monas Hieroglphica known better as the hieroglyphic monad, is an emblem proposed originally by Athanasius Kircher and expanded on by Dr John Dee for his sixteenth century treatise on the creation of a mystical symbolic language of the same name.  It is an emblem of the Azoth, or Philosopher's Stone, the aim of alchemy.

The figure is based on the Egyptian ankh and contains symbols of the seven planets / alchemical metals.

High Enlightened Oculist Order The Copiale Cipher, a document establishing the existence of the ‘High Enlightened [Hocherleuchtete] Oculist Order’, had been examined by scientists at the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin in the 1970s CE, without success, although it was thought to date from between 1760 and 1780.  The book ends with the plain text; ‘Copiales 3’ and ‘Philipp 1866’ written in the cover.  Apart from alluding to the owner of the book, and 'Copiales' roughly translating to 'copy' there were no other clues to the code, which was eventually cracked in 2011 -- to read about the painstaking process, and luck involved while attempting to decipher the document, visit Copial Cipher Translation.

Deciphering this document revealed that it had been created in the 1730s by the secret society named above.  The document, appears to suggest that the Oculists were a group of Freemasons who created the Oculist society in order to pass on the Masonic rites which had recently been banned by Pope Clement XII (1652 - 1740).

The Oculists, or High (Great) Enlightened Society of Oculists, is a Freemasonry society, originally founded by Count Friedrich August von Veltheim (1709 - 1775) in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, in 1742.  It would seem the Count had an accident in 1763, shortly after which two high ranking members of the order emigrated to the United States where they formed a new lodge.  The German lodge ceased to exist after this, but at the end of WWII, in 1946, a new lodge was established in Frankfurt am Main.  By the end of 2015, it is alleged there were 3591 Freemasons in the American lodges (see Culver City Masons) with 273 in the German one.

While the first Oculists had all been ophthalmologists (they used sight as a metaphor for knowledge), the society is now open to everyone.  The goal of the society is a global peaceful co-existence between all nations, races and religions on earth.

N.B. The Copiale Cipher was originally thought to be a hoax.

Hinduism Hinduism is a religion, or a way of life, widely practiced in Southern Asia.  Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, with some practitioners and scholars referring to it as Sanatana Dharma, 'the eternal tradition', or the 'eternal way', beyond human history.  Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder.  This 'Hindu synthesis' started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE following the Vedic period (1500 - 500 BCE).

Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, and pilgrimages to sacred sites.  Hindu texts are classified into Sruti (heard) and Smriti (remembered), and discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna, Yoga, agamic rituals, and temple building, among other topics.  Major scriptures include the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Agamas.  Sources of authority and eternal truths in its texts play an important role, but there is also a strong Hindu tradition of the questioning of this authority, to deepen the understanding of these truths and to further develop the tradition.

Hippocampus The Hippocampus was a seahorse with the head of a horse and the body of a fish.  Hippocampi have appeared in numerous ancient cultures, and are usually associated with the gods of the sea.  The crests of waves are believed to be where the hippocampi were created.

Around 750 BCE in the Etruscan civilisation, hippocampi were found in drawings on tomb walls.  The hippocampus was believed to provide passage on a sea voyage into the next world.  In the 4th century BCE, Melqart, the patron god of Tyrus was often depicted riding on a winged hippocampus followed by dolphins, while at the same time, hippocampi were depicted on coins from the city of Byblos.  On the coin the hippocampus is diving under a warship.  In Asia Minor, in the 6th century BCE, a statue of a golden hippocampus was discovered by archaeologists.

Both Poseidon in Greek legend and Neptune in Roman were associated with hippocampi in that they both rode a sea chariot driven by hippocampi.  Helike, a Greek city, had a temple devoted to Poseidon.  An earthquake levelled the temple and caused the city to be submerged underwater.  Boats would get their fishing nets stuck in the hippocampi from Poseidon’s statue.  Water nymphs were also thought to ride hippocampi.

Thetis, a Greek goddess of the water and mother of Achilles also rode a hippocampus.  She delivered Achilles sword and shield which were made by Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods while riding on her hippocampus - in 1918 Greece created a banknote with this image on it.

Hippocampi were found in statues in public baths in the Roman province.  In Greece, they can be found at different temples including one in Corinth.  In Scotland, the hippocampus also appears on Pictish Stone Carvings dating back to the ninth century.

Later, the hippocampus appears on shields of countries that were close to water.  Hippocampi were believed to help sailors in trouble at sea, and also helped sailors escape sea monsters.  In Venice, the gondolas have a hippocampus on either side for protection.  The hippocampus is the symbol for the Omega Seamaster watch. Hippocampi also became known as seahorses in more modern times.

Holly A midwinter symbol of love and joy, holly was among the evergreens carried at the festival of Saturnalia (the ancient Roman festival of Saturn in December in Rome), but its use at Christmas is linked more directly to Teutonic customs of decorating houses with it.

Holly -- more specifically the European holly, Ilex aquifolium -- is commonly referenced at Christmas time, and is often referred to by the name Christ's thorn.  In many Western Christian cultures, holly is a traditional Christmas decoration used especially in wreaths and illustrations, for example, on Christmas cards.  Since mediaeval times, the plant has carried a Christian symbolism, as expressed in the well-known Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy, in which the holly represents Jesus and the ivy represents the Virgin Mary.

Christians have identified a wealth of symbolism in holly.  The sharpness of its leaves helps to recall the crown of thorns worn by Jesus while the red berries serve as a reminder of the drops of blood that he shed for mankind’s salvation.

In heraldry, holly is used to symbolise truth.  The Norwegian municipality of Stord has a yellow twig of holly in its Coat-of-arms.  The Druids held that leaves of holly offered protection against evil spirits and thus wore holly in their hair.  In some Traditions of Wicca, the Holly King is one of the faces of the Sun God who is born at Midsummer and rules from Mabon to Ostara.

Holy Grail Also called the Grail, this is a cup or Chalice that in mediaeval legend was associated with unusual powers, especially the regeneration of life and, later, Christian purity; it was much sought after by mediaeval knights, and is identified with the cup used at the Last Supper and given to Joseph of Arimathea.

According to all four canonical Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was the man who assumed responsibility for the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion.  A number of stories developed during the Middle Ages connect him with Glastonbury, where he is supposed to have founded the earliest Christian oratory, and also with the Grail legend.

Since the 2nd century CE, a mass of legendary detail has accumulated around the figure of Joseph of Arimathea, in addition to the New Testament references.  Mediaeval interest in him centred on two themes, that of Joseph as the founder of British Christianity (even before it had taken hold in Rome), and that of Joseph as the original guardian of the Holy Grail.  During the late 12th century, Joseph became connected with the Arthurian cycle, appearing in them as the first keeper of the Holy Grail.  The Holy Grail is also symbolically linked to the mystical history of the Knights Templar and other secret orders.

Holy Oil See Oil of Abramelin.

Holy Order of RaHoorKhuit (H.O.O.R.) The Holy Order of RaHoorKhuit (H.O.O.R.) is an outer magical order for teaching the Thelemic magic as developed by Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947 CE) and initially presented in The Book of the Law, the brief volume channelled by Crowley in 1904.  Though only founded in 1991, H.O.O.R. had been conceived as early as 1978.  The order is headed by Ray Eales (b. 1958), who took the lead in its establishment.

According to Thelema, each individual is a separate and unique person (a star) whose task is to discover his/her True Will (or destiny).  Once having discovered their true course in life, individuals can do no other than follow it.  Magic is the great tool for initially discovering and then realising one's True Will.  The order teaches a form of theurgy (magic) that it believes to be particularly effective in discovering one's True Will.

Thelema is antiauthoritarian.  It places particular emphasis upon the individual's self-discovery through listening to his/her own internal wisdom.  Magic empowers individuals to make their own choices concerning both the direction that their life will take and with whom they will associate.

H.O.O.R. is an open membership organisation.  Members follow a graded initiatory system with progress measured by one's study of material and magical accomplishments.  Members may also participate in lodges located near to their residence.  The order's headquarters are at Box 24691, Tampa, FL 33623.  It may also be contacted through its website at http://hoor.org.  H.O.O.R is closely associated with the Abbey of Thelema headed by Gregory von Seewald in Connecticut.

Holy Seal In the Eastern and Greek Orthodox churches, this emblem, is called the “Holy Seal".  It consists of an equal armed cross and the abbreviation 'IC XC NIKA', which is Greek for “Jesus Christ is victorious”.

The seal is used to mark the Prosphora, the bread used in the Orthodox communion liturgy.  See also Prosphora.

Honourable Society of Knights of the Round Table The Honourable Society of Knights of the Round Table, also known simply as the Knights of the Round Table Club, is a British society which meets at the Lansdowne Club, Mayfair, London.  The purpose of its existence is to perpetuate the name and fame of King Arthur and the ideals for which he stood.

The society was formed at the Fountain Coffee House in 1720 CE, the site of the former Savoy Palace on London's Strand.  Its membership came from authors, actors, artists, and their patrons.  Two famous members were David Garrick, a member from 1761 to 1776, and Charles Dickens.

The objects of this Loyal and Ancient Society may be described briefly as:

  1. The perpetuation of the Name and Fame of Arthur, King of Britain, and the Ideals for which he stood.
  2. The promotion of Knightly good-fellowship.
  3. The cultivation of better International understanding, based on practical lines.

N.B. To ensure that the object at (1) is carried out in the true spirit, a Knight, well versed in the history of the immortal King Arthur, shall be charged with the duty of proposing the Toast of ‘King Arthur’, and of recounting the exploits and good works of that Monarch, at every meeting.  This Toast follows immediately after the Toasts to the Reigning Sovereign and the Members of His or Her Royal House.  The Knight responsible for this Toast is known as ‘King Arthur's Champion’ and described as such in all records.

Horned God To the right is a stylised representation of the Horned God, who in the Wiccan faith represents the masculine polarity of the universe.  He is the archetypal horned Shaman, related to the ancient gods of vegetation and the hunt: Greek Pan; Celtic Cernunnos; Egyptian Ammon.  This symbol is sometimes referred to as the 'horned Moon', and as such, is also a symbol of the goddess Diana, especially in Dianic Wicca.  The Horned God is typically associated with woods, wild animals, hunting, and male virility.

The Horned God sign has been used prolifically in public by President George Bush Jnr. (and his wife Laura), as well as many other notable figures.  Note that in this sign the thumb is placed under the middle two fingers, and should always be given by the right hand.

Horned Hand

The Horned Hand (similar to the Horned God above) is a sign of recognition between those versed in the Occult.  Note that in this instance the thumb is placed over the middle two fingers and the sign is given by the left hand.  When pointed at someone it is intended to place a curse upon him/her.

In other circles, whether given as a hand gesture or worn as an amulet, it is supposed to ward off evil, in particular, the Evil Eye.  The image to the left shows ex-president Bill Clinton using this gesture.

Horseshoe The horseshoe is an ancient talisman against the Evil Eye but is only effective if the heel points upwards.  This supports the theory that the supposed magic of the horseshoe relied upon the protective symbolism of the Horned Moon (Horned God above).

Horseshoes have long been considered lucky, hence they were originally made of iron, a material which was believed to ward off evil spirits, and traditionally were held in place with seven nails, seven being a lucky number.  The superstition acquired a further Christian twist due to a legend surrounding the 10th century CE St Dunstan, who was a blacksmith before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.  The legend recounts that one day the Devil walked into Dunstan's smithy and asked him to shoe his horse.  Dunstan pretended not to recognise him and agreed to the request, but rather than nailing the shoe to the horse's hoof, he nailed it to the Devil's own foot, causing him great pain.  Dunstan eventually agreed to remove the shoe, but only after extracting a promise from the Devil that he would never enter a household with a horseshoe nailed to the door.

Opinion is divided as to which way up the horseshoe ought to be nailed.  Some say the ends should point up so the horseshoe catches the luck, as the ends pointing down would allow the good luck to be lost, while others say they should point down so that the luck is poured upon those entering the home.  Superstitious sailors believe that nailing a horseshoe to the mast will help their vessel avoid storms.

Horus Horus (Hor, Har, Her, or Heru) in ancient Egyptian religion is a god in the form of a falcon whose right eye was the Sun or morning star, representing power and quintessence, and whose left eye was the Moon or evening star, representing healing.  Falcon cults, which were in evidence from late predynastic times, were widespread in Egypt.

Horus appeared as a local god in many places and under different names (various spellings of these alternative names can be found) and epithets, for instance, as:

Haroeris -- one of the oldest forms of Horus, was derived from a combination of the falcon-god with an indigenous deity Wer, 'the Great One', a god of light whose eyes were the Sun and the Moon.  Haroeris, or Horus the Elder, is sometimes known as the son or consort of Hathor; he was also the brother of Osiris and Set.  Set killed Osiris and assumed the throne of Egypt.

Harseisis -- Horus the Younger (Son of Isis).  After fighting his uncle Set who had killed his father, Osiris, he became the King of Egypt.  During this fight, he lost his left eye (the Moon).  Various myths or legends surround the battle between Horus and Set.  One version is that Thoth recovered and restored the eye which was given to Osiris as a token of life.  Horus then ascended the throne, justified by the assembly of gods.  The Eye of Horus became one of the most important symbols in ancient Egypt.

Harpocrates -- (also Heru-pa(ar)-Kraat(h) and Hoor-pa(ar)-Kraat(h)) Horus the Infant/Child).  Hoor-paar-kraat is the silent god whose minister, Aiwass, communicated The Book of the Law to Aleister Crowley in Cairo in 1904.

Harmakhis -- Horus in the Horizon -- personified the rising sun and was associated with Khepri as symbolising resurrection and eternal life.  Though sometimes represented as a falcon-headed man wearing a variety of crowns, or sometimes as a falcon-headed lion or a ram-headed lion, his most famous representation was as the Sphinx of Giza,

Hor-Behudeti -- Horus of Behdet -- sometimes Horus is shown as a Winged Solar Disc, representing the Horus of Behdet, a town in the Nile River delta where the falcon god enjoyed a cult.  Horus of Behdet (often known as Behdety or Behedet) was a god of the midday Sun.  Behdet is now known as Edfu/Idfu, a site of the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus and an ancient settlement.

Horus of Edfu -- (Re-Horus of the Horizon) -- continuation of Horus of Behdet.

Ra-Harahkhte -- (Horus of the Horizon) -- In time, Horus the Younger became combined with the sun god Ra to form a new deity, god of the sun, who sailed across the sky during the day and who was depicted as a falcon-headed man wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt with the sun disk on it.  His symbols are the Eye of Horus and the falcon.

Heru-Ra-Ha -- literally "Horus sun-flesh", among other possible meanings, is a composite deity within Thelema, a religion that began in 1904 with Aleister Crowley and his Book of the Law.  Heru-Ra-Ha is composed of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-paar-kraat.  He is associated with the other two major Thelemic deities found in the Book of the Law, Nuit and Hadit, who are also god forms related to ancient Egyptian mythology

Hrumachis -- (Horus of the two horizons).  The Egyptian Double Lion form of Horus.  The dawning Sun.

At Nekhen3, the conception arose that the reigning king was a manifestation of Horus, and after Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt were united by the kings from Nekhen, this notion became a generally accepted dogma.  The most important of an Egyptian king's names was his 'Horus name', i.e., the name that identified him with Horus.  This name appeared on monuments and tombs in a rectangular frame called a Serekh.

3 Nekhen or Hierakonpolis was the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of prehistoric Egypt and probably also during the Early Dynastic Period.

Hotei (Ho Ti, Laughing Buddha, Maitreya) A typical Taoist image of Hotei is one of the seven Japanese “gods of good fortune” (Shichi Fukujin).  He is usually depicted as a smiling Buddhist monk, often with a fan and a sack of gifts or gold bars.  A patron of children and the less fortunate, Hotei is often pictured surrounded by laughing children.  Figures of Ho Ti are often kept as good luck charms.

Hotei is often thought to be a representation of Chinese Buddhist teacher Budaishi, and as Budaishi was believed by devotees to be the incarnation of Matreiya, the “future Buddha” who is to come, Hotei is often considered synonymous with Maitreya.  It is therefore not uncommon (although confusing) to find Hotei figures referred to as “Buddhas.”

Hrungnir's Heart See Valknut.

Huginn Muninn In Norse mythology, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory or mind) are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world (Midgard), and bring information back to the god Odin.  They are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century CE from earlier traditional sources, The Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the Third Grammatical Treatise, compiled in the 13th century by Óláfr Þórðarson; and in the poetry of skalds.

In the Poetic Edda, a disguised Odin expresses that he fears that they may not return from their daily flights.  The Prose explains that Odin is referred to as the 'raven god' due to his association with Huginn and Muninn.  In Edda and the Third Grammatical Treatise, the two ravens are described as perching on Odin's shoulders.  Heimskringla tells us Odin gave Huginn and Muninn the ability to speak.

Hunab Ku This symbol, reminiscent of a Yin-yang, is a Mayan emblem of unknown meaning.  In the 1950s CE, it was associated in New Age circles with the Mayan God-name Hunab Ku, although there remains little evidence to support the connection.

While the symbol is certainly Mayan in origin, it is most often used in a New Age context, where it represents the solar calendar, balanced forces, and universal harmony.

Hung Symbol See Tibetan Hung Symbol.

Hungarian Neopaganism Hungarian Neopaganism, the Hungarian native faith, or Osmagyar Vallas (meaning 'Ancient Hungarian Religion' or more accurately 'Arch-Hungarian Religion') as it is called in the local Neopagan discourse, defines the movements which seek to rebuild a purely Hungarian ethnic religion, inspired to Hungarian mythology and folklore.  This drift has roots in the ethnological studies of the early 20th century CE, while the elaboration of a national Hungarian religion was endorsed in the interwar Turanist circles (1930s - 40s), finally blossoming alongside other Pagan religions since the fall of the Soviet Union.  The difference between Hungarian Neopagan groups is often determined by their differing ideas about the historical origins of the Hungarians.

The development of the Hungarian Neopagan movements largely rely on the work of individual shamans or neo-shamans, the táltos, who may organise themselves in associations, set up schools, or establish larger religious organisations.  The shamans' movement began to emerge in the 1980s, organising cooperation with representatives of core shamanism from the United States since 1986.  Those táltos who espouse a Turanist ideology often choose to affiliate with Tengrism.

Another church of the Hungarian native faith is the Árpád Rendjének Jogalapja Tradicionális Egyház (‘Traditional Church of the Order of Árpád’), founded in 2009.  It is inspired by the Traditionalist School, the Nouvelle Droite of Alain de Benoist (born 1943), and to the concept of a common Indo-European Paganism.

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