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The Meaning of the Triskele - Deciphering This Ancient Pagan Celtic Symbol

By Ciara O'Brien

The hypnotic curves of the Celtic Triskele will always retain their air of mystery – however, throughout the centuries, historians have worked hard to gain a deeper understanding of this ancient triple spiral design. Composed of three curving spirals, linked at the center, this symbol is also known as the Triskelion.

Newgrange Passage Tomb… The “Birthplace” Of The Celtic Triple Spiral?

At the sacred passage tomb known as Newgrange, located close to Drogheda, Ireland, mystical spiral designs dating back thousands of years adorn rough grey stone. These curving patterns are believed to be one of the first examples of triple spirals ever found in the British Isles. This Neolithic tomb was designed to highlight the beauty of the Summer Solstice – the passage tomb was built with skylights that let in the glow of the summer sun, thereby illuminating the structure from above. This historical landmark contains all manner of symbols and markings – however, the Triskele is probably the most well-known of them all…

While the carvings found at Newgrange predate Christianity, some historians still believe that Newgrange represented the beginnings of belief in the One True God. The composition of the Triskele is also believed to honor the Holy Trinity…each equal segment of this design is thought to honor the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, this spiritual, Christian meaning may have evolved later on, from more Pagan or Druidic beginnings…

The Power Of The Number Three In Celtic Mythology

Today, many Irish and Celtic symbols are composed of three equal parts – examples include the Irish Shamrock and the Celtic Trinity Knot. The Trinity Knot, which appears today on Celtic engagement rings and wedding bands, is very similar in composition to the Triskelion design. In fact, all three symbols share the same meaning…the power and importance of the number three is prevalent in Celtic symbolism, due to its association with the Holy Trinity.

heart triskele

Heart Triskele. Photo credit:

Before Christianity, the Druids also revered the power of three. According to their beliefs, the elements of the universe were of three distinct types –Gwyar, Calas, and Nwyfre – these elements represented (in order) blood, stone, and sky. Along with their earthly meanings, each element also had spiritual properties. Therefore, some historians feel that the Triskele is a perfect balance of the Druidic triad.

Unlocking The Secrets Of The Celtic Spiral

Now, we understand a bit more about the Triskele and how it relates to Druidic and Christian belief systems. However, there is still more to learn about the meaning of the Celtic spirals used in each Triskelion motif. This popular, circular symbol celebrates life force, faith, and eternity. Each turn of the spiral represents another milestone along the journey of life, death, and spiritual rebirth.

Today, the Celtic spiral appears on historical artifacts, such as The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript dating back to the 9th century. It also appears on Celtic jewelry designs – artisans honor the old traditions of Celtic culture by using the ancient symbols of their ancestors in rings, pendants, and earrings. In fact, the Celtic spiral retains its beauty and mystery throughout the centuries – this resonant symbol is an important reason why the Triskele continues to fascinate and intrigue generation after generation….


About the Author

At her online jewelry store and blog, Ciara O'Brien writes about all things Irish and Celtic, including the Claddagh ring.


The above guest post is published based on the premise that it will be helpful and informative. The opinions made within it are those of the author and not of The links you may find within this post do not necessarily imply our recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them.


greg says:

Associating the triskele to Christianity is absolute crap.

sunny says:

This is probably for Ciara (the author of the above article) to answer, but in my humble opinion and given the historical connotations regarding its origin, nobody has the monopoly over what Christianity really is or is not.

ron says:

Whether or not originally intended, I believe the triskele can be used to symbolize the Divine Trinity that we see in many shapes and forms. For example, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, or the Hinduistic triad consisting of the three leading gods: Brahma the Creator, Siva the Destroyer and Vishnu the Sustainer. In a more abstract sense, it may symbolize the Body, Mind and Spirit, or the Thoughts, Emotions and Will. According to the ancient motto "As above so below", the Divine trinity is reflected upon the material existence in the basic triad of Father, Mother, Child.

Getting back to original Celtic origin, this Celtic symbol may be a representation of the three worlds of Celtic mythology: the physical world where we live, the otherworld where the gods live and the celestial world where the forces of the celestial world reside.

chenda says:

Newgrange is a pre-celtic monument, and obviously had nothing to do with Christian monotheism. Its certainly the case though that the triskele a common feature of Celtic and later, Celtic Christianity. It also appears in many other cultures, including Germanic and Ancient Greece.

marco says:

All symbols are inherent to humanity as a whole, because we humans, despite the many superficial differences, are in fact one and the same folk. Just wanted to add my two cents. Greetings to all people of good will.

megan says:

The active symbolism of the triskelion round symbol includes: action, revolution, progress, cycles, and forward action. The lunar symbolism includes illumination, hidden desires, intuition, feminine, spirituality, and mystery.

Shea says:

Thank you Ron! You put into one paragraph exactly what I've been trying to gather over the past month.

gea says:

Which way is it supposed to face?

sunnyray says:

Like in the photo below

symbolic depiction of the triskelion

Patrick says:

How do we know whether it should have clockwise or anti-clockwise spirals? This one from inside Newgrange is anti-clockwise:

The most likely explanation I've heard for it is that it represents sunrise/midday/sunset.

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