The Triple Goddess, in a modern sense.

The Triple Goddess, Also known as the phases of womanhood. 

-The concept of the triple goddess in the contemporary sense is a creation of the late 19th and early 20th century occult and literary world. Ronald Hutton, a scholar of neopaganism, argues that the concept of the triple moon goddess as Maiden, Mother, and Crone, each facet corresponding to a phase of the moon, is a modern creation of Robert Graves, drawing on the work of 19th and 20th century scholars such as especially Jane Harrison; and also Margaret Murray, James Frazer, the other members of the “myth and ritual” school of Cambridge Ritualists, and the occultist and writer Aleister Crowley . The idea of the triple goddess as maiden, mother, and crone and having an attachment to the phases of the moon comes from Graves book The White Goddess. Graves described The White Goddess as “a historical grammar of the language of poetic myth.” The book draws from the mythology and poetry of Wales and Ireland especially, as well as that of most of Western Europe and the ancient Middle East. Relying on arguments from etymology and the use of forensic techniques to uncover what he calls ‘iconotropic’ redaction of original myths, Graves argues for the worship of a single goddess under many names. Or so Graves frames his techniques to arrive at his conclusion.

-The reason why Graves came up with this idea was to argue that the male-dominant monotheistic god of Judaism and its successors were the cause of the White Goddess’s downfall, and thus the source of much of the modern world’s woe. He describes Woman as occupying a higher echelon than mere poet, that of the Muse Herself. He adds “This is not to say that a woman should refrain from writing poems; only, that she should write as a woman, not as an honorary man.” He seems particularly bothered by the spectre of women’s writing reflecting male-dominated poetic conventions. Largely, this idea that Graves thought of, this White goddess as root of all religion, was the matriarchal religion theory of it’s day. To Graves credit though he says his work is that poetry and not something based in history, something that critics of his White Goddess theory are quick to point out.

-This mythos caught on with the neo-pagan movement largely due to the Witch-cult theory of Margaret Murray, with proponents using Graves’s work, along with other works of dubious authenticity in the fields of archeology, classics, and literature to back their argument of an ancient goddess religion. This symbolism gathered more prevalence when the goddess worship movement took a life of its own, invigorated by second-wave feminism in the 60’s, and thus it became cemented in the cultural mindset of the neo-pagan community as a whole.

-While many Neopagans are not Wiccan, and within Neopaganism the practices and theology vary widely, many Wiccans and other neopagans worship the “Triple Goddess” of maiden, mother, and crone, a practice going back to mid-twentieth-century England and possibly older (though how much older is up for debate). In their view, sexuality, pregnancy, breastfeeding — and other female reproductive processes — are ways that women may embody the Goddess, making the physical body sacred. The Maiden is usually represented by white or silver to reflect her purity; the mother red to show the blood of giving birth; and the crone black or dark purple to show she is the evening of her life. Wiccan traditions often work with the Goddess in her triple form but may sometimes look at a particular goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone

-The Maiden represents enchantment, inception, expansion, the promise of new beginnings, birth, youth and youthful enthusiasm, represented by the waxing moon; It is best to picture a young woman who is often unattached romantically. She is the wild and free spirit of the world. She is new life and new beginnings, physical strength, youthful enthusiasm, waxing moon. While virginity is often attributed to the aspect of the maiden, it’s not a necessity. To be represented as maiden can also mean a woman in her prime, sexually free and seeking but remaining unattached. 

-The Mother represents ripeness, fertility, sexuality, fulfilment, stability, power and life represented by the full moon; This is a woman who has very much com into herself. She has learned who she is and rules her home or lands or life in most regards, if not all. Here the sexual nature remains, but it has become focused, attached. It has become not just pleasure but also creating life and bringing about the birth of the next succeeding generation.

-The Crone represents wisdom, repose, death, and endings represented by the waning moon. Some people mark the time of being a Crone as the time when a woman can no longer have children. Being a Crone is being at that stage of femininity when the end of life is far closer than the beginning, and now one allows the new generation to take their place while still giving the last reflections of the life lived before joining the otherworld in death.

-Historically there have been tri-faced, or tri-form goddesses. However, their triple forms were often due to other aspects of their worship and godly spheres of influence. Hekate, for example, is a traditionally tri-faced goddess. Her tri-faced quality is in part to her role as goddess of the crossroads. She has three faces to watch each part of the crossroad, its comings and goings. Her inclusion into the Graves triple goddess model has little to substantiate it, as Hekate is depicted as fresh faced and maiden-like while also being a goddess who governs death, crossings, and witchcraft. In the Graves model these qualities are said to be that of the Crone stage, and Hekate is no crone, though she may take a crone’s disguise to walk unseen amongst mortal men.

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