The Celtic Triskele: History and Meaning

The Triskele or Triple Spiral is said to be the oldest symbol of spirituality. Its name comes from the Greek words “Tri” and “Skelos” which means “three legs”.

The spiral is said to be an important spiritual marking that dates back to ancient origins in Irish culture.

Made up of 3 joining spirals, the ancient Irish believed that everything happens in batches of 3, or ‘the 3rd times the charm’ – a belief that still exists today.

The Triskele

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The spirals are also said to symbolize the inner and outer worlds and the themes of birth, death, and rebirth as well as the unity of mental, physical, and spiritual self.

Often called Triskelion, it is considered as a complex ancient Celtic symbol.

The Celtic Triskele: History and Meaning

This symbol dates back to the Neolithic era, as evidenced by its presence in the entrance of the 5,000-year-old Newgrange Passage Tomb in Ireland’s Boyne Valley.

Artifacts and markings found in various ancient sites also show that the Triskele became popular within the Celtic culture from 500 B.C. onwards. These artifacts are found in Ireland, as well as Europe and across America. 

The triskele was a symbol that had a variety of meanings for early Pagans.

One interpretation links the triskele to the sun, triadic gods, and the three domains of land, sea, and sky. The triple spiral was believed to also represent the cycles of life (birth, death, rebirth) as well as the Triple Goddess (maiden, mother, and wise woman).

For the Celtic Christians, the symbol was used to represent the Holy Trinity. 

The original three spiral design of the triskele has been reinterpreted in different ways by other cultures. One version depicts an image of three human legs around a fixed centerpiece, such as the one in the Sicilian flag.

Wheeled Triskelion

Today, the triskele/triskelion is seen as part of the design of various emblems, logos, and seals. For example, the symbol is featured on the Flag of the Isle of Man and it was also the basis for the Irish Air Corps roundel.

You can see the symbol in the seal of the United States Department of Transportation, and in RCA’s plastic adapter for vinyl records the ‘Spider’.

In popular culture, the triskele is seen in TV shows such as in  Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What does the Triskelion represent?

The Triskele or Triskelion is a  symbol that consists of three interlocked spirals. It is one of the oldest Irish Celtic symbols in existence, and is best known to represent the three worlds; the celestial, physical, and spiritual.

It is also said to symbolize the connection between the three domains namely the earth, water, and sky.  

The Celts associate a variety of meanings to the triskele, with each of them dealing with some aspect of personal growth, human development, and spiritual progress. Examples of these are life-death-rebirth, past-present-future, and creation-protection-destruction.

Many other cultures around the world have adopted the triskele symbol over time because of the versatile meanings and aspects they represent. 

Creative Commons via Pixabay | By PlumePluome

An interesting theory regarding the meaning of the Triskele connects it with the concept of reincarnation. This is because the symbol consists of one seemingly continuous line that can be compared to the continuous movement of time.

The triskele is said to symbolize the whole process of always moving forward until one reaches a state of profound enlightenment and understanding. 

There is no single meaning or representation of the triskele, and it is interpreted in a variety of ways by the Celts themselves.

This versatility makes this ancient symbol significant not just among the Celts, but in other cultures as well. It is used by organizations in emblems and seals, to complement their core values, mandate and vision.

You can also find the triskele in product logos, to symbolize durability, stability, and strength. 

We also see the three spirals in art, decor, woodwork, and a lot of other things we see or use every day. The triskele design serves as both a statement and reminder of aspects that are important to us.


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