My pagan friends–I have a disproportionate number of pagan friends, considering that Neopagans only make up about 0.4% of the U.S. population–would immediately recognize the pendant that George designed and Mr. Stedman crafted for him. “Oh, that’s the Triple Goddess.” The rest of you probably read with your typical delight and amazement but didn’t know what you were reading about.
Goddess worship is believed to be the oldest form of human religion. Statuettes thought to represent the Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess are the most common figures from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. One of the most famous is the Venus von Willendorf (shown below), estimated to have been carved 24,000 – 22,000 BCE. But there are a lot of other examples.
Of course, nobody is SURE that this is really a goddess figure. It could be a queen piece from an ancient forerunner of chess, and all of the other pieces just happen to be lost (maybe in that version of of the game, a piece is smashed when it is taken). But there is a strong consensus among archeologists that it’s a goddess figure representing the birth of humanity and the earth as well as the birth of each of us.
The Triple Goddess is a representation of the Goddess in three aspects: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Some of my pagan friends may be surprised to learn that the concept of the Triple Goddess didn’t come from pre-Roman Britain but was first expressed by 20th century poet, novelist, and mythicist Robert Graves. Nonetheless, his visualization was wildly successful, and the Triple Goddess is a prominent feature of neopaganist beliefs.
The feminine principles embodied in the three aspects of the goddess are:
The Maiden: enchantment, inception, the promise of new beginnings, youth, excitement, and a carefree erotic aura. The Maiden in Greek Mythology is Persephone, a representation of new beginnings.
The Mother: ripeness, fertility, fulfillment, stability, and power. The Mother Goddess in Greek mythology is Demeter, representing wellspring of life, giving and compassionate.
The Crone: wisdom, repose, and compassion. The Crone in Greek mythology is Hecate—wise, knowing, a culmination of a lifetime of experience.
By contrast, male gods didn’t generally enter human religious beliefs and practices until the the introduction of agriculture at the end of The Paleolithic period, around 10,000 BCE.
The most common symbol of The Triple Goddess is the waxing, full, and waning moon.
I have two wonderful pieces of Triple Goddess art (one shown below) in my living room/dining room that we purchased a few years ago at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Unfortunately, our purchases represented a significant percentage of the the artist’s total sales, and he hasn’t been back since.
The other symbol commonly associated with the Triple Goddess is the Celtic and pre-Celtic Triple Spiral. This symbol is much, much older than the 20th century–it is carved in the entrance of Newgrange, a neolithic structure built around 3200BCE, but has been . . . shall we say, “confiscated?” . . . to represent the Triple Goddess.
There is a lot of Triple Goddess Jewelry available, some of it quite imaginative. Most pieces either use the waxing/full/waning moon motif or the triple spiral.
But there aren’t a lot of figures, and none that I found in gold or with semi-precious stones. Imagine George Foster searching through the internet, increasingly frustrated looking for just the right pendant to give . . . well, we don’t know who he gave it to yet. But it’s easy to understand why he just gave up and designed his own.