Finding Goddess in Threes

three-women-jerry-patterson

Three Women statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

In Wicca the Goddess is primarily revered through Her form as the Triple Goddess.  Often though Wiccans will find three goddesses and put them together without much thought and declare them a triple goddess.

The following are some of the ways that you might view a triple goddess.

Tripartite (three parts)

A tripartite Goddess is a being with three body parts where there would normally be one.  More precisely they could be labeled based on the body part that is tripled such as tricephalic  meaning three-headed or triocular meaning three eyed.

An example of this is seen in the Hindu Goddess Durga who is also referred to as “Triyambake” meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).

Another is the Buddhist Deity, Marichi, The Goddess of the Dawn which is often depicted with three or more faces and six to twelve arms.  One form has her seated on a chariot drawn by seven pigs or horses and removing all obstacles to happiness and well-being.

Triplicity (three related)

A Goddess triplicity is three goddesses that are generally grouped together.  They are generally depicted outside the group.

An example of this can be seen in the Greek moon goddesses of Artemis, Selene and Hecate.

Triad (three connected)

A Goddess triad is a set of three goddesses that are connected in some manner.  It does not indicate a union, but a relationship.  The individuality of the members of the triad remains intact.

An example of this can be seen in the Moirai or Three Fates.  In the Republic of Plato, the three Moirai sing in unison with the music of the Seirenes. Lachesis sings the things that were, Clotho the things that are, and Atropos the things that are to be.

In Celt-influenced northwest Europe, we find The Matres (Latin “mothers”) or Matronae (Latin “matrons”) which are usually represented as a group of three or in multiples of three associated with motherhood and fertility.

Other well-known triad groupings include the Charites, Erinnyes and the Norse Norns.

Trinity (one-in-three)

A Goddess triplicity is a single deity that has three forms.  Each form is unrelated to the other forms except that they are the same person.

An example of this can be seen in the Irish Goddess the Mórrígan (“Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen”) which traditionally consists of Macha “Raven,” Badb “Scald Crow” or “Boiling,” and Nemain “Battle Fury.”

The Goddess Brigit’s is known in three forms as the Goddess of Inspiration, Goddess of Smithcraft, and the Goddess of Healing.

Triune (three-in-one)

Lastly we have a Goddess trinity which is three deities that have but a single form.  As opposed to a triad, there is no individuality; and it is differentiated from a triplicity because the three parts are needed to make a whole.  This is not merely three roles, but three views of a single deity.

In Canaanite mythology, the “Triple-Goddess Stone” shows Qudshu-Astarte-Anat as a representation of a single goddess who is a combination of three goddesses: Qetesh (Athirat, Asherah), Astarte, and Anat.

Combinations – Hecate

There is definitely not firm lines between these groupings as we will often we find a Goddess that represents more than one of the categories.  The Goddess Hekate is an example of this.

A 14th Century etching of Hecate

A 14th Century etching of Hecate

The veneration of the Goddess Hecate is said to have pre-existed Greek religion and mythology.  She has evolved over time to be associated with many things to include the crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the new moon, magic and witchcraft.

In some mythologies, Hecate was depicted as tripartite having a head of a dog, lion, dragon, bears or horse.  Sometimes it was just three dogs which were her sacred animal.

Hecate of the Crossroads

Hecate of the Crossroads

As the Roman Trivia, Hecate of the Three Ways, she was often associated with a three-way crossroad and depicted as a triad of three women looking in different directions (i.e. The Hecate Chiaramonti)

She is often shown as the Crone in the triad of Maiden/Mother/Crone which is used to symbolize a women’s lifecycle.

The Romans considered adopted Hecate as a part of a triplicity of the Triple Moon Goddess consisting of Diana (Full moon), Proserpina (The lunar phases), and Hecate (the New moon).  Modern neo-paganism will often divide the moon phases as Waxing, Full and Waning and associate Hecate with the Waning phases.

Raven Grimassi argues the existence of a trinity in antiquity when he refers to Lucan’s ancient tale of a group of witches, written in the first century BCE, where the witches make the following comment: “Persephone, who is the third and lowest aspect of our goddess Hecate : Hekate, through whom I can silently converse with the dead…”  (Luc. B.C. 6: 736-38)…” (Old World Witchcraft, 2012).

Conclusion

So, when you use the term “Triple Goddess”, which of the above groupings are you intending?

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About Sam Shryock

I am a resident of Kansas City metro area and have practiced Pagan Spirituality since 2007. I am a third-degree Wiccan with the Correllian-Nativist tradition, the local coordinator for Kansas City Pagan Pride Day, and the host of the monthly Kansas Coffee Coven. I currently work full-time in the Computer Industry. I am a retired Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel and have a Masters Degree in Computer Resource and Information Management. Most importantly I am a proud husband, father, and grandfather.
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