(Essay) Moon Goddess: Primordial Trinity and Cosmic/Personal Heritage by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

[Author’s note: This essay is an evolved version of an excerpt from Chapter 2 of her book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.]

         The triple-aspected female metaphor for the Sacred – the Goddess trinity, that has long captured my attention and imagination and lured me into the Search, the sacred journey, has in other times been known as the “Moon Goddess”: that aspect of the Creativity of the Cosmos that manifests in Moon. The phases of Moon have described for and since the first eyes that could recognise it, a pattern; a pattern that at some point was noticed to resonate with the human female menstrual cycle, and indeed, that of all human body cycles, and the cycles of flora and fauna. Moon’s cyclical pattern – of waxing and waning through light and dark – was noticed to be reiterated everywhere. The three distinguishable phases (of the kaleidoscope that it really is) have been known by the ancients of many cultures, and others since throughout the ages: expressed as three qualities of creative power, preserver/protector and destructive power; or represented symbolically – perhaps with grain, sword and snake; perhaps with grain, throne and scorpion; perhaps as poet, physician and smith-artisan; perhaps as three matrons; perhaps as Virgin/Maiden, Mother/Creator, Old One/Crone. There are many variations globally, and each triad is usually complex and multivalent in its expression. A Scots Gaelic prayer describes Moon as “lovely leader of the way”,[1] and so She has been for many humans, who have noticed Her creative cyclical pattern imbued in All, including in the seasons of Earth-Sun relational transitions, which Moon’s origins may have participated in creating, some four and a half billion years ago. Moon has been perceived as a teacher, the Teacher for many.

Lovely Leader of the Way
Lovely Leader of the Way

Moon Herself is a Presence often taken as secondary, extraneous, romantic. Yet without Her gravitational pull on Earth, creating the tides – the ebb and flow – much of the biosphere may have never evolved.[2] Moon’s central role in our manifestation, in Earth’s Creativity as we know it, often goes without recognition. The same is true of the role that the female human cycle most likely played in the early development of human consciousness: its role may well, and sens-ibly, have been central, yet in mainstream texts it is rarely mentioned as even a possible factor. This body of conjecture is missing from most of what passes for real story of human beginnings. Rarely has it been thought, as for example researcher Alexander Marshack thought, that the lunar notations found on bone, stone, antler and goddess figures may “have laid the foundations for the discovery of agriculture, the calendar, astronomy, mathematics and writing”.[3] Philosopher/scholar Judy Grahn, who has deeply considered the role of the menstrual cycle in “creating the world”, points out:

human perception began, many creation stories say,

when we could distinguish between light and dark

and that

Disciplined separation is clearly a major factor of human culture, and the most complex and fundamental separation practice is that of the first menstruation, or… menarche.[4]

Yet a recent documentary about the earliest of humans,[5] that put forth detailed descriptions of their lifestyles and even projections about their emotions and motives for actions, did not conjecture such a thought. The text never considered the possibility that the female cycle and its replication of Moon’s cycle exactly in timing, may have impressed the human psyche in a foundational way: that perhaps, as Grahn suggests, it was the “menstrual mind” that first connected to an external frame of reference –  Moon – and began to acquire external measurement and noninstinctual knowledge.[6] When humans first performed ritual burials, what was their referent for thinking about death? What did they observe around them everyday about death and renewal? Could it have possibly been a female Metaphor, in its lunar cycle and its resonant human female cycle, that played a central role in the earliest developments of the human mind – our sense of time, and existential wonderings: just as the Moon cycle played/plays a central role in the evolution of life on Earth? Could contemplation of this female-linked pattern , in its mandala-like rhythm, have been the source of earliest human insight – as it effectively connected “one part of experience with another, … (depicting) a rhythm, which one can see at a glance in a single image.[7]

Could the cosmic ubiquity of this metaphorical pattern have been the basis for knowledge/wisdom, that served humans and their growing conscious relationship to Cosmos? Could the primordial experience of witnessing this trustworthy rhythm have been the beginnings of “the inexhaustible creativity of humanity”?[8]

Her Beautiful Bodymind - Cosmic and Personal
Her Beautiful Bodymind – Cosmic and Personal

For a culture to have abstained from asking these questions, to have for millennia been unable to form these questions in the mind, reveals an alienated mind – a mind out of touch with the Earth and Cosmic cycles, as well as that of the female. An alienated mind is one that does not know participation, that “unconsciously participates”[9] – a mind that has severed its connections, wherein phenomena exist separately, a mind that has dissociated. Most humans today are alienated in this way, though it is expressed diversely. My own white Western Christianised culture is by no means unique in regard to alienation from the Context/Earth/Universe in which the human lives. If humans regard themselves as alive and sentient, then so is our Context/Matrix. We and our consciousness are “not some tiny bit of the world stuck onto the rest of it”.[10] We are inside Her – our Matrix: Creativity spills up from within Her everywhere, but it appears that we humans have largely shut ourselves off from this knowledge … finding ourselves living on a planet, not participating in it, often understanding ourselves as an addendum – as superior or inferior. Some who still participate in their  indigenous heritage have not lost the knowledge that She and they are alive in each other. These humans have remained intimate with our Context: with the understanding that the local is not separate from the Cosmic, and that this Context is the Matrix of all beings.

I have been re-linking with my own indigenous heritage, one that lives in my very bodymind. It is a tradition of female-based metaphor, that has been nearly obliterated in relatively recent human history: that is, the last few millennia. Though this heritage has its roots in Earth-based tradition of Old Western Europe, it also has roots in the bodyminds of other ancients, further back, who observed and knew a resonance of being with Earth and Cosmos. In the West, this heritage ran into difficulties long before the gynocidal event of the Inquisition: in the period when history was being written “women already lived under conditions of patriarchy”[11] … for many of us, our bodyminds had already been locked up, the Goddess temples had long been emptied. It had long been anathema to receive and speak Her Wisdom, in many cultural contexts.

Her Wisdom has no single great guru, except Earth, Moon and Sun – this Cosmos, and the very body/Body in which we  dwell, who will teach if we attend, and align ourselves with Her Creativity.

© Glenys Livingstone 2013


Barfield. Owen. History, Guilt and Habitat. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1979.

Baring, Anne, and Cashford, Jules. The Myth of the Goddess. Penguin Group, 1993.

Barlow, Connie. Green Space, Green TimeNY: Springer-Verlag, 1997.

Barlow, Connie (ed). From Gaia to Selfish Genes: selected writings in the Life Sciences. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1994.

Grahn, Judy. Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. Boston: Beacon Press 1993.

Kremer, Jurgen W. “The Dark Night of the Scholar: Reflections on Culture and Ways of Knowing”. ReVision, Vol.14, No.4, Spring 1992, pp.169-178.

Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Feminist Consciousness. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Marshack, Alexander. The Roots of Civilization. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972.

Matthews, Caitlin. The Celtic Spirit. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

Shuttle, Penelope and Redgrove, Peter. The Wise Wound: Menstruation and Everywoman. London: Paladin Books, 1986.

Starhawk. Truth or Dare. SF: Harper and Row, 1990.

Stone, Merlin.  When God was a Woman. London: Harvest/HBJ, 1978.

[1] Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit, p.302.

[2] See Lyn Margulis, cited in Connie Barlow Green Space, Green Time, pp.186-188, and Connie Barlow (ed.), From Gaia to Selfish Genes:Selected Writings in the Life Sciences, pp.48-66. There is also evidence that the biosphere had its origins in Earth’s molten depths.

[3] Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, p.20 referring to Alexander Marshack, The Roots of Civilization.

[4] Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses, p.11.

[5] Neanderthal’s World shown on SBS in mid 2001.

[6] Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses, pp.12-14.

[7] Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, The Wise Wound, p.263.

[8] Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, in The Myth of the Goddess, p.19.

[9] Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, pp.172-173, citing Owen Barfield.

[10] Owen Barfield, History, Guilt and Habit, p.18 quoted by Jurgen W. Kremer, “The Dark Night of the Scholar” in ReVision Vol. 14 No. 4, p.169.

[11] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist  Consciousness, p.249. And see Starhawk, Truth or Dare, pp.37-40.

Read Meet Mago Contributor, Glenys Livingstone.