Sunday, 25 November 2012

Triple Goddess

The "Maiden, Mother, Crone" goddess triad or Triple Goddess symbolises both separate stages of a females life cycle, the phases of the moon, life - death and rebirth and also earth, underworld and the heavens.

Scholar Marija Gimbuta's theories relating to goddess-centered culture among pre-Indo European "Old Europe" (6500-3500 BCE) have been widely adopted. She had been referred to as the "Grandmother of the Goddess Movement" in the 1990's.

Bringing together archaeological evidence, comparative mythology and folklore, and symbolic interpretations, Gimbutas's work asserts the existence in prehistoric Europe of a widespread culture centered on the Goddess, life giver and sustainer, as well as death-wielder. Through the examination of hundreds of Paleolithic and mostly Neolithic pieces, she traces cross-cultural and cross-chronological symbolic parallels. The central and venerated position of women in the unconscious of early European people.

Gimbutas postulated that in "Old Europe", the Aegean and the Near East, a great Triple Goddess was worshipped, pre-dating what she deemed as a patriarchal religion imported by the Kurgans, nomadic speakers of Indo European languages. Gimbutas interpreted iconography from Neolithic and earlier periods of European history evidence of worship of a triple goddess represented by: "stiff nudes", birds of prey or poisonous snakes interpreted as "death", mother-figures interpreted as symbols of "birth and fertility",
moths, butterflies and 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".

She has published many books if you care to look into her work more closely. A wonderful DVD of her work and studies is "Signs out of Time" and I would highly recommend anyone watch this to gain a better understanding of ancient worship.

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Temple of the Dark Moon by Frances Billinghurst

Trinities of the Goddess can be found in various cultural mythologies such as the three Norns of the Norse, and both the Moira and Erinnyes which are found in Greek mythologies. According to ancient Irish myth, when the Milesians arrived on the shores of the country they later named Eire, and began to make their way to Tara (the seat of sovereignty), they came across three aspects of the Goddess of Sovereignty - Bandha, Eriu and Fodha. When their poet Amergin promised Eriu that Ireland would bear her name as its first and only name, and she, in turn, declared Ireland to belong the Milesians until the end of time. Even in Hinduism, a specific distinction is made between separate aspects of the Great Goddess, the “MahaDevi”, these being
Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Kali.

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In modern Paganism, the Triple Goddess is more often considered to be a personification of the Moon whereby the triplicity corresponds with three of the four Moon phases. The youthful Virgin or Maiden Goddess represents the Waxing phase; the Mother Goddess is the Full Moon; and the Crone (or Hag) represents the Waning phase of the Moon. In this instance, three Goddesses are related under one aspect of the Great Goddess.  For example, the Greek Goddess Artemis is often perceived as the Virginal huntress who is associated with the Waxing Moon, and who rules the Earth.  Selene is the Mother aspect of the Goddess who is associated with the Full Moon and who rules the sky.  Finally completing the triplicity is Hecate, the Crone, who is associated with the Waning and Dark Moon, and rules the Underworld.  It is interesting to note that when these three Greek Goddesses are used in this manner, the Triple Goddess is not only perceived as a Lunar Goddess but also the ruler of the three worlds – the Heavens, Earth and the Underworld.  This aspect is reflected in the Garland of Laurell, a poem by 15th century English poet John Skelton:

“Diana in the leaves green,
Luna that so bright doth sheen,
Persphone in Hell.”

In modern Paganism, one reason for the possible popularity of the Triple Goddess is that She represents all aspects of the female life cycle.  The freedom and independence of youth, the joys and sorrows of motherhood, and the wisdom and independence of old age, which return when we are free of the obligations of family.  Modern society has tended to venerate the young and the beautiful and to neglect and devalue other aspects of womanhood.

The Triple Goddess is often depicted as both sexual and a mother.  These two aspects have been divorced in the nearest Western equivalent to the Goddess, that of the Virgin Mary of the Catholic Church.  This leads to a denigration of the life of the body, which can be damaging for both women and men.  The original meaning of the word “virgin”, however, is not necessarily in a non-sexual sense, but in the sense of not owned.  It is this original meaning that is meant when referring to the Virgin Goddess.

The Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess is represented by the Full Moon, or the Earth. Often this aspect of the Goddess is seen as Gaea (or Gaia), the Earth itself, and is thought of as the Great Mother - the Divine Feminine which gives birth to us, nourishes and sustains us and in which we finally find our rest and rebirth.  This aspect of the Goddess, although suppressed by the Christian Church, persisted throughout the Medieval period amongst scholars and others who were still orientated to the ways of ancient Paganism.  In a 12th century English herbal, for example, the Goddess is hymned as:

Earth, Divine Goddess, Mother Nature,
Who dost generate all things
And bringest forth ever anew the Sun
Which Thou hast given to the nation;
Guardian of sky and sea and of all Gods and powers;
Through thy influence all Nature is hushed and sinks to sleep …
Again, when it pleases Thee,
Thou sendest forth the glad daylight
And nurturest life with Thine eternal surety;
And when the spirit of humankind passes,
To Thee it returns.
Thou indeed art rightly named Great Mother of the Gods;
Victory is Thy Divine name.
Thou art the source of the strength of peoples and Gods;
Without Thee nothing can either be born or made perfect;
Thou art mighty, Queen of the Gods.
Goddess, I adore Thee as Divine,
I invoke Thy name;
Vouchsafe to grant that which I ask of Thee,
So shall I in return give thank to Thy Godhead,
With the faith that is Thy due.

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The last aspect of the Triple Goddess is the Wise Woman, the Crone or Hag, who is the keeper of the Mysteries.  The Crone Goddess symbolises our own inner wisdom, but also the elders who, in a tribal society, were the living repositories of the history and lore of that tribe. Their role was essential to the successful functioning of society and age had an honoured place.

A common error that people often tend to make when first coming across the Triple Goddess is relating human years to the various aspects.  While the Virgin or Maiden aspect of the Goddess is more often than note depicted as a youthful young woman, it does not mean that someone of a more mature age cannot associate with this youthfulness.  It is an increasingly common today to see people over 50 years of age enjoying freedom and life in a way they have never experienced before.  Likewise, with the pressures of modern living and the breakdown of what is deemed the “traditional” family unit, it is not unusual for children
to be stepping into the role of the Mother Goddess by looking after younger siblings. The different aspects of the Triple Goddess can therefore be experienced at whatever age we find ourselves at.

Why does the Triple Goddess have such modern appeal? Through the phases of the Moon, and the cycles of our own lives, we can see three distinct aspects of the Great Goddess. To know her in these different ways allows us a deeper insight into the Divine Feminine as a whole. We may look into Her many faces, and see some that resemble our own.  We may feel her changing rhythms, and know more about our inner changes, from Moon phase to Moon phase, and throughout the course of our years.  Each aspect of the Great Goddess lives within us.  Each brilliant face of the Great Goddess can be seen in the vibrant expressions of Her natural world!

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The website explains their understanding of the Triple Goddess.

The Triple Goddess is a term first popularised by the poet and scholar Robert Graves in the 20th century. He depicted the triplicity as Maiden, Mother and Crone, recent archaeology has made it abundantly clear that "Goddess Triplicities" are to be found throughout ancient Europe.

In Hinduism today, the triplicity of the Goddess in Shakta worship is of cardinal importance, and outside the Indo-European world the Triple Goddess is found in Africa and Asia.

While many of us contemplate the single image of Our Mother, there has always been an important Trinitarian aspect to Her worship. Ironically the great Christian theologian, St. Augustine, mocked the pagans for their belief that the Triple Goddess could be One and also Three. After his conversion he found himself defending the masculinised version of the same doctrine!

Actually, the lunar aspect of the Trinity is the Daughter, and the contrast between the Solar Mother and Lunar Daughter is one of the beautiful and powerful aspects of Trinitarian Déanism.

The Mother and the Daughter, or Maiden, are typified by demeter and Persephone. Indeed, the name De-Meter means simply "God [the] Mother" or "Mother God", while Peresphone was most often known by Her devotees as Kore, which means simply "Maiden" or "Daughter".

We understand at least a little about the Mother and Maiden aspects of the Triple Goddess, but what of the so-called "Crone"? The term "crone" does not originally signify an old woman. Indeed most ancient images of the Triple Goddess do not include an old woman. "Crone" comes from Greek cronos, meaning time. Thus the significance of "Crone" is identical to that of Kali, which comes from Sanskrit kala, also meaning time.

The Dark Mother, the third (or first) Person of the Trinity is often seen, from the human perspective, as Time the Destroyer. It is She who in-breathes all the worlds at the end of time, just as it is She who out-breathes them at time's beginning. She is beyond time and space and the whole of manifestation. She is called "dark" because we, as mortal, time- and space-bound creatures cannot really conceive of Her.

She is sometimes depicted as a very old woman (signifying Her association - from the human perspective - with Time and Death). She is sometimes depicted simply as one of a Triple Goddess group (signifying the triune nature of the Goddess). In truth, however, She is beyond Name and Form.

The Mother and the Dark Mother are, in Sanskrit terminology, saguna brahman and nirguna brahman - God with Form and God beyond all Form.

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While the Déanic Trinity is often, and rightly, compared to the Christian Trinity, a comparison that is in many respects more helpful is with the Hindu Trimurti. As with the Trimurti, the three Persons of Goddess are respectively the Creatrix, Preserver and Destroyer of the worlds. This truth is also reflected in such triple figures as the three Fates, Greek Moirae or Teutonic Norns, who are respectively the Spinner (creatrix), Weaver (Preserver) and Cutter (Destroyer) of the Thread of Life. This is in fact a relatively microcosmic reflection of the macrocosmic reality of the Holy Trinity.

God the Mother as Creatrix is a familiar truth. It is She Who has brought all things into being and Who is the Mother of All. When, at the dawn of time, souls became separate from Goddess, ceasing to live in perfect union and bliss with Her, it is said that the Light of the Solar Mother became "too bright for us to look upon".

It was then that the Mother gave birth to a Daughter that was one with Her and yet apart from Her, so that the Daughter could take the Light of Goddess into those places where the Goddess was not.

Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun in a gentler radiance, so the Daughter reflected the Mother's Light with a radiance that mortal beings can look upon.

However, there is also a Cosmic function performed by the Daughter: for if the universe were ever truly separated from the Mother, Who is its Creatrix and sole Source of being, it would instantly cease to exist. Thus the Daughter, in mediating the Mother to the created world, is the Preserver of its very existence.

Yet the world must end eventually, and the Dark Mother is called the Destroyer. This understanding of her, however is from the worldly perspective. She is the First Cause of all things and will be their Final End.

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She is described as "Dark beyond the Light and Light beyond the Darkness". This means that she is the Dark that lies behind the Light of the Bright Mother, yet she is also the Light that lies beyond Her Own apparent darkness.

Just as, in Buddhism, Nirvana is confused with extinction (and from the mortal perspective is extinction), and yet is in fact the final bliss and liberation, so the "destruction of the world" is also its redemption; and the Daughter's vow to save all beings "even to the last blade of grass", will, in its fulfilment also be the in-breathing of the Dark Mother. So the Great Wheel of Creation comes full circle.

If this is hard to understand, please do not worry. Certain things are hard to understand from our human perspective, and have only been fully realised by a few great saints and sages among our fore mothers.

For most of us, the love of our dear mother is sufficient to carry us through this life. The sweet lunar light of the Daughter and the healing touch of Her gentle Spirit are our guide through earthly existence and through the worlds to come.

Nonetheless, the knowledge of the Trinity adds a fullness to our knowledge of the Goddess. Behind the often confused image of the Triple Goddess that one may glean from some modern sources lies a profound and beautiful Truth, that is indeed the very Secret of the Universe:

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