There are many forms of triple, tripartite or threefold deities in ancient mythology. Some are seen as a triad who always appear in a group (such as the Norse Norns, the Greek Fates, or the Roman Matres), while some are seen as a single deity having three aspects (such as Greek Hecate).
For example, Brigid is seen as a triple goddess in Irish mythology, functioning as the patron of poetry, healing and smithcraft. The Irish Morrígan is also seen in triplicate, as Badb, Macha, and Nemain. Triple deities are not constrained to goddesses, as seen through the association of Celtic Lugh with Gaulish gods Esus, Toutatis and Taranis.
Many Wiccans see the Triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone. The Maiden represents youth, new beginnings, purity, virginity, independence and innocence. The Mother represents ripeness, fertility, sexuality, stability, protection and growth. The Crone represents old age, wisdom, change, endings, transformation, banishing, death and rebirth.
These aspects also follow the phases of the moon, with the Maiden corresponding to the waxing phase, the Mother with the full moon, and the Crone with the waning moon. The fourth phase, the New Moon, can be seen as the Dark or Unseen Goddess.
This Triple Goddess concept can be associated with the Greek moon goddesses; Artemis, virgin Goddess of the Hunt, Selene, Goddess of the Moon, and Hecate, Goddess of the Underworld.
It has been disputed as to when the traditional ‘Maiden-Mother-Crone’ concept first appeared. Robert Graves wrote about the Maiden-Mother-Crone Triple Goddess as well as their lunar associations in his book The White Goddess (1948). However historian Ronald Hutton insists that there was no mention of a Maiden-Mother-Crone goddess figure in ancient mythology. Robert Graves could have reinterpreted the traditional 3×3 goddesses of Greek and Roman origin, represented by three maids, three mothers or three crones.
Whatever its origin, the Triple Goddess concept in Wicca can help us relate to our different aspects and remind us we are part of a greater whole. Each stage of a woman’s life cycle represents a way we can embody the Goddess and make the physical body sacred, which is not present in traditional patriarchal religions.
© A Year And A Day Wicca (2013)