Triassic (religion)

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Under triad or triad (, Trinity 'of ancient Greek τριάς Triás , plural τριάδες Triades ) is understood in the Religionswissenschaft a triplet of gods or mythical creatures. Triads of gods who are regarded as belonging together and worshiped together are known from numerous polytheistic mythologies and cults.

Greek and Roman religion

Aristotle already reflected philosophically on the meaning of the trinity in Greek religion . He pointed out that among the Pythagoreans , the religious-philosophical movement initiated by Pythagoras of Samos , which ran from the 6th to the 4th century BC Existed, the three played an important role. According to Aristotle's presentation, the Pythagoreans taught that “all” and “all” are defined by the three number: “The end, middle and beginning form the number of the all, namely that of the triad.” Tied to his report on the Pythagorean conception Aristotle has his own thought on the three in religion: "That is why we have taken this number from nature as if it were one of its laws, and use it in the cultic worship of the gods."

The religious meaning of the threesome mentioned by Aristotle is evident in the common groups of three of Greek and Roman gods and mythical beings. These include in particular the triads of similar deities of the same kind, primarily acting as a group, the Horen , the Moiren and the Charites, already mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony . The Gorgon Sisters also form a trinity. The judges of the dead also appear in the three . The muses were originally not - as with Hesiod - nine, but three. Also water nymphs ( Naiads ) was worshiped as groups of three.

Even gods, who primarily came into focus as individual figures and less as group members, were sometimes combined into triads. Family relationships could be decisive for the group formation, but there were no triads in the form of the family triad of father, mother and child. The most important group of this kind consisted of the three brothers Zeus , Poseidon and Hades , among whom the world was divided according to Greek mythology. Leto and her children Artemis and Apollon formed a further kinship triad . This trinity was worshiped together in some places, and it was customary to invoke the three together as oath deities. It also happened that in the cult three gods were conceived as a triad due to their affinity, such as the subterranean deities Pluton , Demeter and Kore . It was widespread that divine protection was particularly assured when it was guaranteed by three gods united in a group. In the Roman Empire , the most important group of three of protective gods was the Capitoline triad of Iuppiter , Iuno and Minerva , which was of central importance in the Roman state religion. In addition, the Greeks and Romans used a multitude of cultic and sacred practices (dance, song, prayer, oath, sacrifice, purification, cult of the dead) to emphasize a special significance of the threefold, for example when a sacred act was repeated three times.


In religious studies research, the question of the extent to which the trinity was perceived as a unity in groups of three of ancient gods and thus an analogy to the Christian " trinity ", the trinity , is controversial . According to a hypothesis by Hermann Usener (1903), the Christian belief in the Trinity arose from the same roots as the pagan triads. It is a general human tendency to bring the three number into the idea of ​​God. The Christian dogma of the Trinity of God was "not revealed, but has come into being, grown out under the effect of the same impulse that we saw in the religions of antiquity." In order to form a trinity, the Holy Spirit is relatively late as a deity to God the Father and his Son Christ has been added. Usener remarked: "The divine trinity [...] would have prevailed, even if the third person would have had to be supplemented in a different way." Eduard Norden judged similarly . In 1913 he found that "all the preconditions for the Christian formula of the Trinity had been created many centuries earlier and had been submitted to Hellenic speculation". The starting point is the concept of the unity of a divine family of father, mother and son; The Holy Spirit took the place of the mother among Christians. Usener's hypothesis has been used in literature critical of Christianity, for example by Karlheinz Deschner . But it has also met with decided opposition; on the other hand it is objected that the triads and the trinity (trinity) are completely different ideas.


Trimurti representation at an Indian temple

The trimurti ( Sanskrit trimūrti "threefold") is a concept of Hinduism . The three great gods Brahma , the creator of the world, Vishnu , the preserver, and Shiva or Kālarudra, the destroyer, are understood as a triad and are represented graphically. In the Puranas they mostly appear as aspects of the comprehensive nature of the world ruler Shiva-Maheshvara. The three gods are therefore only different manifestations of one entity, the one supreme god ( Ishvara ). Sculptures show them next to each other or combined into a threefold figure. The central figure is either Shiva or Vishnu, depending on the religious tendency of the worshiper. Sculptures in Shiva temples show a Shiva from whose sides Brahma and Vishnu emerge. Other sculptural representations symbolize the Trimurti idea with a body with three heads.


In Chinese Daoism , the expression "three pure" or "three purities" (三 清 sān qīng) originally referred to three heavens inhabited by divine beings and immortals. The three heavens have been associated with the three supreme gods of Daoism. The three gods are Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn (元始 天尊), the Venerable Heaven of the beginning, Tàishàng Dàojūn (太 上 道 君), the Venerable Heaven of the divine treasure, and Lǎojūn (老君), the Venerable Heaven of the way and virtue. These three gods, who symbolize the Dao , form a unit according to the Daoist idea, ultimately they are a single deity.



  • Geoffrey Parrinder: Triads. In: Lindsay Jones (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 14, Thomson Gale, Detroit et al. 2005, ISBN 0-02-865983-X , pp. 9345-9350





  1. Aristotle, Across the Sky 268a10-13.
  2. Aristotle, Across the Sky 268a13-15.
  3. ^ Rolf Mehrlein: Three . In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christianentum , Vol. 4, Stuttgart 1959, pp. 269–310, here: 272–275.
  4. ^ Rolf Mehrlein: Three . In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum , Vol. 4, Stuttgart 1959, pp. 269–310, here: 274–277, 282–288.
  5. Hermann Usener: Trinity. An attempt at mythological numerology , Hildesheim 1966 (reprint of the Bonn 1903 edition), p. 36 f.
  6. Eduard North: Agnostos Theos , 6th edition, Stuttgart 1974 (1st edition 1913), p 230 f.
  7. ^ Karlheinz Deschner: Der fälte Glaube , Munich 1988, p. 85.
  8. ^ Rolf Mehrlein: Three . In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christianentum , Vol. 4, Stuttgart 1959, pp. 269–310, here: 280 f.
  9. Volker Moeller: The mythology of the Vedic religion and Hinduism. In: Hans Wilhelm Haussig (Ed.): Gods and Myths of the Indian Subcontinent , Stuttgart 1984, pp. 176–178; Eckard Schleberger: Die indische Götterwelt , Cologne 1986, p. 50 f .; Jan Gonda : Die Religionen Indiens , Vol. 1, Stuttgart 1960, p. 261, 354 and Vol. 2, 1963, p. 65.