The Triple Goddess symbol is very simple visually, but it makes a profound statement about the life cycle of women – and about the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that is common to everyone at least on some level.
What does the Triple Goddess symbol look like?
Visually, the Triple Goddess symbol is a circle with a half-circle on either side of it. Think of a full moon with a crescent moon facing out on either side of it – that’s the idea.
The Triple Goddess symbol uses three moon phases to symbolize three phases of a woman’s life: Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
- The Maiden is represented by the waxing moon, growing like a young woman with infinite potential.
- The Mother is represented by the full moon, fertile and productive – like a woman in the prime of her life!
- The Crone is represented by the waning moon, full of wisdom like an old woman.
Is there a myth associated with the Triple Goddess symbol?
The three figures of the Triple Goddess symbol translate well to the story of Persephone in Greek mythology. Persephone, the maiden, was abducted into the underworld, and her mother, Demeter, searched for her frantically. Hecate, the crone, helped Demeter search – although some accounts of the story note that Hecate witnessed the abduction in the first place.
Eventually, Persephone was located. By then, she had married Hades, god of the underworld. A compromise was reached: Persephone would spend part of each year on Earth with her mother Demeter and part of each year with her husband Hades in the underworld. After that, Hecate was Persephone’s escort to and from the underworld every year, according to GreekMythology.com.
While Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate are three separate characters in this story, the way they interact with each other is a great example of the maiden, mother, and crone phases of life. Their interests are not always aligned with each other – a daughter may want to grow up and marry, while her mother might have trouble surrendering maternal power over her. However, the ongoing tension can ultimately be creative, especially if everyone involved is consciously aware of their role in it.
Hecate was the goddess of magic and witchcraft, according to GreekMythology.com. While she was initially depicted as a single figure in art, later depictions of Hecate show her with three faces and three bodies united. This perhaps contributed to 20th century writers describing Hecate as the Triple Goddess herself.
How old is the Triple Goddess symbol used today?
The Triple Goddess symbol in its current form used by Wiccan and Neopagan groups today is strongly influenced by 20th century writers including Robert Graves and others, according to Learn Religions.
John Halstead of Patheos acknowledged, “Many Pagans will already be aware the Triple Goddess was the creation of Robert Graves.” However, Halstead commissioned a translation of a Latin manuscript not previously published in English, a commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid by Servius written in the 4th century, to get additional insight on what might have influenced Graves.
Servius identified three aspects of Hecate: Luna (above the earth), Diana (on the earth), and Proserpine (under the earth). Proserpine was the Roman name of the Greek Persephone.
Servius also associated each aspect of Hecate with a phase of the moon. However, he used crescent, half, and full moon phases instead of the waxing, waning, and full moon phases depicted in the current Triple Goddess symbol.
Halstead also pointed out that 3rd century writer Porphyry identified Hecate with the moon and associated her with Demeter and Persephone. Given these writings, there is some historical support for the current idea of the Triple Goddess.
However, in another article for Patheos, Halstead noted the ambiguity surrounding the origins of the Triple Goddess. While many 20th century writers described the Triple Goddess in one way or another, the descriptions were not always consistent – even Graves himself sometimes referred to a Quintuple Goddess!
Why does the number three keep coming up everywhere?
As described in number 3 dream symbolism, multiple religions see three faces of the divine. Christianity has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hinduism also has the triumvirate, or Trimurti, of the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva, as described in Dhvaja Meaning and Symbolism.
The guidebook to The Triple Goddess Tarot, written by Isha Lerner and illustrated by Mara Friedman, gives one account of how the Triple Goddess came to be. In it, humanity began with an understanding of a Great Mother Goddess. As people came to observe the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth in agriculture, this grew into a more complex understanding of a Triple Goddess.
However, Lerner continued, there then came to be a greater understanding of the male role in procreation. At that point, male deities came to replace female deities.
Meanwhile, the number three continued to be a recurring theme in fairy tales, where protagonists often encounter three bears, three wishes, or the like on their heroic journeys. Lerner noted, “Fairy tales are essentially concerned with birth, death, and rebirth processes at various levels of transformation and integration. As such, they are inherently feminine in nature.”
Where might you see a Triple Goddess symbol?
The Triple Goddess symbol is often used in tattoos and jewelry. As shown on TattooDesigns.store, some Triple Goddess tattoos stick to the circle and two crescents, while others depict the Maiden, Mother, and Crone as human-like figures.
The Triple Goddess symbol may also appear on altar cloths and other instruments used in Pagan rituals. As noted at Learn Religions, the Triple Goddess can be invoked in a ritual called drawing down the moon, which is often done at the full moon.
In some versions of this ritual, the practitioner calls the Triple Goddess into their own body, and the practitioner may even go into a trance-like state and let the Triple Goddess speak through them. Another version of drawing down the moon is shown at Spells8.