- "Triskellion" redirects here. For the book series, see Triskellion (series).
A triskelion or triskele (which invariably has rotational symmetry) is a motif consisting of three interlocked spirals, or three bent human legs. Both words are from Greek "τρισκέλιον" (triskelion) or "τρισκελής" (triskeles), "three-legged", from prefix "τρι-" (tri-), "three times" + "σκέλος" (skelos), "leg". Although it appears in many places and periods, it is especially characteristic of the Celtic art of the La Tène culture of the European Iron Age.
Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age use in Europe
The triskelion symbol appears in many early cultures, the first in Malta and in the astronomical calendar at the famous megalithic tomb of Newgrange in Ireland built around 3200 BC, Mycenaean vessels, on coinage in Lycia, and on staters of Pamphylia (at Aspendos, 370–333 BC) and Pisidia. It appears as a heraldic emblem on warriors' shields depicted on Greek pottery.
Familiar as an ancient symbol of Sicily, the symbol dates back to when Sicily was part of Magna Graecia, the colonial extension of Greece beyond the Aegean. Pliny the Elder attributes the origin of the triskelion of Sicily to the triangular form of the island, the ancient Trinacria (from the Greek tri- (three) and akra (end, limb)), which consists of three large capes equidistant from each other, pointing in their respective directions, the names of which were Pelorus, Pachynus, and Lilybæum.
The Celtic symbol of three conjoined spirals may have had triple significance similar to the imagery that lies behind the triskelion. The triple spiral motif is a Neolithic symbol in Western Europe. It is considered a Celtic symbol but is in fact a pre-Celtic symbol. It is carved into the rock of a stone lozenge near the main entrance of the prehistoric Newgrange monument in County Meath, Ireland. Newgrange, which was built around 3200 BC, predating the Celtic arrival in Ireland but has long since been incorporated into Celtic culture.
A version of the Neolithic triple spiral symbol
Irish Air Corps roundel. A modern interpretation of the Celtic triskele
Solar emblem of Vainakh represents not only the sun and the universe but also awareness of the oneness of the spirit in the past, present and future.
The seal of the US Department of Transportation.
Coat of Arms of Füssen
Slinger standing left, triskelion to right. Reverse of an ancient Greek silver stater from Aspendos, Pamphylia.
Triskelion and spirals on a Galician torc terminal.
The Korean Sam Taegeuk
The flag of the South African Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging
Logo of Miss Asia Pacific World
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As Christianity came into the forefront in Ireland before the 5th century, AD, the triskele took on new meaning, as a symbol of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, therefore, also a symbol of eternity. Its popularity continues today as a decorative symbol of faith for Christians of Celtic descent around the world.
A triskelion is featured on the seal of the United States Department of Transportation.
A triskelion shape was used in the design of RCA's "Spider" 45 rpm adapter, a popular plastic adapter for vinyl records, which allows larger center-holed 45 rpm records (commonly used on 7" singles and EPs) to spin on players designed for smaller center-holed 33-1/3 rpm records (the standard for 10" and 12" LPs). The design was practical, the three curved arms providing equal spring and thus keeping the hole centred. The iconic design of the Spider has led to its adoption as a popular symbol for record and music enthusiasts.
A triskelion is used as the badge of the Victoria Highlanders FC, a Canadian soccer team based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
One of the most commonly used symbols of the BDSM community is a derivation of a triskelion shape within a circle.
Razer Inc, a company that produces computer components for gamers, uses a triskelion logo in the form of snakes.
Reconstructionists and neopagans
The triskele, usually consisting of spirals, but also the "horned triskelion", is used by some polytheistic reconstructionist and neopagan groups. As a Celtic symbol, it is found primarily of groups with a Celtic cultural orientation and, less frequently, can also be found in use by some Germanic neopagan groups and eclectic or syncretic traditions such as Neopaganism. The spiral triskele is one of the primary symbols of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism. Celtic Reconstructionists use the symbol to represent a variety of triplicities in their cosmology and theology; it is also a favored symbol due to its association with the god Manannán mac Lir.
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- τρισκελής, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
- τρι-, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
- σκέλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
- Angelo & Mario Grifasi (1999-01-28). "Sicilia: Il Perchè del nome Trinacria". Grifasi-sicilia.com. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
- "Isle of Man Government". Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- "Newgrange Ireland - Megalithic Passage Tomb - World Heritage Site". Knowth.com. 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- For example, the trislele on Achilles' round shield on an Attic late sixth-century hydria at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, illustrated in John Boardman, Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray, Greece and the Hellenistic World (Oxford History of the Classical World) vol. I (1988), p. 50.
- Matthews, Jeff (2005) Symbols of Naples
- Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore, Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers, 2nd ed., Dublin: The Liffey Press, 2008, pp. 168–169
- The Aircraft Encyclopedia by Roy Braybrook, ISBN 0-671-55337-2, p. 51
- "We Love Life: Music - 45 RPM Adapters". Welove-music.com. 2009-11-26. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- "Boing Boing: Gadgets - Twenty 45 adapters". Gadgets.boingboing.net. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- Bonewits, Isaac (2006) Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. New York, Kensington Publishing Group ISBN 0-8065-2710-2. p. 132: [Among Celtic Reconstructionists] "...An Thríbhís Mhòr (the great triple spiral) came into common use to refer to the three realms." Also p. 134: [On CRs] "Using Celtic symbols such as triskeles and spirals"