The Triple Spiral Symbol

Triskele symbol from Newgrange interiorIf ever you look up "Celtic symbols," along with the shamrock and the Celtic cross, one of the most common images you'll see is three spirals joined together.  It's called the "triple spiral" for obvious reasons, and also the triskelion, or the triskele.

The triskele is an old enough symbol that there's no written history of its first use, but the most famous example is probably the triple spiral design carved in the ancient passage tomb Newgrange in Ireland.  It's estimated to date back to around 3,200 BCE. 

Like most truly ancient images, the triskele has accumulated a lot of different associations Triskele Pendant Tutorialthrough the ages.  It has all of the meanings associated with the simple spiral (most importantly the movement of sun and seasons), but it's more than that.  Some scholars have suggested that the triple spiral at Newgrange represents the year, or the cycle of human pregnancy (even now we divide the stages of pregnancy into thirds, or trimesters).  It may also represent the cycle of the soul through life, death and afterlife or rebirth; what we know of the Celts suggests they tended to view the universe and time as cyclical altogether.

Later, the symbol came to be associated with other triads -- the Celtic elements of Land, Sea and Sky, and with the goddess Brighid, and it's used as well by modern Pagans to represent the Mother, the Maiden and the Crone. 

As Christianity became more popular in Ireland and the British Isles, it was natural to associate the three spirals with the Christian Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It's still often used as a symbol by Celtic-affiliated Christians.

In a nutshell, the triskele represents the movement of the soul, whether from a stone-age viewpoint or a modern one. It's a special symbol, and its meaning can be very personal or universal. In my own life, I like to associate it with my family -- there's three of us, the Mother (me!), the Father (my husband), and the Child (my not-so-little son). Like any good symbol, what it means depends most of all on what's important to its wearer.

Comments

Learning your craft

Wynter

I have lost my entire family

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Hi, Laurel

I've already talked with you a little bit by email, but I wanted to say again -- if you have any questions, please feel free to ask, and I will do what I can to help. I hope that wire work is as therapeutic and satisfying for you as it has been for me.

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