Triple Goddess

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).

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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.

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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.

Wiki – Triple Goddess, Triple Deity
Wicca For The Rest of Us – Triple Goddess

© A Year And A Day Wicca (2013)

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Persephone, The Maiden

Persephone is a Greek vegetation goddess, daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter (Roman Ceres).  Also known as Kore or Proserpina, she was also Goddess of the Underworld.

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Demeter searched for nine days for her daughter, however was told by Helios what had really happened.  Hades had abducted Persephone, with the permission of Zeus, and brought her into his Underworld realm to be his bride.  Demeter, angry and grief-stricken, rejected the world of the Gods, and withheld her gifts of fertility so that no crops grew.

Zeus finally gave in and commanded Hades to release Persephone.  Unfortunately, Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, which bound her to remain in that realm.  As a compromise, Persephone was allowed to spend part of the year with her mother on earth.

Persephone

It is thought that the time Persephone spent with her mother was a time of joy, where Demeter would allow the earth to bloom with flowers and life.  However the time when Persephone was in the Underworld, the world was dark with very little growth and life, acknowledging Demeter’s pain and suffering.  This represents the seasons, the bountiful spring and summer, and the dark bleak winter.  Through this, Persephone/Kore was called ‘the Maiden’ and represented spring’s bounty.

Persephone and Demeter are central figures in the Eleusinian Mysteries, initiation rites held in the city of Eleusis based on the cycle of death and rebirth.  The Mysteries became very popular and promised life after death to initiates.

Sometimes Persephone and Demeter are thought to be two faces of the same goddess.  Also, Kore (‘the Maiden’), Demeter (‘Earth Mother’), and Persephone (‘Destroyer of Light’), can also be thought of as the classic Maiden, Mother, Crone triple goddess figure, from birth to death to rebirth.

Persephone was usually depicted as a young springtime goddess, holding a sheaf of grain and a flaming torch.

Thalia Took – Kore
Wiki – Persephone
Theoi – Persephone

© A Year And A Day (2013)

The Morrígan, Great Queen

Morrígu, Morríghan, Morrígna, Morgan, Badb, Macha, Nemain, Anand, Fea

The Morrígan is a Celtic goddess of war, death, battle, strife, sovereignty, rebirth, fate, prophecy and magic.   She is also known as The Great Queen, Phantom Queen, Specter Queen, or Supreme War Goddess.  The Morrígan is associated with the sometimes frightening aspects of female energy and is often seen as an omen of death.  She often took the shape of a raven or crow, however her other forms included an eel, wolf, cow and horse.

The Morrígan is commonly seen as a Triple Goddess.  In texts of the Celtic Mythological Cycle, they are seen as sisters, the daughters of Ernmas and granddaughters of Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  They include Badb (‘fury’, ‘crow’) and Macha (‘battle’, ‘raven’), with the third being either Nemain (‘frenzy/fury’), Anand (aka Morrígan), or Fea (‘hateful’).  It is uncertain as to whether the Morrígan represents one or each or these goddesses, or all of them collectively.  Interestingly, Ernmas’ first three daughters are thought to be Ériu, Banba, and Fódla, the patron goddesses of Ireland and wives of the last three Tuatha Dé Danann kings.

The Morrígan’s Triple Goddess aspect can also be seen as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone of modern Wicca.

The Morrígan appears in both the Ulster and Mythological Cycles of Celtic mythology, where she is found to have relations with the Ulster war hero Cú Chulainn.  She is thought to have helped the Tuatha Dé Danann defeat the Firbolg at the First Battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh.  It is said that she mated with the Dagda before the battle with the Formorians in exchange for her battle plans, which led the Tuatha Dé Danann to victory.

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Through her role as war goddess, she is often compared with the Germanic Valkyries.  Her role included being a symbol of imminent death or could influence the outcome of war.  In the form of a crow, she often appeared flying above the battle, inspiring either fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors.  Through her ability to predict the death of warriors, she is sometimes associated with the wailing banshee (bean sídhe) of folklore.

Some have attempted to link the Morrígan with the Morgan le Fay from Welsh mythology, however it is likely that the two names are not related linguistically.

Wiki – Morrigan
Pantheon – Morrigan
Celtic Deities – Morrigan
Thalia Took – Macha

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Isis, Divine Mother

Isis is a popular Egyptian goddess, tied to nature, magic, fertility, motherhood and family.  She is also seen as a goddess of rebirth, reincarnation, and protector of the dead.  Her other names include Divine Mother, Mistress of the West, Queen of the Earth, Lady of Truth, Giver of Life, and Mistress of the Tomb of Osiris.  Her popularity spread from Egypt as far as Greece and Rome, and cults of worship existed until at least the 6th century AD.

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Isis is the daughter of the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, and sister to Osiris, Set/Seth, Nephthys and Horus the Elder in some descriptions.  She married her brother Osiris, the god of grain, and it is thought that together they created Horus, the powerful hawk-headed god of war and protection.

Their brother Set, jealous of Osiris, plotted to kill him.  In one story, Set violently attacks Osiris, cutting his body into many pieces.  Distraught over her husband’s death, Isis restores his body to life after collecting the scattered body parts and embalming them in linen.  It is thought that this started the tradition of mummification in Egypt.

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Isis was known as ‘Aset’ in Egypt, meaning ‘Queen of the Throne’, and was often depicted wearing a throne headdress.  This throne represented the Pharoah’s power, therefore Isis was seen as powerful goddess and protector of the throne.

Isis is closely associated with Hathor, and the two are sometimes confused.  It is believed that Isis later assimilated with Hathor, her throne headdress replaced with Hathor’s cow horns surrounding a sun disc.  Isis is also often seen holding an ankh, sistrum rattle or lotus.

Isis-philae

Isis is also associated with the tiet or tyet, a knotted symbol similar to the ankh.  Translated as ‘welfare’ or ‘life’, it is also called the Knot of Isis, Buckle of Isis, or Blood of Isis.  The tiet is thought to symbolize eternal life or resurrection.

Another popular image of Isis is of her suckling the young Horus on her lap.  Some say that this inspired the traditional Christian image of Madonna and Child, the Virgin Mary with Jesus, which appeared after the 5th century.

Isis was seen as a role model to women, representing femininity, strength, and resilience.  She can be called upon to assist you in turning around a bad situation in your favour.

Ancient Egypt Online – Isis
Thalia Took – Isis
About.com – Isis
Wiki – Isis
Goddess Gift – Isis

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Hel, Queen of the Underworld

Hella, Hela, Halja

Hel is the Norse Goddess of the dead and underworld, ruler of the Land of Mist.  Her name is thought to mean ‘hidden’, ‘to conceal’, or ‘to cover up’.  To say to “go to Hel” is to die, as described in the ancient Norse manuscripts, Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and Heimskringla.

Hel is the youngest daughter of the trickster god Loki and the jötunn (giant) Angrboda.  Her other siblings were the wolf Fenrir and the serpent Jörmungandr.  Because she was born of a God and a Giantess, some say Hel is only a half-goddess, who have higher standing then their half-god counterparts.

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Hel was sent by Odin to the remote land Niflheimr/Helheimr, the lowest of the Norse Nine Worlds along the world tree Yggdrasil.  Those who were killed in battle went to Odin’s hall in Valhalla or Freya’s hall in Fólkvangr, however the rest, including those that died from old age or illness, went to Hel’s court.

The Norse ‘Hel’ is not the same as the Christian concept of ‘Hell’.  The lowest of the Norse Nine Worlds is alternately called Niflheimr, Niflhel, or Helheimr, thought to be a land of mist, snow and ice in the far north.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Múspellsheimr in the south was a land of fire and heat.  Some divide the lowest worlds into Niflheimr, land of arctic cold and mist, and Helheimr/Niflhel, realm of the dead.  Hel’s hall is called Elivdnir, meaning ‘Sleet Cold’, whose gates are guarded by Garnr the watch dog.

In the Christian ‘Hell’, the sins of man are punished.  In Niflheimr/Helheimr, Hel would determine the fate of the souls who entered her realm.  The dead would transition through nine different stages of death, and seers and shamans from other worlds would journey there to consult with them.

Hel is described as having a gloomy appearance, being half alive, half dead.  Also seen as half black, half white, representing both sides of the life spectrum.  She is thought to have brought disease and plague to the world.

Although Hel is Queen of the Underworld and banished from Asgard, other Gods respected her judgement.  In one case, the beloved God Baldr was killed by Loki’s treachery.  Hel agreed to let Baldr return to the land of the living if all creatures on earth mourned for his death.  All the world mourned for Baldr, except the giantess Thokk, who was really Loki in disguise.  Due to this, Baldr was not released from the land of the dead.

In several pagan traditions, Hel represents the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess.  She is seen as strong, powerful and fierce, full of wisdom and knowledge.  However her loneliness has made her hard and vindictive, unwilling to change and be compassionate towards others.

Wiki – Hel
Wiki – Norse Cosmology
Thalia Took – Hel
About.com – Hel
Goddess Guide – Hella

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Gaia, Earth Mother

Gaia (Pagan Blog Project)

Gaea, Gaiea, Ga, Ge

Gaia is a primordial Greek goddess, representing the Earth.  The Greek word for ‘land’ is ‘ge’ or ‘ga’.  Gaia’s other names include Mother Earth, the Deep-Breasted One, or Great Mother of All.

She is thought to have been born from Chaos, the great void of emptiness within the universe.  She later gave birth to Pontus (the Sea) and Uranus (the Sky).

Gaia had many offspring through her union with Uranus, including the Giants, Cyclopes and the three monsters Hecatonchires, and the twelve Titans, led by her son Cronos/Kronos.

Gaea

Uranus was so fearful of their offspring that either Gaia hid them or they were imprisoned within her womb.  Upset with this, she persuaded her son Cronos to castrate his father.  This was thought to separate Earth from Sky and prevent more monstrous offspring.

Gaia predicted that Cronos would be overthrown by one of his own children.  As a result, Cronos devoured all of his children except one, Zeus, who was hidden from Cronos by his wife Rhea with help from Gaia.  Once Zeus returned from Crete, he overthrew his Titan father and became leader of the Olympians.

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Gaia gave birth to the Sea Gods, Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto and Eurybia, through her union with Pontus (the Sea).  She is also thought to have given birth to all mortal creatures which were sprung from her earthy flesh.

Earth Mother goddesses are common in many pantheons.  In Roman mythology, she was known as Tellus or Terra Mater (Mother Earth). The Celts worshipped Anu/Danu as their Earth Mother.  Other Earth Mother goddesses include Nerthus (Germanic), Mut (Egyptian), Cel (Etruscan), Tiamat (Babylonian), and Papatuanuku (Maori).

Gaia was considered a goddess of prophecy, and it was believed that the Oracle at Delphi was powered by her earthly energy.

Today, many Neopagans honor Gaia as the Earth itself or the embodiment of the Earth’s power and energy.

Theoi – Gaea
Pantheon – Gaia
Thalia Took – Gaea
About.com

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Freyja, Goddess of Love and War

Freya, Frejya, Freyia, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia

Freyja is a Norse goddess of love, beauty, fertility, crops, war, wealth, divination and magic.  Famed for her great beauty, with blue eyes and golden hair, she has been referred to as ‘The Fair One’.  She was the symbol of sensuality and was called upon in matters of love.  Freyja was also known as ‘The Lady’ (Frau), ‘The Seer’, ‘Great Goddess’, ‘The Sage’, ‘Freyja of the Black Swordhand’, ‘Queen of the Valkyries’ and ‘Mistress of the Slain’.

Freyja is the daughter of the God of Wealth, Njord (Njörðr), and even though her mother’s identity is generally unknown, some say it was Njord’s sister or the earth goddess Nerthus.  She is the twin sister of Frey/Freyr (‘The Lord’) and together they were the chief gods of the Vanir.

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The Vanir were a group of gods and goddesses associated with the earth and sea, nature, fertility, sorcery and magic, and unseen realms.  The other group of gods were the Aesir (Æsir), the gods of the sky and intellect, order and justice, power, wisdom and war.

The Aesir and Vanir went to war, but eventually called a truce.  As a sign of peace and sacrifice, it was decided that Njord and Freyr would live with the Aesir in Asgard.  Freyja left Vanaheim to join her father and brother, settling in Folkvang (Fólkvangr) in her palace Sessrúmnir (“the many seated”).

Freyja married the god Od (Óðr), who many argue is same god as Odin. This confusion has also lead to suggestions that Frigg and Freyja are the same Goddess as both were married to Odin.  Her two daughters by Od are Gersimi/Gersemi and Hnossi/ Hnoss (‘Jewel’ and ‘Treasure’).

Freyja and Her Chariot

Freyja was the leader of the Valkyries, the Choosers of the Slain.  The Valkyries were demi-goddesses who would ride over battlefields on winged horses, selecting noble warriors killed in battle.  The souls of the slain warriors were divided between her and Odin; half go to feast in Odin’s hall in Valhalla, while the rest would go to Freyja’s hall Sessrumnir.  Women warriors who were slain, as well as the wives and lovers of the male warriors, were also invited to go to Freyja’s hall.

Freyja wore a beautiful gold and amber necklace named Brísingamen (“fire jewellery”).  She received it from four dwarf brothers who traded the necklace in return for a night each with Freyja.

Freyja and the Dwarves

Freyja was associated with magic and divination, particularly Seidr, a type of trance magic which includes shape shifting and astral projection.  She taught the magic of Seidr to Odin in exchange for his knowledge of the Runes.  She also had a magical cloak of falcon feathers which allowed her to shape shift into a bird to travel into other realms. This cloak was often borrowed by Loki when he still worked to save the Aesir.

While Freyja was thought to have had many affairs, she loved her husband deeply.  Od would go on long travels, and when he went missing she cried tears of red gold.  She would transform herself into a bird using her magical cloak and set out to find him.  Freyja had many different names she adopted when looking for Od amongst the strange people of other worlds.

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Her sacred symbols include cats, boars, horses, ravens, the full moon, swords, daisies and primrose, and amber.  She rode her gold-bristled boar Hildisvíni (“battle swine”) into battle.  It is said that also she rode a chariot driven by two large blue cats, given to her by Thor.

Cats hold even more meaning as they are thought to travel to her lands in Folkvang after death, spending their afterlives frolicking in the fields around Sessrumnir.  Cats were also thought to carry messages from Freyja (when they weren’t stopping for cat-naps).

Goddess Guide – Freyja
Pantheon – Freyja
Goddess Freyja
Thalia Took – Freyja
Wiki – Freyja

© A Year And A Day (2013)