Three Sisters by Deanne Quarrie

From time to time I dive into the idea of seeing the Triple Goddess as Sisters rather than Mother, Maiden, Crone.  I have to confess that the idea of Sister Goddesses, complete in their familial connectedness, representing unity, connection, and interdependency, is very appealing.  We, who practice Goddess Spirituality, strive in our relationships to reflect this in our work together.  Shared power!

If I were to look at the sisterhoods individually, I enjoy the Ananke and the Moirae from Greek mythology.  I like them because they represent a balance.  One side setting the standards and the other, enforcing them!  A perfect example of the laws of cause and effect!

The laws and customs of this time caused the oppression of women with very few rising up to any sort of power at all and then, only at great cost.  These goddesses must have arisen from this oppression, for they perfectly reflected all areas of women’s lives.

Living under oppression, there was great need for women to reach out for help.  They needed assistance from their goddesses to help them deal with the peril and confines of their daily lives.  They would need protection and recourse from injustice.

Ananke was an early goddess of inevitability, compulsion and necessity. People referred to her as the “inescapable.”  They said that she was born self-formed as a serpent whose arms reached across the entire universe.  From her very beginning she entwined herself with her mate, Khronos, the god of time.  As a pair, they surrounded the egg of matter or “form.”  As their coils grew tighter, they split the egg into earth, heaven, and sea bringing about the creation of the ordered universe.

They were seen as the “cosmic-circling forces of fate and time–driving the rotation of the heavens and the never ending passage of time.”

She was also the mother of the Moirae.  Under another name for her, she was Adrastea, “incorporeal, her arms extended throughout the universe and touching its extremities.”  (from an email from Max Dashu)

Donna Wilshire calls her “Ananke, the Yolk,” a woman’s core center, her “knowing self,” that part of our wholeness that strives to have everything in right relationship.  This was not because of regulations outside of one’s self, but governed by that inherent self-knowing, deep within.

She is a woman’s voice of authority.  Wilshire states that Teleia allows woman to embrace response-ability which in turn allows Ananke to prosper and grow within.  Those values associated with Ananke such as inevitability, compulsion and necessity are not things brought to woman by outside.  Neither are they forced when they come from her true Ananke within.  What is inevitable and necessary is that she honors that true Ananke within, her own voice of authority and wisdom.

With the passage of time her stories changed.  Her essence grew ever sterner, binding people perhaps to lives without choice.

Her daughters were the Moirae, called the Apportioners.  Individually, they were three sisters, Clotho, the Spinner, Lachesis, the Allotter and Atropos, the Cutter.

They were symbolic of the process of weaving with thread as life.  They were divine midwives – creating a tapestry and weaving individual lives together. All three represent Unavoidability, Necessity, and Ethical Principle.

Women have come a long way in the struggle for “freedom from oppression.” It is in looking at goddesses such as these, as well as Goddess as “whole and becoming” and Goddess who is “growth, merging, and creation” we see that she represents all of life in one whole package, chaos, complexity, unity and diversity, all at once.  For such powerful goddesses to arise in a time when women needed help with the constant oppression under which they lived, just imagine how powerful they could be today, if we called upon their power.  These goddesses share their stories to remind us of the strength and resolve we each carry within.  From this we can go within and pull their strength.  For they are a part of us today and their strength lives within us, giving us the deep knowledge of our own “knowing self.”  As feminists, familiar with oppression, it is important for us to know them and to know they are with us today.


Information gathered  from:

MacDowell, Katherine, The Three Fates: Sister Goddesses, Ocean Seminary College, Monmouth, NJ, 2008

Wilshire, Donna, Maiden, Mother, Crone, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont,  1993

Deanne Quarrie is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of four books.  She is an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College, teaching classes on the Ogham, Ritual Creation, Ethics for Neopagan Clergy, Exploring Sensory Awareness, energetic Boundaries, and many other classes of the uses of magic.  She is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, as well as The Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition where she mentors women who wish to serve as priestesses. 

Categories: Body, Embodiment, General, Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality, Sisterhood

Tags: , , ,

14 replies

  1. It’s always made more sense to me that the triple goddess is sisters, maybe older, middle, and younger sister. After all, it was Robert Graves who pretty much invented Maiden-Mother-Crone in 1948 in The White Goddess. Thanks for writing this thoughtful blog.


  2. Jane Harrison talked of the mother daughter pair and the maiden trinities, all young.

    The trinities you discuss may not have arisen out of nothing or even only out of need within a patriarchal society. I would believe they are part of what scholars often call the “chothnic” or deep and earth-based stratum that preceded the Olympian religion of the shining Gods of the sky. Following Gimbutas, I would identify the origin of the trinities you discuss in the religion of Old Europe and its matriarchal or matrifocal ethical system.


  3. I wish I knew how to attach an image of a painting I made some while back of the triple goddess as three sisters…


  4. Deanne, thank you for this post. Could you speak a bit more to the energies of “inevitability” and “unavoidability” and how we are empowered through/by these, rather than suppressed by them?


    • For me it is a matter of what is within and what comes from without. It is about being authentic – about being who we are and who we are meant to be rather than what is imposed upon is. Suppression from without occurs all the time. It tries to make us feel less than or makes us want to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. It is inevitable as well as unavoidable for who we are within to push against outside conformity. If we cannot be authentic in our “being” we will continue to be at odds. So, for me, these goddesses speak to me about honoring what is authentic – unavoidable and inevitable – by being who we are and living our lives as who we are meant to be.


  5. I love this so much. My dissertation was on this subject (Deity in Sisterhood: The Collective Sacred Female in Germanic Europe) and my first book, forthcoming, will be on the same topic. Of course the collectives extend far beyond Germanic Europe, with Greece especially rich as you point out. Thank you very much for writing this post!


  6. Reblogged this on Journeying to the Goddess and commented:
    Another fabulous piece by Deanne Quarrie that I just had to share. “Women have come a long way in the struggle for ‘freedom from oppression.’ It is in looking at goddesses such as these, as well as Goddess as ‘whole and becoming’ and Goddess who is ‘growth, merging, and creation’ we see that she represents all of life in one whole package, chaos, complexity, unity and diversity, all at once. For such powerful goddesses to arise in a time when women needed help with the constant oppression under which they lived, just imagine how powerful they could be today, if we called upon their power.” ~ Deanne Quarrie


  7. Deaanne —

    I agree with you that the images of sister goddesses are empowering. For me, it has to do with the connotation of community that goes along with these images. And I believe with Carol that these goddesses are the patriarchal versions of goddesses that preceded them in Old European culture.

    One of my favorite Greek goddesses is Demeter/Persephone, because although we can see in Her myth that She predates the patriarchal invasions of Greece, She has “adapted” to patriarchy and as a result, She is the first feminist Goddess that I know of. When Her daughter/self is abducted to the underworld, She tells the Gods that no one will eat until Persephone returns, including the gods, who will receive no sacrifices as a result of the famine that begins. Demeter goes on a hunger strike to make Her voice heard in the Olympian precincts and succeeds.



  1. Three Sisters « WiccanWeb

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: