At Imbolc, we traditionally celebrate the goddess Birgid, who is one of the best known Triple Goddesses in modern witchcraft. She is considered to either be three sisters, all named Birgid, or three aspects of the same goddess. These three aspects rule the fires of the hearth, inspiration, and the forge.
Illustration by Hrana Janto
These three faces are distinct, but in modern neopaganism, we generally recognize them as different aspects of the same goddess. This is similar to the three aspects of the Catholic trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Psychologist Carl Jung even considered deities with three aspects or arranged into triplets to be an archetype of religions in history.
It's a matter of debate when and by whom the modern version of the Triple Goddess was introduced, but the work of Classical archaeologist Jane Ellen Harrison identified multiple female trinities, and in "The Neolithic Great Goddess: A Study in Modern Tradition
," Ronald Hutton wrote of her work that she "posited the previous existence of a peaceful and intensely creative woman-centred civilization, in which humans, living in harmony with nature and their own emotions, worshipped a single female deity. The deity was regarded as representing the earth, and as having three aspects, of which the first two were Maiden and Mother; she did not name the third."
In modern Neopaganism, the goddess figure is often viewed in exactly this way: her faces are those of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
These are, in broad strokes, the three phases of a woman's life. This isn't to say that a woman's purpose in life is to procreate! Like many women, I don't plan to have any children, but the aspect of the Mother still figures into my own life, as she represents ripeness, fertility, sexuality, fulfillment, stability, power, and creativity. She is associated with the full moon.
The Maiden is associated with the waxing moon, growing towards its full light and power. She represents youthful enthusiasm, new beginnings, birth, enchantment, and expansion.
The Crone is associated with the waning moon, darkening with each day as it approaches the new moon. She represents wisdom, repose, death, and endings.
There are many examples of goddesses with three aspects, appearances, or in groups of three in mythology, including:
- Hekate or Hecate, who can be seen as Phoebe, Selene, or the Moon, as well as Diana on earth, and Persephone in the underworld
- The Greek fates or Moirai: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos
- The Norse Norns: Urdr, Verdandi, and Skuld
- The Celtic Morrigan: Badb, Macha, and Nemain or Anand
- The Celtic land goddesses Eriu, Banbu, and Fodla
Do you work with a Triple Goddess or trinity of goddesses? Let us know more about your patronesses in the comments below!