Triple Goddesses and the Maiden, Mother and Crone Concept
She is all that is and all that will be. She is you and me. Young, old, beautiful, and ugly. She represents divine feminine energy. Maiden, mother, and crone. She is the Triple Goddess. The idea of a triple goddess (or god, for that matter) is an ancient concept spanning cultures but was made popular by the modern Wiccan movement. But how do we understand and apply the Triple Goddess archetype to our modern witchcraft practices? Whether you’re Wiccan or something else, the Maiden, Mother and Crone are a part of everyone. Read on to learn more.
Who is the Triple Goddess?
The Triple Goddess is the Divine Feminine in three unified forms. The Maiden is the goddess in her childhood through late teen years. The Mother is the goddess who has carried and given birth to children. And the Crone is the goddess in her later years, following the “change” when she no longer can bear children. At least, this is the Triple Goddess concept in its most basic essence. But the symbolism goes beyond face value. The amazing part of the Triple Goddess belief is that it applies to everyone’s life phases: young, middle age, and older years. And not just age, but also experiences. Naivete to maturity. The apprentice to the sage. The hero’s journey in female form.
Triple Goddesses Across Cultures
The Triple Goddess archetype isn’t new and she isn’t strictly Wiccan. Gods and goddesses came in the power of three forms, seen as one being, for thousands of years. Long before Wicca was a religion. Although, you’ll notice, these Triple Goddesses don’t necessarily embody the Maiden, Mother, Crone archetype as is popular today. But they do embody specific qualities important to their respective cultures. For example, Brigid is an ancient Celtic Triple Goddess but is not depicted as Maiden/Mother/Crone. Rather, each of her three forms rules over the following: smithing, poetry and healing. Another example of a Triple Goddess is Hecate, the ancient Greek goddess of the crossroads. And yet another is The Morrigan. The Fates of Greek myth and The Norns of Norse myth are also considered triple goddesses as they manifest in three forms but seem to be one-in-the-same.
So, The Triple Goddess is Actually 2 Separate Concepts (the Ancient and Modern Difference)
She is Maiden-Mother-Crone to the Wiccan religion today. And she was a triple goddess to ancient cultures in different forms. The Celtic triple goddess of war known as the Morrigan (or Morrignu), for example, wasn’t seen as young, motherly and old, but in three goddess-forms with differing personalities and domains. She is Anu, Macha, and Badb. And sometimes Anu isn’t included, but Nemain instead. All three were considered separate goddesses in their own respective tales.
I think the idea of seeing triple goddesses as embodying specific ages is a modern misnomer. Consider The Norns of Norse mythology. Nowhere in the sagas or Eddas does it define the Norns as being young, middle-aged, and old. But when The Norns are portrayed in mainstream media, they are almost always depicted as a young girl, a mother, and an elderly crone. Age seems to be a recurring trend that we, people in modern times, apply to older myths and lore that never truly focused on it.
Modern Concept of the Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone
The Maiden: Symbolism and Deities
The Maiden is the young girl, before child-bearing years, usually depicted as a teenager. However, technically the Maiden is also a girl in her infancy and childhood, as well as through adolescence. The Maiden aspect of the Goddess corresponds to the Waxing Moon phase. She is our youth, our new beginnings, our birth, when we begin walking our path in the craft. She is Spring, when the earth has just awakened from a long slumber. As far as young girl deities that may be considered “Maiden”, here are a few: Persephone, Eostre, and Artemis. Sometimes the term maiden goddess is applied to any goddess who doesn’t marry and/or have children.
Mother Goddess: Symbolism and Deities
The Mother Goddess archetype is the Divine Feminine full with child, perhaps with other children surrounding her. She is the earth, full with bounty and ready to be harvested. The Mother Goddess is the fruition of YOUR magic, ideas, healing, opportunities, family life, etc. The Mother is Summer and the Full Moon. She’s not just the physical aspect of a mother, but the emotional and spiritual too. For instance, perhaps you could never have children, but you are a caretaker or adopted children. You are STILL a mother and an embodiment of the Divine Feminine. Mother goddesses include: Gaia, Demeter, Dea Matres, Isis, Mary, and more.
Crone Goddess: Symbolism and Deities
The Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess archetype physically represents a woman in the later years of life, after the “change” that menopause brings. However, her symbolism reaches beyond that. The Crone is also wisdom and experience manifested from a full life. She is the time when we’ve reaped our rewards and are living peacefully and quietly with our memories. The Crone is the season of Winter and corresponds to the Waning Moon. A few crone goddesses include: the Cailleach, Banshee, Baba Yaga, and Spider Grandmother.
How Do We Apply the Triple Goddess to Modern Life?
As a witchcraft or pagan practitioner, you may choose to honor the Triple Goddess as your matron deity by placing her on your altar, invoking her in ritual, etc. OR you may choose to honor the aspects of the Triple Goddess within yourself and your own phases in life. Only you can determine whether you are living the Maiden, Mother or Crone goddess era of your life and what that means to you. Suffice to say, we all have a little of every aspect within us. Even men! And as they say, “Dance like the Maiden, Love like the Mother, Think like the Crone.”