THE HEKATERIDES (or Hecaterides) were five nymphs of the rustic dance. They were sisters of the Daktyloi (Dactys) and the mothers of the Satyroi (Satyrs), Oreiades (Oread Nymphs) and Kouretes (Curetes).
Their name was associated with two words--hekateris, a country dance involving the moving of hands (kheiron kinesis), and hekateros, a high leaping country dance in which the feet were kicked back towards the buttock. These two words were probably derived from either heka + teras "marvellous hundred" or hekateros "each of two."
The five sisters and five brothers were known collectively as Daktyloi ("the Fingers")--corresponding to the ten fingers of the hands--and Hekaterides ("the Marvellous Hundred")--for they were endowed as a group with a hundred fingers.
The male and female Daktyloi were joined in marriage, "finger to finger" perhaps like the harmonious folding of hands, and from their union were born the Satyroi, Oreiades, and dancing Kouretes. The Kourete-sons were either the protectors of Zeus or the first human tribe of Krete (Crete), while the Oreiades were the nymphs of the mountains.
The Hekaterides were probably closely identified with the Meliai--sister-wives of the Kouretes--and the Nymphai Kabeirides--orgiastic goddesses of the Samothrakian Mysteries. Their name also suggests a connection with Hekate, a important goddess of the Mysteries.
Hesiod, Fragments of Unknown Position 6 (from Strabo 10.3.19) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Hesiod says that five daughters were born to Hekateros and the daughter of Phoroneus, ‘But of them were born the divine Nymphai Oreiades (of the Mountains) and the tribe of worthless, helpless Satyroi (Satyrs), and the divine Kouretes (Curetes), sportive dancers.’"
Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 19 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Further, one might also find . . . these daimones [i.e. the Kouretes, Satyroi and Oreiades] . . . were called, not only ministers of gods, but also gods themselves. For instance, Hesiod says that five daughters were born to Hekateros and the daughter of Phoroneus, ‘from whom sprang the mountain-ranging Nymphai, goddesses, and the breed of Satyroi, creatures worthless and unfit for work, and also the Kouretes, sportive gods, dancers.’"
Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 22 :
"Sophokles [tragedian C5th B.C.] thinks that the first male Daktyloi (Dactyls) were five in number, who were the first to discover and to work iron, as well as many other things which are useful for the purposes of life, and that their sisters [probably the Hekaterides] were five in number, and that they were called Daktyloi (Fingers) from their number [ten]."
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.