River goddess statue unveiled to celebrate site’s history

February 20, 2024 by Jane Ewing

A stone statue has been unveiled at Croxall Lakes nature reserve by the Transforming the Trent Valley (TTTV) team to inspire curiosity about the site’s history.

Stone white sculpture with goddess's face in foreground of picture, with grass, trees and sky shown in background.

Trisentona sculpture at Croxall Lakes

The site, near Alrewas, marks the confluence of three rivers; the Mease, Tame and Trent. The prehistoric people of Britain believed that rivers were a representation of the feminine divine and that each river was a manifestation of a goddess. The goddess at this spiritual place was known as Trisentona, the thrice beloved, which was shortened over the years to Trent.

TTTV is a partnership project of 19 organisations working together to restore and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the Trent Valley, with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust at the helm.

Jeff Sim, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Reserves Manager, said: “We thank the sculptors Miranda Wakeman and Geraint Lloyd for their stunning interpretation of Trisentona. This addition provides an intriguing focal point at the Croxall Lakes nature reserve, which features a 26 acre lake that attracts large numbers of wildfowl and wading birds such as teal and oyster catcher.”

The pre-Christian people of Britain believed in genius loci or the spirit of place. Trees, springs, mountains and rivers were represented by a spirit, a god or goddess. These three rivers gave birth to the triple goddess, with the creation of the Catholme Ceremonial Complex as the celebration of that birthplace.  The river then became a manifestation of the goddess, and the goddess a representation of the river.

Dr Mark Knight, Cultural Heritage Officer for TTTV, said: “We are really pleased to bring Trisentona to life. The sculpture will enable visitors to Croxall Lakes to learn more about the site’s history and deepen their connection with the landscape around them.”

An archaeological team led by Professor Henry Chapman of the University of Birmingham unearthed an incredible series of finds at nearby Catholme, also near to Alrewas. A ritual landscape based around a series of ceremonial monuments focussed on the confluence of three rivers, the Trent, Tame and Mease, was discovered to have existed between about 3,000 BCE and 1,500-1,000 BCE.  The importance and sanctity of this unusual triple confluence was of utmost significance. Starting in the late Neolithic, these monuments may have stood in the landscape for well over 1,500 years and influenced the building and placement of later Bronze Age burial mounds and other landscape features. This ceremonial complex was of national significance, despite there being nothing visible above ground now.

For more information on the installation visit: www.thetrentvalley.org.uk/projects/tttv-heritage/birthplace-of-a-goddess/

Further information on the area’s Cultural Heritage:

More recently, Professor Andrew Breeze of the University of Navarra has identified a new derivation of the name meaning. Whilst acknowledging the river as a manifestation of the goddess, he offers a different conclusion. He breaks the word into three parts: Tri, meaning ‘very’ or ‘great’, then ‘suant’, meaning ‘desire’, and the third part ‘ona’ modifying the ‘suant’ to ‘suantona’, meaning ‘beloved’.  This results in Trisentona meaning something like greatly beloved’.

The belief in a triple goddess is a pan-European one, representing the three aspects of the feminine divine. Consider here the three fates of Greek myth, the three norns of Germanic and Scandinavian myth, or the Irish and Welsh triple goddess figures. The number three was of great significance, and in prehistory the three rivers were probably understood to have given birth to the triple goddess.  The ritual landscape and ceremonial complex that stood for so very long acknowledged this, and importantly, may have been recognised and celebrated by our ancient ancestors as the symbolic birthplace of the goddess herself. The prefix or word-forming tri is of proto-Indo-European origin, meaning (of course) three. This means that a small revision to Professor Breeze’s derivation of Tri, would remain with the usual meaning of ‘three’. The goddess Trisentona’s name would then mean ‘thrice-beloved’, and this would also recognise the ‘three-ness’ of the triple goddess and the importance of the confluence where three rivers meet.