Sacred Texts  Index  Previous  Next 

sacred-texts |  Web | Powered by Google

Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                        The Threefold Goddess 
      To understand the concept of Goddess requires more than the 
 ability to visualize God as a woman.  The Goddess concept is built 
 around the myth and mystery of the relationship between God and 
 Goddess, and beneath that, and part of it, Her Threefold Aspect ... 
 Maiden, Mother and Crone. 
      One of the oldest recognized Goddess forms is the first Greek 
 Goddess - Gaia, the Earth Mother; the Universal Womb; Mother of All. 
 The most ancient Goddesses were most often Earth and Mother Goddesses. 
 The were worshipped and revered as bearers of life ... fat, healthy, 
 pregnant and fruitful. As the Goddess concept developed, then came the 
 Harvest Goddesses, who were also Earth Goddesses.  Understand that 
 this was a time when people did not even understand the basic 
 mechanics of procreation.  Life was very sacred and mystical indeed! 
      Gradually, myth and mystery developed and revealed themselves, 
 creating the legend which we honor in the modern Wiccan Craft. 
      We recognize the Goddess as the mother of all, including her 
 Mighty Consort, the God.  To Her he is Lover and Son, and together 
 they form the Ultimate, the Omniverse, the Dragon, the Mystery. 
      Now that is a pretty tough concept all things considered. 
 Especially in our society as it sounds rather incestuous.  From a 
 mundane perspective, it gets worse as the Wheel of the Year Turns, and
 the Oak and Holly Kings battle ... eternal rivals and 
 sacrificial mates. 
      In the pages that follow, we will explore the Goddess foundation
 concepts and try to reach an understanding of the basis of the 
      I don't want to get off into all the names of all the Goddesses 
 in all the mythology in all of history.  While that is certainly a 
 noble endeavor, it is not the objective here.  What I do want to do is
 look at the Goddess, in whole and in part, and see just who and what 
 she is. 
      First and foremost, the Goddess is the symbol of the Cycle of 
 Everlasting.  She is constant, ever present, ever changing, and yet 
 always the same.  She could be compared in that respect to the oceans. 
      As a part of that, she is that from which we have come, and to 
 which we will return.  She is the Universal Mother, the Cosmic Womb. 
 While those are largely symbolic images, as opposed to literal ones, 
 they are important to bear in mind about any aspect of the Goddess. 
 She never harms, she is Mother. 
      One of the most difficult throwback mentalities to dispell in a 
 student is the difference between "dark and light" and "bad and good".
 Societally, and often religiously, we are trained to see bad and dark
 and evil as being the same.  Hence, we are also taught to hate and 
 fear our own mortality.  All too often I see practicing Wiccans, who 
 ought to *know* better, fall back on these concepts when trying to 
 explain or understand a concept. 
      The Goddess is dark, she is light, she is birth, she is death, 
 and she rejoices in all things.  With death comes joy, for with death
 comes renewal.  With life comes joy, for with life comes promise. 
 With growth comes joy for with growth comes wisdom.  Sorrow and fear 
 are not a part of her, not the way we feel those emotions.  She is 
 incapable of sorrow without joy, she fears nothing, because fear is 
 not real.  It is a creation of the mind. 
      Whether you see the Goddess as a Warrior Queen, or like the Good
 Witch of the North in the Wizard of Oz, she is the Goddess.  And she 
 has many parts and facets which defy comprehension as "One".  She 
 simply IS, and in that, can be whatever you need her to be in order to
 establish a relationship with her.  But none of that changes what she
      "I greet thee in the many names of the Threefold Goddess and her
 Mighty Consort.  Athe, malkuth, ve-guburah, ve-gedulah, le-olam, Amen.
 Blessed Be." 
       So here, at the Circle Door, greeted by the High Priest or 
 Priestess we first see mentioned the Threefold Goddess.  Full-sized 
 covens have three priestesses who take the specific roles of Maiden, 
 Mother and Crone, the High Priestess being Mother. 
       The Threefold Goddess however is NOT three entities, she is one.
 Her aspects represent Enchantment, Ripeness and Wisdom. 
       Taking first things first is usually best, so we shall start 
 with a look at one side of the Maiden. 
       Quoting "The Myth of the Goddess" as found in Gardenarian Wicca
 (Gerald B. Gardner, The Meaning of Witchcraft, Aquarian Press, London,
       Now Aradia had never loved, but she would solve all the 
 Mysteries, even the Mystery of Death; and so she journeyed to the 
 Nether Lands. 
       The Guardians of the Portals challenged her, "Strip off thy 
 garments, lay aside thy jewels; for naught may ye bring with ye into 
 this our land." 
       So she laid down her garments and her jewels and was bound, as 
 were all who enter the Realms of Death the Mighty One.  Such was her 
 beauty that Death himself knelt and kissed her feet, saying, "Blessed by
 thy feet that have brought thee in these ways.  Abide with me, let me
 place my cold hand on thy heart."  She replied "I love thee not. 
 Why dost thou cause all things that I love and take delight in to fade
 and die?" 
       "Lady," replied Death, "it is Age and Fate, against which I am 
 helpless.  Age causes all things to wither, but when men die at the 
 end of time I give them rest and peace, and strength so that they may
 return.  But thou, thou art lovely.  Return not; abide with me." 
       But she answered, "I love thee not." 
       Then said Death, "An' thou receive not my hand on thy heart 
 thou must receive Death's scourge." 
       "It is Fate; better so", she said, and she knelt, and Death 
 scourged her and she cried "I feel the pangs of love." 
       And Death said, "Blessed be" and gave her the Fivefold Kiss, 
 saying "Thus only may ye attain joy and knowledge." 
       And he taught her all the Mysteries.  And they loved and were 
 one, and he taught her all the Magicks. 
       For there are three great events in the life of Man:  Love, 
 Death and Resurrection in a new body, and Magick controls them all. 
 For to fulfill love you must return again at the same time and place 
 as the loved one, and you must remember and love them again.  But to 
 be reborn you must die, and be ready for a new body; and to die you 
 must be born; and without love you may not be born.  And these be all
 the Magicks. 
      So there in the Gardnerian Myth of the Goddess we have her 
 Maiden aspect, seeking, searching and opening herself to the 
 mysteries.  But it is well to remember that the Goddess herself is a 
 mystery, and the primary gift of the Goddess is intuitive Wisdom. 
      Beltaine (Bealtain) is the only Sabbat where the Goddess is 
 entirely devoted to the Maiden.  Here, she revels in the enchantment, 
 in the joy of coming into fullness and mating with the God.  Here, she
 is maiden bride and we can most easily understand that facet of the 
 Maiden aspect.  I should probably note here that some see this 
 festival as maiden turning into mother, with the maiden being in full at
 Candlemas, but I do not agree with that. 
      Youth, newness, innocence and beauty are fundamental facets of 
 the Maiden aspect.  But beneath those are seeking, and love, and love of
 seeking.  There is more to understand of the Maiden though. 
 Enchantment does not end with maidenhood, it is simply the beginning 
 of the Mystery of Life, for that, above all, is what the Goddess 
 stands for. 
      In Circle, in the Balanced Universe, the Maiden takes her place 
 in the East.  In examining this most comfortable quarter, you learn 
 more about the Maiden Aspect.  East (Air) rules the free mind and 
 intellect.  It is the place to seek the ability to learn and to open 
 spiritually, to open your mind and find answers.  It is a masculine 
 quarter, ruled by intellect, and analytical logic, but she brings to 
 it an intuition which is required to use these to best advantage. 
      "The river is flowing, flowing and growing, the river is flowing
 back to the sea.  Mother carry me, a child I will always be.  Mother 
 carry me, back to the sea." 
      This Circle chant, sung in joy, sung in sorrow, is a cry to the 
 Mother Aspect for comfort and warmth, a power chant calling upon the 
 steady power and fullness of the Mother and a plea for guidance. 
 While the Earth Mother, and the fully aspected Goddess are placed 
 North in the Earth quarter, the Mother aspect alone belongs in the 
      Comfort and love rule here.  Emotions, sorrow, joy, tears, these
 belong to the ripeness of the Mother.  Caring and loving for all her 
 children, watching in pain and pride as they struggle to gain their 
 own, knowing full well she could reach out and do it for them, but 
 being both bound and desirous to let them do it for themselves. 
      There is a considerable difference, as you might have interpreted
 from the above, between the Earth Mother and the Mother Aspect of the
 Goddess.  That is why we've started with her quarter, because it 
 reveals the limitations of the Aspect. 
      The Mother aspect is ripeness, the ancient bearing of fruit, 
 child and grain.  She represents emotion and sexuality.  The Goddess 
 in that aspect is most of the altar (as discussed in the Great Rite 
 lesson.)  It is interesting to note the practice in numerous ancient 
 cultures of lovemaking or outright sex magick in cornfields to help 
 make the corn grow. 
      The Dark Mother should also be placed here, although culturally, I
 have a tendancy to think of the Dark Mother as more in keeping the 
 Crone Aspect.  It is a bit of work to see the Dark Mother in the West,
 to separate Dark Mother from Crone, but it is worthwile.  If you have
 any background with the tarot I would suggest you take it in that 
 context, it is beyond the scope of this text. 
     Our exploration of the Goddess and her Aspects brings us now to 
 the Crone.  For me, the Crone is the most fascinating of the Aspects 
 of the Goddess.  Partly I suppose because she is the most mysterious 
 and paradoxical. 
     "Blessed Goddess, old and wise, open mine, thy child's, eyes. 
 Speak to me in whispered tones that I may know the rune of Crones." 
     With life and growth comes age and wisdom, and the Crone is this 
 in part.  She holds fire and power, which wisely used can be of great
 benefit, but hold great danger for the unaware.  Hers are the secrets of
 death and of life, and the mystery beyond the mystery. 
     Part of the pleasure in knowing the Crone aspect is that while, 
 unlike the fully aspected Goddess, she is not also Maiden and Mother,
 she does retain the experiences of both those Aspects in order to be 
 Crone.  The Crone, wizened though she is, must still be able to reach
 into herself and recall the innocent joys and high passions of the 
 Maiden and the love and warmth of the Mother.  To be Crone and to not 
 have forgotten, to still be able to experience Maiden and Mother is, 
 to me, very appealing.  More importantly, to be comfortable in that 
 Aspect, where you have truth and knowledge but have left youth and 
 physical beauty behind, and to still _feel_ youth and beauty without 
 being desirous of them is an admirable quality. 
     Crone is the least paralleled Aspect of the Goddess to our human 
 society.  We discard our old and wise, not understanding their value 
 as teachers and models, and fearing their appearance as a reminder of
 our own mortality. 
     Knowing Crone is a door we much each open for ourselves for to know
 and love her is to cast aside a great many of our cultural and societal
      While the individual Aspects of Threefold Goddess are certainly 
 valid concepts and paths to knowing Goddess, I should caution that most
 mythological Goddess figures are composite Goddesses.  Earth Mother 
 Goddess figures are fully aspected Goddess by definition because they
 represent the full cycle of the Wheel.  Most other Goddess figures can
 be classified as having a dominant (or operative) aspect and recessive
 (promised, or in some cases past) aspect.  Future and past should not be
 taken literally, mythological Goddess figures are always whatever they
 are eternally, they do not tend to change (ie age). 
      Maiden Goddesses possessing their operative in the Huntress or 
 Warrior aspects most often have a promise of Crone. Maiden Goddesses 
 expressing their dominance in beauty and/or love usually have their 
 recessive aspect as Mother.  For example, Athena is a Maiden Goddess 
 with Crone attributes (the combination produces many Mother-type 
 qualities, and this results in the Crone aspected Maiden being the 
 most complete of the Mythological Goddesses, with the exception of 
 Earth Mother Goddesses.) Aphrodite is of course a Maiden Goddess with
 Mother attributes. 
      Similarly, Dark Mother Goddess figures mostly find their promise in
 Crone and Light Mother figures their recessive in Maiden.   Crone 
 recessives work the same way, although sometimes it takes a bit of 
 close examination to find the "hidden" aspect. 
      One should note that this is not a formula, rather a tool to 
 assist in examining and understanding Goddess figures and creating 
 one's own personal spiritual link with Goddess.  It is also a useful 
 consideration when invoking a specific Goddess with purpose in ritual. 
      The purpose of this course has been to open avenues of approach 
 in discovering and developing a relationship with Goddess.  For me 
 personally, I do not "believe" in the reality of mythological Goddess
 figures as they were presented, but I do believe they are a valid way to
 establish communication with Goddess.  I also believe Goddess will
 appear in whatever form we are most ready to accept.  The real 
 Goddess, by my belief (and this is personal, not trad) is an entity 
 beyond my comprehension, perhaps composed of light (could 5000 sci-fi
 films be wrong?), most assuredly unlike anything I could ever imagine in
 true form.  However, I do find mythological Goddess figures highly
 useful for ritual, and of some help in my personal relationship with 
 Goddess. I hope you will too. 
 Blessed Be 

Next: Being A Witch in Britain Today (James Pengelly, WOW #10)