A triskelion or triskele is a motif consisting of a triple spiral exhibiting rotational symmetry.

The spiral design can be based on interlocking Archimedean spirals, or represent three bent human legs.

A triskelion is a traditional symbol of Sicily, where it is called Trinacria; the Isle of Man, where it is known in Manx as Tree Cassyn Vannin, and Brittany where it is known as Triskèle. Ingushetia also has a (stylised) triskelion in its flag.

Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age use in Europe

The triskelion symbol appears in many early cultures, the first in Malta (4400–3600 BCE).

Also in the astronomical calendar at the famous megalithic tomb of Newgrange in Ireland built around 3200 BCE, Mycenaean vessels, on coinage in Lycia, and on staters of Pamphylia (at Aspendos, 370–333 BCE) and Pisidia. It appears as a heraldic emblem on warriors’ shields depicted on Greek pottery.

The triskelion is an ancient symbol of Sicily, with the head of the Gorgon, with snakes as hair, from which radiate three legs bent at the knee.

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 ἄκρα akra (end, peak, citadel), which consists of three large capes equidistant from each other, pointing in their respective directions, the names of which were Pelorus, Pachynus, and Lilybæum.

Sicilian triskelion

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.

Though popularly considered a “Celtic” symbol, it 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 BCE, predates the Celtic arrival in Ireland but has long since been incorporated into Celtic culture. The symbol is also found carved in rock in Castro Culture settlement in modern-day Galicia and Northern Portugal.

In Ireland before the 5th century, in Celtic Christianity, the triskele took on new meaning, as a symbol of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and therefore also a symbol of eternity.

Its popularity continues today as a decorative symbol of faith for Christians of Celtic descent around the world.

Asian usage

Traditional Asian versions of the triskelion include the Japanese Mitsudomoe, the Tibetan Buddhist Gankyil, and the Korean Sam Taegeuk.

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 used primarily by groups with a Celtic cultural orientation and, less frequently, can also be found in use by various 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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*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.