Excerpted from The Pregnant Goddess by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. Copyright © 2020 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Exploring the Triple Goddess
The triple-aspect concept is a purely human construct, used to help us organize our thoughts. One such classification is obvious: the Mother aspect of the Goddess is the one most clearly associated with pregnancy and motherhood. Goddesses of childbirth tend to also be Mother goddesses, which makes a certain amount of sense, although it is interesting to note that there are also selections of various cultural Maiden and Crone aspects who oversee pregnancy and childbirth. The Crone is experienced, has reached a point where she possibly has had several pregnancies herself, and has delivered others. The association of the Maiden aspect with pregnancy and childbirth is slightly more complex. In our modern society, we tend to assume that the term maiden means “virgin,” or sexually uninitiated, which can confuse contemporary women who expect a goddess associated with pregnancy or childbirth to have at least some firsthand experience of the process. In fact, the Maiden aspect refers more to the idea of a free young woman, beholden to no one and in control of her own life and destiny. Artemis of Greek myth is one such virgin figure who defends and protects women in childbirth. In some versions of her myth she is said to have assisted her mother, Leto, with the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo.
These three separate aspects of the Goddess can be problematic when you’re trying to figure out how you fit in. Each aspect possesses several levels and depths of meaning. Often, however, these multiple meanings and associations become overshadowed by the stereotype associated with the aspect.
Part of the mystery of the Goddess is that the three aspects are in fact defined by one another. The Mother is a mother as compared to the Crone and the Maiden; the Maiden is a younger woman as compared to the two older aspects. There are no clear-cut divisions between these aspects either. One does not cease being a Maiden at a defined moment or with a specific act. It can be argued that every woman holds all three aspects within herself, with one simply more prominent at any given time. Every woman’s personality and spirit reflect all three aspects simultaneously, and she can call upon any aspect to help her understand a situation or challenge.
None of these aspects are “good” or “bad.” Each aspect encompasses both dark and light. For example, the Mother teaches us to nurture, but an overabundance of nurturing leads to smothering a child’s independence as the mother clings. The natural love of a mother can turn to anger and resentment under certain conditions.
Remember: the triple aspect of the Goddess is a relatively modern concept, applied to the goddesses of other cultures in general by neo-pagans. It is by no means a universal formula.