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A triple deity (sometimes referred to as threefold, tripled, triplicate, tripartite, triune or triadic, or as a trinity) is three deities that are worshipped as one. Such deities are common throughout world mythology; the number three has a long history of mythical associations. Carl Jung considered the arrangement of deities into triplets an archetype in the history of religion.
In religious iconography or mythological art, three separate beings may represent either a triad who always appear as a group (Greek Moirai, Charites, Erinyes; Norse Norns; or the Irish Morrígan) or a single deity known from literary sources as having three aspects (Greek Hecate, Diana Nemorensis). In the case of the Irish Brigid it can be ambiguous whether she is a single goddess or three sisters, all named Brigid. The Morrígan also appears sometimes as one being, and at other times as three sisters, as do the three Irish goddesses of sovereignty, Ériu, Fódla and Banba.
The Matres or Matronae are usually represented as a group of three but sometimes with as many as 27 (3 × 3 × 3) inscriptions. They were associated with motherhood and fertility. Inscriptions to these deities have been found in Gaul, Spain, Italy, the Rhineland and Britain, as their worship was carried by Roman soldiery dating from the mid 1st century to the 3rd century AD. Miranda Green observes that "triplism" reflects a way of "expressing the divine rather than presentation of specific god-types. Triads or triple beings are ubiquitous in the Welsh and Irish mythic imagery" (she gives examples including the Irish battle-furies, Macha, and Brigit). "The religious iconographic repertoire of Gaul and Britain during the Roman period includes a wide range of triple forms: the most common triadic depiction is that of the triple mother goddess" (she lists numerous examples).
Peter H. Goodrich interprets the literary figure of Morgan le Fay as a manifestation of a British triple goddess in the medieval romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A modern idea of a Triple Goddess is central to the new religious movement of Wicca.
|Arabian and Nabataean|
|Three chief goddesses||al-Lat||Al-Uzza||Manat|
|Mother goddess||Hebe (the Maiden)||Hera (the Mother)||Hecate (the Crone)|
|Mother goddess||Hebe (the Maiden)||Hera (the Mother)||Rhea (the Grandmother/Crone)|
|Mother goddess||Kore (the Maiden)||Demeter (the Mother)||Rhea (the Grandmother)|
|Moon goddess||Artemis (the Maiden)||Selene (the Mother)||Hecate (the Crone)|
|Moon goddess/Mother goddess||Pandia (the Maiden)||Selene (the Mother)||Theia (the Grandmother/Crone)|
|Eternal Virgin goddess||Hestia||Athena||Artemis|
|Justice||Nemesis/Rhamnousia/Rhamnusia/Adrasteia/Adrestia (Retribution)||Themis/Dike (Justice)||Eleos/Soteria (Redemption)|
|Chief goddess||Hera (the state)||Athena (the military)||Aphrodite (love)|
|Hera||Pais (maiden)||Teleia (wife)||Chera (widow)|
|Hecate||Selene (the Moon in heaven)||Artemis (the Huntress on earth)||Persephone (the Destroyer in the underworld)|
|Aphrodite||Aphrodite Urania (Aphrodite of the heaven)||Aphrodite Pontia (Aphrodite of the sea)||Aphrodite Pandemos (Aphrodite for all the people)|
|Moirai||Clotho (spinner)||Lachesis (allotter)||Atropos (unturnable)|
|Charites||Aglaea (Splendor)||Euphrosyne (Mirth)||Thalia (Good Cheer)|
|Pasithea (hallucination)||Cale (beauty)||Euphrosyne (Mirth)|
|Erinyes||Alecto (untameable)||Megaera (grudging)||Tisiphone (vengeful destruction)|
|Harpies||Aello (storm swift)||Ocypete (the swift wing)||Celaeno (the dark)|
|Horae||Thallo (flora)||Auxo (growth)||Carpo (fruit)|
|Eunomia (order)||Dikē (justice)||Eirene (peace)|
|Pherusa (substance)||Euporia (abundance)||Orthosia (prosperity)|
|Gorgons||Stheno (forceful)||Euryale (far-roaming)||Medusa (guardian)|
|Graeae||Deino (dread)||Enyo (horror)||Pemphredo (alarm)|
|Thriae||Melaina (the black)||Cleodora (famous gift)||Daphnis (laurel)|
|Muses||Aoidē (song)||Meletē (practice)||Mnēmē (memory)|
|Sirens||Parthenope (Maiden Voice)||Ligeia (Clear-Toned)||Leucosia (White-Substance)|
|Heliades||Aegiale (gleam)||Aegle (shining)||Aetheria (clear-sky)|
|Lampetia (shining)||Phaethusa (radiance)||Phoebe (bright)|
|Hesperides||Aegle (dazzling-light)||Erytheia (the red one)||Hesperethusa (sunset-glow)|
|Nymphai Hyperboreioi||Hecaerge (striking)||Loxo (slanting)||Oupis (sighting)|
|Oenotropae||Spermo (grain)||Oeno or Oino (wine)||Elais (oil)|
|Mother goddess||Juventas (the Maiden)||Juno (the Mother)||Trivia (the Crone)|
|Mother goddess||Juventas (the Maiden)||Juno (the Mother)||Ops (the Grandmother/Crone)|
|Mother goddess||Proserpina (the Maiden)||Ceres (the Mother)||Ops (the Grandmother)|
|Moon goddess||Luna in heaven||Diana on earth||Proserpina in hell|
|Phoebe (moonlight)||Diana (chastity)||Hecate or Proserpine (witchcraft)|
|Supreme goddess||Juventas (the Maiden)||Juno (the Mother)||Minerva (the Wise)|
|Eternal Virgin goddess||Vesta||Minerva||Diana|
|Justice||Nemesis/Invidia (Retribution)||Justitia (Justice)||Clementia (Redemption)|
|Fates||Nona (the Spinner)||Decima (the Weaver)||Morta (the Cutter)|
|Egyptian and Canaanite|
|Triple goddess stone||Qetesh||Astarte||Anat|
|Lion-headed goddess||Hathor or Mafdet||Bast||Sekhmet|
|-||Hathor (Birth)||Nephthys (Death)||Isis (Rebirth)|
|Iyabás||Oshun (Pregnant)||Yemoja (Mother)||Nana (Grandmother)|
|Tridevi||Parvati (Power)||Lakshmi (Wealth)||Saraswati (Knowledge)|
|Devi Shakti||gentle aspect: Parvati (the Creator)||ferocious aspect: Durga (the Preserver)||angry aspect: Kali (the Destroyer)|
|The Morrígan||Badb||Macha||Anand, aka Morrígu|
|Norns||Urðr (past)||Verðandi (present)||Skuld (future)|
Georges Dumézil's trifunctional hypothesis proposed that ancient Indo-European society conceived itself as structured around three activities: worship, war, and toil. In later times, when slave labor became common, the three functions came to be seen as separate "classes", represented each by its own god. Dumézil understood this mythology as reflecting and validating social structures in its content: such a tripartite class system is found in ancient Indian, Iranian, Greek and Celtic texts. In 1970 Dumézil proposed that some goddesses represented these three qualities as different aspects or epithets and identified examples in his interpretation of various deities including the Iranian Anāhitā, the Vedic Sarasvatī and the Roman Juno.
Vesna Petreska posits that myths including trinities of female mythical beings from Central and Eastern European cultures may be evidence for an Indo-European belief in trimutive female "spinners" of destiny. But according to the linguist M. L. West, various female deities and mythological figures in Europe show the influence of pre-Indo-European goddess-worship, and triple female fate divinities, typically "spinners" of destiny, are attested all over Europe and in Bronze Age Anatolia.
At her sacred grove at Aricia, on the shores of Lake Nemi a triplefold Diana was venerated from the late sixth century BCE as Diana Nemorensis. Andreas Alföldi interpreted a late Republican numismatic image as the Latin Diana "conceived as a threefold unity of the divine huntress, the Moon goddess and the goddess of the nether world, Hekate". This coin shows that the triple goddess cult image still stood in the lucus of Nemi in 43 BCE. The Lake of Nemi was Triviae lacus for Virgil (Aeneid 7.516), while Horace called Diana montium custos nemoremque virgo ("keeper of the mountains and virgin of Nemi") and diva triformis ("three-form goddess"). Diana is commonly addressed as Trivia by Virgil and Catullus.
Spells and hymns in Greek magical papyri refer to the goddess (called Hecate, Persephone, and Selene, among other names) as "triple-sounding, triple-headed, triple-voiced..., triple-pointed, triple-faced, triple-necked". In one hymn, for instance, the "Three-faced Selene" is simultaneously identified as the three Charites, the three Moirai, and the three Erinyes; she is further addressed by the titles of several goddesses. Translation editor Hans Dieter Betz notes: "The goddess Hekate, identical with Persephone, Selene, Artemis, and the old Babylonian goddess Ereschigal, is one of the deities most often invoked in the papyri."
E. Cobham Brewer's 1894 Dictionary of Phrase & Fable contained the entry, "Hecate: A triple deity, called Phoebe or the Moon in heaven, Diana on the earth, and Hecate or Proserpine in hell," and noted that "Chinese have the triple goddess Pussa". The Roman poet Ovid, through the character of the Greek woman Medea, refers to Hecate as "the triple Goddess"; the earlier Greek poet Hesiod represents her as a threefold goddess, with a share in earth, sea, and starry heavens. Hecate was depicted variously as a single womanly form; as three women back-to-back; as a three-headed woman, sometimes with the heads of animals; or as three upper bodies of women springing from a single lower body ("we see three heads and shoulders and six hands, but the lower part of her body is single, and closely resembles that of the Ephesian Artemis").
The trinity of Asia, Panthea ("All-Goddess") and the Nereid Ione have been seen to be contrasted ironically with the triad of the Furies in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound making a careful separation between the Jungian figures of the Terrible and Good Mother.
In the mythology of the Sámi (an important source of modern evidence concerning the Finno-Ugric language group and the cultures in which it evolved), a triad of goddesses are responsible for childbirth and protecting children. Sáhráhkka, who lives in the fireplace, is responsible for pregnancy and the particular protector of girls. Juksáhkká, who lives in the area of the back doors, is responsible for turning some children into boys while they are in the womb (there was a belief that all children are female at the outset). Uksáhkká guards the main doors, and is responsible for protecting all young children.
A pagan god was worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia and Nabataea with a family of deities around him among which was a triad of goddesses called "the three daughters of God": al-Lat ("Mother Goddess of prosperity") Al-Uzza ("Mighty one") the youngest, and Manat ("Fate") "the third, the other". They were known collectively as the three cranes. The name al-Lat is known from the time of the histories of Herodotus in which she is named Alilat.
Qudshu-Astarte-Anat is a representation of a single goddess who is a combination of three goddesses: Qetesh (Athirat "Asherah"), Astarte, and Anat. It was a common practice for Canaanites and Egyptians to merge different deities through a process of syncretization, thereby, turning them into one single entity. This "Triple Goddess Stone", once owned by Winchester College, shows the goddess Qetesh with the inscription "Qudshu-Astarte-Anat", showing their association as being one goddess, and Qetesh (Qudshu) in place of Athirat.
Religious scholar Saul M. Olyan (author of Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel), calls the representation on the Qudshu-Astarte-Anat plaque "a triple-fusion hypostasis", and considers Qudshu to be an epithet of Athirat by a process of elimination, for Astarte and Anat appear after Qudshu in the inscription.
Christians profess "one God in three divine persons" (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost). This is not necessarily to be understood as a belief in (or worship of) three Gods, nor as a belief that there are three subjectively-perceived "aspects" in one God, both of which the Roman Catholic Church condemns as heresy. The Catholic Church also rejects the notions that God is "composed" of its three persons and that "God" is a genus containing the three persons.
Triples in legendary beings:
Hecate will never join in that offence:
Unjust is the request you make, and I
In kindness your petition shall deny;
Yet she that grants not what you do implore,
Shall yet essay to give her Jason more;
Find means t' encrease the stock of Aeson's years,
Without retrenchment of your life's arrears;
Provided that the triple Goddess join
A strong confed'rate in my bold design.