International Women’s Day Part 3: Maiden, Mother, and Crone

Bronze plaque showing the triple goddess of virgin, mother, crone, within a triskelle design

How can one celebrate International Women’s Day without thinking of the women’s suffrage movement, the 20th century feminist movement with its hopes, successes, and disappointments, the status of women in various cultures to-day, and the women’s spirituality movement with its attempts to revitalize the rituals of pagan goddess worship!?

Yes, and the art of Georgia O’Keefe and Judy Chicago, and the writings of Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence!?

That’s all too much, so I found my battered copy of Barbara Walker’s The Crone, Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power and spent a useless half hour looking for her other book, The Skeptical Feminist: Discovering the Virgin, Mother, and Crone.  Google reminds us that Walker writes about her belief that there is no God. However, she believes that people, and women in particular, can use the image of the Goddess in their day-to-day lives. She was an important influence on my thinking.

As shown above, the triskelle has been used since ancient times in Celtic culture to symbolize the cycle of life, and this beautiful design features the virgin, mother, and crone.

The triple moon is another Goddess symbol that represents the Maiden, Mother, and Crone as the waxing, full, and waning moon.  It is also associated with feminine energy, mystery and psychic abilities.You often see this symbol on crowns or other head-pieces, particularly worn by High Priestesses.

The Maiden represents enchantment, inception, expansion, the female principle, the promise of new beginnings, youth, excitement, and a carefree erotic aura. The Maiden in Greek Mythology is Persephone – purity – and a representation of new beginnings.

The Mother represents ripeness, fertility, fulfillment, stability, and power. The Mother Goddess in Greek mythology is Demeter, representing wellspring of life, giving and compassionate.

The Crone represents wisdom, repose, and compassion. The Crone in Greek mythology is Hecate – wise, knowing, a culmination of a lifetime of experience.

If you enjoy celtic art and poetry, or are curious about the symbolic and esoteric value of triads and trios, check out this website. He says “Imagination is the key to Wisdom. Wisdom maps the way to Spirit. Spirit reveals itself through Imagination.- That’s a Celtic knot.”

But back to Barbara Walker.  She was one of the very angry feminist writers who recorded the mistreatment of women through history, much of it encouraged, performed, or condoned by the Church. After reading Crone you will never view Hallowe’en witches in the same light.  I read this book when it came out in 1985. My underlinings and marginal gloss are there to remind me of its impact.  I have read a lot of philosophy and theology since, but this was the first time I read such a succinct condemnation of Christian theology. I don’t think even Hitchens, Dawkins, or Harris can match it…

Today the new morality is offended by a God who condemned all humanity to eternal torture for the sin of seeking enlightenment, then changed his mind and decided to forgive some of the sinners, provided they ate the flesh and blood of his Son, who was also the Divine Father in human form, sent to earth for the express purpose of being sacrificed to himself, an allegedly loving Father who decreed his Son’s painful slaying, then punished those who carried out his order.  This blood-thirsty Son-killing or self-killing Father, who was one but also three; who professed to want good, but created evil; who pretended to love his mortal children while preparing for them a hell sadistic beyond belief; who ordained all things in advance, yet held humans entirely responsible for the errors he knew they would make; who talked of love and ruled by fear — this deity was hardly the product of rational minds. (Crone, page 8)

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