Triple Goddess

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This article is about the neopagan view of divinity. For other uses see Triple goddess in Antiquity

The Triple Goddess is one of the two primary deities found in the neopagan religion of Wicca. She comprises three separate goddesses united; a Maiden Goddess, a Mother Goddess and a Crone Goddess, each of which symbolises a separate stage in the female life cycle. She represents the feminine part of the religion's duotheistic theological system, the other part being the male Horned God, although in the tradition of Dianic Wicca she is the only deity worshipped.

The idea of the Triple Goddess predates Wicca, and originates with the poet Robert Graves, who described her in his 1948 book The White Goddess. Whilst various pagan goddesses throughout history have appeared in triadic form, none have had the "maiden, mother and crone" aspects associated with them.


[edit] Neopaganism

The concept of the Maiden, Mother and Crone goddess was Robert Graves' contribution to modern pagan witchcraft.[1] Many modern witches follow beliefs that originated in 20th century England. In their view, sexuality, pregnancy, breastfeeding—and other female reproductive processes—are ways that women may embody the Goddess, making the physical body sacred.[2]

  • The Maiden represents enchantment, inception, expansion, the promise of new beginnings, birth, youth and youthful enthusiasm, represented by the waxing moon.
  • The Mother represents ripeness, fertility, sexuality, fulfillment, stability, power and life represented by the full moon.
  • The Crone represents wisdom, repose, death, and endings represented by the waning moon.

Believers claim that the echoing of a normative model of a woman's life-cycle allows women to identify with the deity in ways unreachable by what they consider to be patriarchal religions.[3]

Some feminist neo-pagans who self-identify as Witches subscribe to a witch-cult hypothesis which posits that the worship of the Triple Goddess dates to pre-Christian Europe and possibly the Paleolithic, and that their religion is a surviving remnant of ancient beliefs. They believe The Triple Goddess is an archetypal figure which appears though various different cultures and they therefore adopt the images and names of culturally divergent deities for different ritual purposes. [4]

[edit] Drawing Down the Moon

One of the graver rituals of Wicca, "Drawing down the Moon", involves the high priestess either going into a reverie and speaking as the Goddess, or recites dramatic prose (different branches of Wicca have different rationales and methodologies). Slightly different rituals are performed at the different phases of the moon. The priestess is assumed to be functioning as a prophet of the Goddess or her corporeal form. Mel D. Faber explains this in psychological terms of attempting to re-unite with the protective mother fantasy of the psyche.[5]

[edit] Origins

The term Triple Goddess was popularized by poet and scholar Robert Graves, in his "work of poetic imagination," The White Goddess (1948). Graves wrote about an archetypal goddess triad which he referenced to several European mythologies, and his theories are popular with many neopagans due to the similar Victorian-synthesis approach to myth and history.[6] Much of Graves theories are indebted to this out-moded nineteenth-century romanticist scholarship.

The theme of the goddess trinity can also be found in the works of Jane Ellen Harrison,[7] who initially formulated and published the idea in (1912), which was to later inform the origins of Wicca and influence Graves.[8]

The White Goddess has been seen as a poetic work where Graves gives his notion of mans subjection to women in love an 'anthropological grandure' and further mythologises all women in general (and several of Graves lovers in specific) into a three-faced moon goddess model.[9] However Graves intention was that the work should be read as an authentic work of history that rather than a personal poetic vision.[10] His value as a poet aside, elements of Graves' scholarship such as poor philology, use of inadequate texts (for example, the 'pseudo-Celtic' Canu Taliesin from the 19th C which he believed to be ancient[11]), and use of out-dated archeology have been criticised[6] and scholars, particularly historians and folklorists generally do not receive the work favourably. [12] Graves was disappointed that his work was "loudly ignored" by the majority of Celtic scholars,[13], however it was accepted as history by many non-scholarly readers and The White Goddess remains a major source of confusion about the ancient Celts and influences many un-scholarly views of Celtic paganism.[14] For example, while Graves made the association between Goddesses and the moon appear 'natural' , it was not so to the Celts or other ancient peoples.[15] Neopagans have been bemused and upset by the thorough debunking that Graves 'Triple Goddess' has received in recent years. [16]

Graves continued to be inspired by his Triple Goddess concept, and it found its way into many of his subsequent works. In his novel Watch the North Wind Rise (1949) Graves extrapolated his theory further into a future world where the present Monotheistic religions are discarded and the Triple Goddess rules supreme (one of the Goddess' manifestations is called "Mari", implying the Mary of Christianity is a disguised form of the same Goddess) (see [4]). In the anthology The Greek Myths (1955) Graves systematically applied the convictions enshrined in The White Goddess to Greek mythology, often confusing and puzzling readers by the references to his Triple Goddess, and exposing a large number of unsuspecting readers to his idiosyncratic theory.[17] Classicists and scholars in comparative mythology have called the work a compendium of misinterpretations.[18]

[edit] Appropriation of historical theory

The relationship between neo-paganism and scholarship is contentious. While contemporary scholars have rejected the theories of anthropologists and historians such as Margret Murray, James Frazier and Robert Graves, they still have an influence on much contemporary pagan thought.[19]

Marija Gimbutas, dubbed "Grandmother of the Goddess Movement" in the 1990's,[20] theories on the Chalcolithic, a period she defined as 'Old Europe' (6500-3500 B.C.E.) [21] have been widely adopted by New Age and eco-feminist groups.[22] Gimbutas postulated that in ancient Europe, the Aegean and the Near East, a great Triple Goddess was worshipped, predating the patriarchal religions imported by nomadic speakers of Indo-European languages (later superseded by a patriarchal monotheism). Gimbutas interpreted iconography from neolithic and earlier periods of Europen history evidence of worship of a triple goddess represented by:

  1. "stiff nudes", birds of prey or poisonous snakes interpreted as "death"
  2. mother-figures interpreted as symbols of "birth and fertility"
  3. moths, butterflies or bees, or alternatively a symbols such as a frog, hedgehog or bulls head which she interpreted as being the uterus or fetus, as being symbols of "regeneration" [23]

Linguist M. L. West has called Gimbutas' goddess-based 'Old European' religion being overtaken by a patriachal Indo-European one "essentially sound".[24] Her work has been widely criticised as mistaken on the grounds of dating, archeological context and typologies[22] with most archeologists considering her goddess hypothesis implausible [25] and her work has been called pseudo-scholarship.[26] This has been echoed by feminist authors such as Cynthia Eller[27] and religion writers such as Philip G. Davis. Her histories have been seen as a poetic projection of her personal life onto history hidden behind a facade of positivistic 'explanation', with her goddess-orientated society being based on her childhood and adolescence.[28]

[edit] Goddess Feminism and social critique

The figure of the Triple Goddess is used by goddess feminists to critique societies roles and treatment of women. Literary Critic Jeanne Roberts sees a rejection of the "Crone" figure by Christians in the middle ages as a persecuting witches in the middle-ages. [29]. Similarly fantasy and science-fiction author Ursula Le Guin comments that the lack of societies acceptance of change for women (exemplified by the youth and beauty myth) has led to an erasure of the Triple goddess, into a single, Marilyn Monroe faced goddess.[30]

[edit] Jungian psychology

The Triple Goddess mytheme was also explored by psychologists involved in the study of archetypes Carl Kerenyi,[31] Erich Neumann, and Carl Jung.[31]

[edit] Fiction, film and literary criticism

  • The concept of the triple goddess has been applied to a feminist reading of Shakespeare[32].[33]
  • Thomas DeQuincey developed a female trinity, Our Lady of Tears, the Lady of Sighs and Our Lady of Darkness, in Suspiria De Profundis, which has been likened to Graves' Triple Goddess but stamped with DeQuinceys own melancholy sensibility.[34]
  • Modern fantasy fiction plays a large part in the conceptual landscape of the neo-pagan world.[35] Some appearances of the Triple Goddess in fantasy literature include:
  • The Wyrd Sisters of Terry Pratchett's novel of the same name are most definitely inspired by the maiden/mother/crone triad. In Pratchett's work, they are referred to as "the maiden, the mother, and... the other one", as everyone is quite afraid of calling Granny Weatherwax a "crone".
  • In Alan Garner's The Owl Service, based on the fourth branch of the Mabinogi and influenced by Robert Graves, clearly delineates the character of the Triple Goddess. Garner goes further, in his other novels in making every female character intentionally represent an aspect of the Triple Goddess.[13]
  • Norman Holland has used Jungian criticism to explore the female characters in Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo using Graves' Triple Goddess motif as a reference. [37]
  • The main characters in James Cameron's movie Aliens have been seen to reflect aspects of the triple goddess: The Alien Queen (Crone), Ripley (Mother) and Newt (Maiden).[38]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Ronald Hutton The Triumph of the Moon p.194
  2. ^ Bromley, Teaching New Religious Movements, p. 214.
  3. ^ Helen A. Berger, Witchcraft and Magic p.
  4. ^ Kathryn Rountree Embracing the Witch and the Goddess p.47
  5. ^ Mel D. Faber, Modern Witchcraft and Psychoanalysis p. 96
  6. ^ a b Wood, Juliette (1999). "1, The concept of the Goddess". in Sandra Billington, Miranda Green. The Concept of the Goddess. Routledge. p. 12. ISBN 0415197899, 9780415197892.,M1. Retrieved on 2008-12-23. 
  7. ^ Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, London, Cambridge University Press, 1903, revised 1922.; Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, London, Cambridge University Press, 1912; Ancient Art and Ritual , London, Cambridge University Press, 1913.
  8. ^ Joanne Pearson, A Popular Dictionary of Paganism p.147
  9. ^ Jefferson Hunter, The Servant of Three Mistresses, Robert Graves: His Life and Work by Martin Seymour-Smith, The Hudson Review, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Winter, 1983-1984), pp. 733-736
  10. ^ Hutton, Ronald (2001). "2". The Triumph of the Moon:A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press. pp. 41-42. ISBN 0192854496, 9780192854490.,M1. Retrieved on 2008-12-23. 
  11. ^ Hutton,'The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles' p.320
  12. ^ The Paganism Reader p.128
  13. ^ a b White, Donna R. A Century of Welsh Myth in Childrens Literature p.75
  14. ^ Hutton,'The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles' p.145
  15. ^ Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British isles P.145
  16. ^ The Pomegranate 7.1 [1]
  17. ^ Von Hendy, AndrewThe Modern Construction of Myth p. 354
  18. ^ Michel W. Pharland Greek Myths, White Goddess, Graves Cleans up an Awful Mess in Graves and the Goddess ed. Ian Firla p.183
  19. ^ Clifton, Chas, Drugs, Books and Witches in Researching Paganism p. 93
  20. ^ Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.10.05 [2]
  21. ^ Marija Gimbutas, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. London: Thames and Hudson, 1974; The Living Goddesses. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
  22. ^ a b Roberta Gilchrist Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past p.25
  23. ^ Civilization of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas, HarperCollins Publishers p223
  24. ^ West, M. L. (2007) Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford University Press. p. 140.
  25. ^ Nelson, Sarah Milledge Handbook of gender in archaeology p 756.
  26. ^ William G. DeverDid God have a Wife p.307
  27. ^ Eller, Cynthia P., The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory
  28. ^ Chapman, John. A biographical sketch of Marija Gimbutas inExcavating Women p.299-301
  29. ^ Jeanne Addison Roberts, The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus, and Gender (University of Nebraska Press, 1994), passim,
  30. ^ Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (1990), "The Space Crone", in Ruth Formanek (ed.), The Meanings of Menopause: Historical, Medical, and Clinical Perspectives, (Routledge).
  31. ^ a b C. G. Jung and C. Kerényi, Essays on a Science of Mythology. Bolligen/Princeton University Press, 1967.
  32. ^ Jeanne Addison Roberts, "Shades of the Triple Hecate," Proceedings of the PMR Conference 12–13 (1987–88) 47–66, abstracted in John Lewis Walker, Shakespeare and the Classical Tradition p. 248 online; revisited by the author in The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus, and Gender (University of Nebraska Press, 1994), passim, but especially pp. 142–143, 169ff.
  33. ^ [3]
  34. ^ Joseph Andriano Our Ladies of Darkness: Feminine Daemonology in Male Gothic Fiction p. 96
  35. ^ Wood, Julliette, The Concept of the Goddess, p.22.
  36. ^ Gaiman, Neil et. al. The Sandman Papers: An Exploration of the Sandman Mythology p 151.
  37. ^ Norman Norwood Holland Meeting Movies p. 43
  38. ^ Roz Kaveney, From Alien to The Matrix p. 151
  39. ^ []

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