Celtic symbols have been around for ages and even today many people still incorporate them into their lives. It can be as tattoos, jewelry, or any form of artwork. From Celts, these symbols were significant and had had deep spiritual meanings to them. Among the most important Celtic symbols with a spiritual meaning is the Triskele symbol.
This symbol has been used by different cultures and religions beyond the celts. The concern, however, is that majority of the people using this symbol today may not have a proper grasp of what this symbol means or signifies. That is why in this article the focus will be exploring what the Triskele symbol is, its history, and the meaning it represents.
What Is A Triskele?
The triskele, also called Triskelion or Triple Spiral, is a trilateral symbol with three spirals or technically bent shapes protruding from the same center. It almost resembles a fidget spinner only the ends are spirals, of course, depending on the group of people, there are different variations of the symbol.
The name Triskele comes from the Greek word Triskelos, where Tri- means ‘three’ and -Skelos means ‘legs’. So, the meaning of the name is three-legged. The original symbol that consisted of the three legs coming from a similar center has been seen in many places, among the first being in Malta and Greek vessels. It is considered to be a complex Celtic symbol as well as one of the most important ones spiritually. It is also commonly associated with the Irish culture and thought to be one of the ancient symbols.
The Triskele History
As mentioned, the Triskele is the oldest symbol or at least one of the oldest symbols there are. It goes as far back as the Neolithic Age. The first appearance of the symbol is said to be from a Mediterranean Island named Malta between 4400-3600BC. It was later found carved on a stone at the entrance of Newgrange, an ancient tomb in Count Meath, Ireland that’s existed since 3200BC. This was the triple spiral form of the Triskele symbol.
The version that comprised of the three human legs, appeared on Greek vessels, shields, and later coins. An example would be the shield of Achilles around the late 6th century. It was also found of Egyptian vessels like jugs that date back to 1400BC. Artifacts and other findings suggest that it wasn’t until 500BC that the Triskele became popular in the Celtic culture. Celtic Christians later adopted it into their faith around the 5th century. Later on, countries like Sicily have had the symbol on their flag since 1848. Even today, the Triskele remains a popular symbol.
The Triskele Symbol Mean
Like the triquetra symbol, the triskele also does not have a definitive meaning. That is because over the years many different cultures and groups of people have taken the symbol and given it its meaning. It is said to be the Celtic symbol with the widest variety of meanings. But first and foremost, you must understand that the number three for Celts was extremely important. As such, they believed that anything significant came in threes. That is why most of their symbols are trilateral symbols.
According to the Celtic meaning, the Celtic Triskele represented the three worlds, that is the present/physical world, the spiritual realm, and the celestial realm of the sun moon, and stars. It also represents the three domains of time, the past, present, and future. There is also the representation of the elements, the earth, sea, and sky. The Celtics also saw the symbol as a representation of personal growth, spiritual progress, and human development. This included the cycle of life, birth, death, and re-birth, or creation, protection, and creation. In summary, the meaning also included strength and progress. The clockwise spirals represent one’s ability to move and overcome all adversities until one acquires profound understanding and enlightenment.
Christians adopted the Triskele as well, and like the Triquetra, they believed that it resembled the Holy Trinity, that is the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Other cultures in Asia, other parts of Europe, and many other places around the world have given the symbolic meaning of their own. For example, some people believe that a symbol is a representation of reincarnation based on continuous lines with no beginning or end that suggest time is always moving. In the Japanese culture the god of war, Hachiman, has a symbol called Tomoe that resembles the triskele and is commonly used as a family crest. The Tibetan Buddhist symbol, Gankyil also resembles the triskele and represents the different triplicities in Buddhist life. The Taegeuk is a Korean symbol associated with Korean Daoism and shamanism, also has a similar design to this symbol.
The Triskele In Modern Use
The Triskele symbol continues to appear even in today’s modern culture. It has also proven to be useful, given the number of places it appears or has been used. To start with, it features the flags of countries like Sicily, Brittany, and the Isles of Man. It inspired the orange green and white color swirl that is the insignia of the Irish Air Corp, as well as the seal of the US Transportation Department. En Avant de Guingamp, the Breton Football Club, also incorporated the symbol into their emblem. It is also the symbol that represents the BDSM community.
You may also see the Triskele symbol in many other organizations’ products, logos, and so on. You can also spot it in different art pieces like paintings, woodwork, stone carving, and another décor. The Neopagans have adopted the sign for its Celtic background and its association to the Manannan Mac Lir and its representation of the triple goddess. You may also find people having tattooed the symbol on themselves or wearing jewelry with its design.
As for pop culture, the symbol has appeared in many shows and movies. In 1968 there was a Star Trek episode named the Gamesters of Triskele. In the Marvel Universe, the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is named triskele. It was the symbol of the druids in the Merlin series.
Like many of the ancient Celtic symbols, the Triskele symbol has managed to survive this entire time and remain a popular symbol even in modern culture. This is mostly through its versatility in meaning that has changed from one century to the other. It makes the symbol relatable to anyone regardless of where they are from, their faith, or beliefs. While it is nice to understand the origin and base meanings of such symbols, you can simply give the symbol a meaning that you identify with better and is unique to you.