Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The triple deity

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 27, 2014

Terracotta relief of the Matres, from Bibracte, city of the Aedui in Gaul

Triple deity

A triple deity (sometimes referred to as threefold, tripled, triplicate, tripartite, triune or triadic, or as a trinity) is a deity associated with the number three. 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, Erinnyes and the Norse Norns) or a single deity known from literary sources as having three aspects (Greek Hecate, Diana Nemorensis).

In the case of the Irish Brighid it is ambiguous whether a single being or more are represented. The Morrígan is known by at least three different names. Ériu, Fotla and Banba, the goddesses of Irish sovereignty, are three sisters.

Georges Dumézil proposed that ancient Indo-European society followed a tripartite model involving three classes – Priest, Warrior and Peasant. Triadic forms are characteristic of Indo-European conceptual structures.

The religious life of this society, according to Dumézil, included three main gods which represented each of these three classes. 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.

Petreska Vesna 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.

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