The Triple Goddess of Modern Paganism

crescent moon

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The belief that the various Goddesses (such as Venus, Aphrodite, Inanna, Astarte, and Ishtar) are parts of the Great Goddess (a single Goddess) is prevalent in modern Paganism. The Great Goddess is often understood as the Triple Goddess, who is the Maiden, Mother and Crone. Examples of the Triple Goddess for modern Pagans are Diana, Isis and Kali or Kore, Persephone and Hecate. (Note 1)

The Triple Goddess could be regarded as a Trinity of the Divine Feminine. The Maiden, the waxing crescent moon, is the young woman of new beginnings. The Mother, the full moon, is the mature woman of fertility. The Crone, the waning crescent moon, is the elderly woman of wisdom. Modern Goddess religions often add a fourth – the Dark Mother, the new moon, who is the Shadow of the Mother.

The concept of the Triple Goddess was introduced to modern feminists through Robert Graves’ work, “The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth” (1946). Graves, a poet and Greek scholar, theorized that there was an archetypical triad of Goddesses in European polytheism. In the 1970s and 1980s, Starhawk in “The Spiral Dance” and Margot Adler in “Drawing Down the Moon” fleshed out his ideas to be “the Maiden, Mother and Crone.”

The concept of the Triple Goddess did not originate with Graves. It came earlier with Jane Ellen Harrison of the Cambridge Ritualists (Note 2). This classical scholar argued that the Greek religion had triple Goddesses who combined he phases of the moon with the cycles of a woman’s life. Harrison based her ideas on the theories of Sir Arthur Evans, the noted British archaeologist. While excavating Crete, Sir Evans decided that the Minoans (ancient peoples of that island) worshipped a Double Goddess (Virgin and Mother). (This is reminiscent of the Christian Virgin Mary.)

The Triple Goddess is not a part of traditional Polytheistic religions. There are groupings of Goddesses such as the Norse Norns (the Fates). There are Goddesses such as the Morrigan (with Babd and Macha) who are tripartite. However, none of them are tied with all of the cycles of the moon with the cycles of a woman’s life. Many Goddesses do have aspects of the Maiden, the Mother, or the Crone, but not all three.

Note 1. Diana is Roman, Isis: Egyptian, Kali: Hindi, Kore and Persephone: Greek, and Hecate: Greek and Roman.

Note 2. The Cambridge Ritualists, of the late 19th Century and 20th Century, theorized that myths are echoes of rituals, which are a form of magic to alter nature.

5 thoughts on “The Triple Goddess of Modern Paganism

  1. This is weird because Inanna and Ishtar are the same, just different names. (Old Babylonian period is same as Sumerian.) In Akkadian texts their names are used interchangeably. Astarte seems to be the Phoenician name for Ishtar, and later, Ishtar became Aphrodite on the island of Cyprus and then mainland Greece. (Some say they were originally separate, but the current academia is that they are the same. “Astarte” is even a title of Aphrodite.) Ishtar/Inanna had the cult of prostitution which Aphrodite inherited, and it was a pretty foreign concept to mainland Greeks when that cult became a thing there.

    I’ve also read that Ishtar in her owl form of Kilili influenced Athena, but I don’t know the academics on this.

    I like the idea of the Triple Goddess (Not applicable to all goddesses) because even though it’s modern, it’s pretty interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It depends on your perspective in these things. If you look at the academics from a Polytheistic perspective, then there are differences. Ishtar and Inanna were once separate but became interchangeable like Girra/Gibil has. If you go back in time, then yes, they are different. Going forward, they merge into a separate being. It is all in how you view Gods in general.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right, but I am actually going by Academia, which doesn’t always support hard polytheism. (I don’t think most people in the ancient world thought hard about this and just worshiped gods or whatever.) Old Babylonian period religion is the same as Sumerian, so if you’re a Sumerian recon you will have to go by this as per academia. (This is exactly how the Old Babylonian period relief the Burnery relief, was interpreted.)

        The Babylonians had different gods/religion, but no one knows what it was. As soon as they coquered the Sumerians they had the same religion, Akkadians conquered them before that. The Mesopotamian city-states had the same religion and gods, like the Greek city states, with local variances and political differences. (The word for “religion” in the ancient world and all the divisions we had today did not actually exist. Christianity pushed that agenda of “otherism” for anything not of itself.)

        Liked by 1 person

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