Listen to this article


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with Triquetrum (disambiguation).
Interlaced triquetra which is a trefoil knot.

Triquetra (/trˈkwɛtrə/; Latin tri- "three" and quetrus "cornered") originally meant "triangle" and was used to refer to various three-cornered shapes. It has come to refer exclusively to a particular more complicated shape formed of three vesicae piscis (the leaf-like shape in between two equal diameter circles when both centers are on the circumference of the other circle), sometimes with an added circle in or around the three lobes. Also known as a "trinity knot" when parallel doubled-lines are in the graph, the design is used as a religious symbol adapted from ancient Celtic images by Christianity. It is similar to Odin's symbol, the valknut.

Ancient usage[edit]

Celtic art[edit]

The triquetra is often found in insular art, most notably metal work and in illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells. It is also found in similar artwork on Celtic crosses and slabs from the early Christian period. The fact that the triquetra rarely stood alone in medieval Celtic art has cast reasonable doubt on its use as a primary symbol of belief. In manuscripts it is used primarily as a space filler or ornament in much more complex compositions, and in knotwork panels it is a design motif integrated with other design elements. This widely recognised knot has been used as a singular symbol for the past two centuries by Celtic Christians, pagans and agnostics as a sign of special things and people that are threefold.[1]

Japanese use[edit]

The triquetra has been a known symbol in Japan called Musubi Mitsugashiwa. Being one of the forms of the Aryan Iakšaku dynasty signs, it reached Japan with the dynasty's Kāśyapīya spreading technology and Buddhism via Kingdom of Khotan, after which the Japanese sword katana is called, China and Korea.

Germanic paganism[edit]

The triquetra has been found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early Germanic coins. It presumably had pagan religious meaning and it bears a resemblance to the valknut, a symbol associated with Odin.

Christian use[edit]

The symbol has been used in Christian tradition as a sign of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), especially since the Celtic revival of the 19th century. When modern designers began to display the triquetra as a stand-alone design, it recalled the three-leafed shamrock which was similarly offered as a Trinity symbol by Saint Patrick[citation needed].[who?] have also suggested that the triquetra has a similarity to the Christian Ιχθυς symbol. The triquetra has been used extensively on Christian sculpture, vestments, book arts and stained glass. It has been used on the title page and binding of some editions of the New King James Version[examples needed].

A very common representation of the symbol is with a circle that goes through the three interconnected loops of the triquetra. The circle emphasises the unity of the whole combination of three forces. It is also said to symbolise God's love around the Holy Trinity.

Modern use[edit]

In contemporary Ireland, it is traditional for lovers to exchange jewelry such as a necklace or rings signifying their affection. The triquetra, also known as a "trinity knot", is often found as a design element is popular Irish jewelry such as claddaghs and other wedding or engagement rings.[2]


It is difficult to date the exact origin of the Irish triquetra, and whether it was first used in a Christian or pagan context; the distinctive interlace/knotwork artistic style did not fully develop until ca. the 7th century AD, but the triquetra is the simplest possible knot. Celtic pagans, or even neopagans who are not of a Celtic cultural orientation, may use the triquetra to symbolise a variety of concepts and mythological figures.

Due to its presence in insular Celtic art, Celtic Reconstructionists use the triquetra either to represent one of the various triplicities in their cosmology and theology (such as the tripartite division of the world into the realms of Land, Sea and Sky),[3] or as a symbol of one of the specific Celtic triple goddesses, for example the battle goddess, The Morrígan.

Germanic neopagan groups who use the triquetra to symbolise their faith generally believe it is originally of Norse and Germanic origins.

The symbol is also sometimes used by wiccans and some new agers to symbolise the Triple Goddess, or as a protective symbol.[4]

Popular culture[edit]

The triquetra is often used artistically as a design element when Celtic knotwork is used. Many who identify as modern Celts may use the symbol to display an identification with Celtic culture, whether they live in the Celtic Nations or the diaspora.

In brands and logos[edit]

In film[edit]

  • A necklace with a triquetra (trinity knot) pendant is used in the film Constantine to give its bearer a spiritual "bulletproof vest".
  • In the motion picture Thor a triquetra symbol is displayed on Thor's hammer Mjollnir in response to incantations and other magical stimuli.
  • In the 2013 film Safe Haven, a necklace with a trinity symbol was given to Katie by her husband.
  • In the 2004 film National Treasure, Nicolas Cage locates Trinity Church as the place where the treasure could be buried because of the symbol displayed in a flag.

In games[edit]

In literature and publications[edit]

  • The double triquetra is used to represent the Holy Trinity on the New King James Version Bibles, published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

In music[edit]

  • A triquetra is one of the four symbols on the cover of Led Zeppelin's fourth album, where it used as the personal symbol of bassist John Paul Jones.
  • The band Payable on Death (P.O.D.) uses this symbol on most of their CD covers.
  • The triquetra is part of The Script's symbol of "Science and Faith".
  • ApologetiX uses a triquetra as a logo

In television[edit]

The triquetra interwoven with a circle, depicted on the cover of the Book of Shadows in the American television series Charmed.
  • Michonne's katana in the TV series The Walking Dead features a triquetra on the inner crossguard. Custom-designed for the character, propmaster John Sanders intentionally chose the triquetra for its meaning as a triple goddess symbol.[5][6]
  • The triquetra in a circle became well known as the cover motif on the Book of Shadows in the American TV show Charmed. It represents the three sister witches' working together as one, and the sisters' "power of three" when united.
  • The triquetra symbol was featured in the Ghost Whisperer season five episode "Lethal Combination".
  • The Vampire Diaries season 5.07 – Death and the Maiden used the triquetra when Tessa had all three doppelgängers together and was trying to change the Anchor from Amara to Bonnie.
  • The triquetra is used in the fourth season of the TV series Falling Skies, where it is worn on a necklace by the residents of Chinatown. A much larger triquetra decorates the wall of a shrine in Chinatown. It is explained that the symbol represents unity, a core value among the members of the community, who wilfully decide not to fight the Espheni.


Topologically, the interlaced form of the plain triquetra is a trefoil knot.

Gallery of variant forms[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ In Search of Meaning, Dalriada Magazine 2001
  2. ^ McMahon, S. (1999). Story of the Claddagh Ring, Mercier Press
  3. ^ Mac Mathúna, Liam (1999) "Irish Perceptions of the Cosmos" Celtica vol. 23 (1999), pp.174–187
  4. ^ Cunningham, Scott (2004) [1988], "Rune Magic", Wicca: A Guide to the Solitary Practitioner, Woodbury, MN, U.S.A.: Llewellyn, p. 191, ISBN 978-0-87542-118-6 
  5. ^ Ross, Dalton; Snetiker, Marc (17 November 2013). "Michonne's Katana". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 30 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Keveney, Bill (12 October 2014). "'The Walking Dead,' up close and personal". USA Today. Retrieved 30 October 2016. 

External links[edit]