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the triple goddess is the original holy trinity

Many neo-pagans are aware of the concept of the triple Goddess, or the Maiden-Mother-Crone archetype. But, it isn't a brand new philosophy or belief system created by neo-pagans. The origins lie much deeper and steeped in ancient history.

The contemporary notion of the triple Goddess was popularized by the folklorist Robert Graves. Graves had written that the triple Goddess archetype was wildly popular in ancient European cultures, but many people discredited this idea as Graves' sources were a bit sketchy. As it turns out, there is a great deal of archeological and literary evidence that not only support Graves' supposition about the triple Goddess, but also expands this notion to include other civilizations as well. It is important to mention, however, that the belief that the triple Goddess is directly representative of a Maiden/Mother/Crone archetype is primarily a Wiccan one. Many civilizations, both ancient and current, have trinity Goddess symbols but they don't all represent the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone as we know it today.

In 1979, feminist writers and witches Starhawk and Margot Adler published Spiral Dance and Drawing Down the Moon respectively. It's probably because of them and their books that we have this idea of Maiden/Mother/Crone as the main aspect and iteration of the trinity Goddesses. Specifically, the Maiden/Mother/Crone archetype is meant to represent the natural life cycles of a woman. The Maiden is the young girl or woman, not yet awakened, and just beginning her journey. She's full of excitement and energy as she grows into herself and her life's purpose. She's associated with the waxing moon. The Mother represents fertility. abundance, growth, knowledge and sexuality. She blooms as the Earth blooms. She is the fullness of the moon represented by her full, pregnant belly. The Crone is the final phase of a woman's life. She is the old and withered wise woman. The keeper of secret knowledge and death codes. She is the queen of the night. She is the waning moon growing towards darkness. All things must die in order to make room for new growth, thus the spiral dance or cycle of life continues on.

Back to ancient trinity symbols in general. Let's take a look at a few from various cultures and religions. Shaktism is a major denomination of Hinduism that sees female energy as prakriti or lifeforce. The primordial waters or energy of the Universe are female and therefore we are born out of divine feminine energy. (This is SERIOUSLY boiled down and summarized and I encourage you to do more research!) Devi means Goddess and in Shaktism there is the Tridevi. Tridevi, or the three supreme Goddesses, consists of Sarawsati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. In Shaktism, the roles of the Tridevi Goddesses are that of Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. One might see why modern feminist writers attributed these roles and qualities to that of maiden, mother, and crone.

Another way the trinity presents itself is in that of the Greek Fates: Clotho, Lahkesis, and Atropos. The Fates determined the length and direction of a human's life. Clotho spun the thread of one's fate, Lahkesis distributed that fate, and Atropos cut the thread of fate ultimately determining when a human being would die. This too, brings on connotations of birth, life, and death or maiden time, mother time, and crone time. The Fates, or Moirai, were intrinsically linked to the Greek notion of destiny. Your destiny was pre-determined and could not be changed unless there was divine intervention from the Gods.

Another Greek trinity example would be that of Hecate. It is said that Hecate is the Goddess of magic and the crossroads. Some say she is depicted as a trinity personification so that she can look in all directions. She simultaneously ruled over heaven, earth, the seas, and the Underworld. It was Hecate who helped Demeter locate her daughter Persephone when she was taken to the Underworld. Many scholars argue that Hecate's worship dates prior to her Greek introduction and that her cult originated in Asian minor, but it is believed she made her way to Greece during the Archaic age. "In her form as a triple-goddess, Hecate was strongly associated with the crossroads. She was portrayed as a liminal goddess who can cross from the underworld to the physical world with ease. Her liminality stemmed from her parentage and mythology, where she was able to move between her position as a Titan and a goddess. This liminality is attested to by her epithets and cult titles such as: Enodia (on the way), Trodia (frequenter of the crossroads) and Propylaia (of the gates)."

The very first image at the top of this article depicts ancient Arabian triple Goddesses, al-'Uzza, Al-Lat, and Manat. These pre-Islamic Goddesses are actually mentioned in Islamic text that describes deities and history prior to Islam. "In the Qur’an, Al-Lat is mentioned along with al-‘Uzzá and Manāt in Sura 53:19–23. The tribe of ʿād of Iram of the Pillars is also mentioned in Sura 89:5–8, and archaeological evidence from Iram shows copious inscriptions devoted to her for the protection of a tribe by that name." The three Goddesses were considered three daughters of Allah. Some Medieval Arab Lexicographers equate Al-Lat to be the female version of Allah. She is associated with barley and jealousy or maybe faithfulness. Al-'Uzza was often called upon for protection especially in battle. Manat is the Goddess of fates and destinies and the oldest of the three Goddesses mentioned. Each Goddess used to be exalted and worshipped on pilgrimage to Mecca before the rise of Islam. In a text titled The Satanic Verses collected by historian and writer Ibn Ishaq, the devil tempted Muhammad to utter:

"Verily they are al-gharānīq

Whose intercession is to be sought." ... Al-gharānīq meaning 'most exalted females'. It might be interesting to look at the dialogue afterwards between the angel and Muhammad in this text because this seems to be a place where division between female divinity and male divinity takes place; women with the devil, and men with god.

Finally, this brings me to Christianity and the Council of Nicaea. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "A Trinity doctrine is commonly expressed as the statement that the one God exists as or in three equally divine “Persons”, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Every term in this statement (God, exists, as or in, equally divine, Person) has been variously understood." The Holy Trinity in Christianity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was no longer three separate entities but one holy and divine being.... split into three? I always had a problem with this concept in middle school and, as I am now older and more learned on women's spirituality, I can see why. It wasn't until the fourth century at the Council of Nicaea did the Christian church decree that these three divine entities were actually just one and everyone just needs to accept it. The article I mentioned (which I've pasted in the sources below) does an excellent job is breaking down the exact meanings of things like "One-Self Theories, Three-Self theories, Mysterianism" and so on. So if you're looking for more info on that, you can find it below.

Basically, the Council of Nicaea was called because Arius, an Alexandrian Priest, questioned the divinity of Jesus because he was born and had a beginning as opposed to God who has always been there. Fair enough. Well, Roman Emperor Constantine 1 didn't like that and called bishops from all over to debate this in Turkey. "Meeting at Nicaea in present-day Turkey, the council established the equality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity and asserted that only the Son became incarnate as Jesus Christ. The Arian leaders (Arius) were subsequently banished from their churches for heresy." But, Arius was on to something. How can a human be both God and not God all at the same time? If God is splitting himself into three beings then aren't there three gods? Or at least three iterations of one God? This is a pre-Christian, pre-Islamic, pre-Judaic (male-centered monotheism) Pagan archetype copied from that of the Trinity Goddess.

A One-Self Theory states that a "... self is a being who is in principle capable of knowledge, intentional action, and interpersonal relationships. A deity is commonly understood to be a sort of extraordinary self." In the Bible, the Lord is "More than a common deity in a pantheon of deities, he is portrayed as being the one creator of the cosmos, and as having uniquely great power, knowledge, and goodness." Okay cool. But...

"Trinitarians hold this revelation of the one God as a great self to have been either supplemented or superseded by later revelation which shows the one God in some sense to be three “Persons.” (Greek: hypostaseis or prosopa, Latin: personae) But if these divine Persons are selves, then the claim is that there are three divine selves, which would seem to be three gods. Some Trinity theories understand the Persons to be selves, and then try to show that the falsity of monotheism does not follow. But a rival approach is to explain that these three divine Persons are really ways the one divine self is, that is to say, modes of the one god. In current terms, one reduces all but one of the three or four apparent divine selves (Father, Son, Spirit, the triune God) to the remaining one. One of these four is the one god, and the others are his modes. Because the New Testament seems to portray the Son and Spirit as somehow subordinate to the one God, one-self Trinity theories always either reduce Father, Son, and Spirit to modes of the one, triune God, or reduce the Son and Spirit to modes of the Father, who is supposed to be numerically identical to the one God."

So, basically, we once believed in just one being and then there was a revelation that this one being, or self, was actually three Persons, not one. But since there are three divine Persons then there are three Gods, so monotheism is not real in Christianity because there isn't one god, there's three. Cool. But other people feel that these three Persons are modes (let's say, God is a cake and in order to make him you need three ingredients or modes) and altogether they make up God. I kind of like the cake analogy.

I would have no issue with Christians believing in a multi-selved God. I mean... they DO believe in a mutli-selved God. My issue is that somehow pagans or peoples who believe in multi-deities (or female gods) are considered evil, crazy, and/or going to hell for their beliefs. In reality, God is a Trinity deity and has multiple containers, expressions, and iterations of himself. Just like the Tridevi make up a Supreme Female Deity in Shaktism, Jesus, Father God, and the Holy Spirit make up a Supreme Male Deity. But, they had to take it a step further and attempt to rid the world of the Goddess in her many forms and presentations. They destroyed her temples, murdered her worshippers, and removed all trace of her divinity from the land. And, by declaring that this holy male trinity is really just one true god, they continue the campaign of female erasure.

But, they haven't won and they won't win. We're still here. We're still holy, sacred, sexual, ferocious, feral, awake, dark, murky, thirsty, tuned in to the cycles. The Goddess was/is feared and that's why they tried to destroy her, shame her, rape her, bury her. They tried to kill the Goddess, but the Goddess is here. The Goddess is now. The Goddess is you.

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Sources and Resources:,from%20their%20churches%20for%20heresy.

Revelry, Rivalry, and Longing for the Goddesses of Bengal: The Fortunes of Hindu Festivals by Rachel Fell McDermott


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