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Triskele of the Amfreville Gaulish helmet.
Gold cup from Mycenae decorated with triskelions, in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

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.

Both terms are from Greek "τρισκέλιον" (triskelion) or "τρισκελής" (triskeles), "three-legged",[1] from prefix "τρι-" (tri-), "three times"[2] + "σκέλος" (skelos), "leg".[3]

A triskelion is a traditional symbol of Sicily, where it is called trinacria;[4] the Isle of Man,[5] 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.

Contents

Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age use in EuropeEdit

 
Ancient Greek beaked jug decorated with triple spirals
 
Rhine Celts, electrum 'regenboogschoteltje' or rainbow cup with triskele
 
Triskèle Saint-Marcellin (in Isère / France)
 
Abbatial church of Saint-Antoine-l'Abbaye with a group of 3 triskelions (in Isère / France)
 
On the front of Abbatial church of Saint-Antoine-l'Abbaye with 2 groups of 2 triskelions and 1 biskel (in Isère / France)
 
The flag of Sicily, featuring the triskelion symbol and the Gorgon
 
The flag of the Isle of Man, is composed solely of a triskele against a red background
 
Flag of the Kumyks.

The triskelion symbol appears in many early cultures, the first in Malta (4400–3600 BC) and in the astronomical calendar at the famous megalithic tomb of Newgrange in Ireland built around 3200 BC,[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] The symbol dates back to when Sicily was part of Magna Graecia, the colonial extension of Greece beyond the Aegean.[9] 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[citation needed] from each other, pointing in their respective directions, the names of which were Pelorus, Pachynus, and Lilybæum.[citation needed]

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 an ancient Aryan symbol.[10] 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,[6] 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 Galicia and Northern Portugal (in ancient times it was part of southern Galicia). In Ireland before the 5th century AD, 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 usageEdit

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

Modern usageEdit

A triskelion is featured on the seal of the United States Department of Transportation.[citation needed]

A triskelion shape is the basis for the roundel of the Irish Air Corps,[11] and the logo for the Trisquel Linux distribution.

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.[12][13]

One of the most commonly used symbols of the BDSM community is a derivation of a triskelion shape within a circle.[14]

The South African neo-Nazi White supremacist White nationalist organization and political party Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging uses a Triskele composed of three sevens as its symbol in place of the Nazi Swastika.

The Flag of the Isle of Man bears 3 legs based on the Triskele.

The crest of the Breton football club En Avant de Guingamp combines the Flag of Brittany, the team colours and the triple spiral triskelion.

"The Gamesters of Triskelion" is a second-season episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

In the Marvel Universe, the intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the Triskelion as its headquarters.

The Triskele is also used as a prominent symbol in MTV's "Teen Wolf (2011 TV Series)" which draws heavily from Celtic mythology. A Triskele was used by some younger betas to keep from shifting & maintain calm. This happens by the beta repeating "Alpha, Beta, Omega" or "The Sun, The Moon, The Truth" over and over again until the beta is calm.

In Merlin (2008 TV series) it was used as symbol of druids.

Reconstructionists and neopagansEdit

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.[15] 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.[15]

Occurrence in natureEdit

The endocytic protein, clathrin, is triskelion-shaped.[16] The Ediacaran fossil Tribrachidium is also triskelion shaped.

GalleryEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ τρισκελής, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  2. ^ τρι-, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  3. ^ σκέλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  4. ^ Angelo & Mario Grifasi (1999-01-28). "Sicilia: Il Perchè del nome Trinacria". Grifasi-sicilia.com. Retrieved 2010-06-20. 
  5. ^ "Isle of Man Government". Archived from the original on 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  6. ^ a b "Newgrange Ireland - Megalithic Passage Tomb - World Heritage Site". Knowth.com. 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  7. ^ For example, the trislele on Achilles' round shield on an Attic late 6th century BC 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.
  8. ^ "Weddings in Sicily Taormina". www.weddinginsicily.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-09-15. 
  9. ^ Matthews, Jeff (2005) Symbols of Naples Archived 2009-10-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ The Aircraft Encyclopedia by Roy Braybrook, ISBN 0-671-55337-2, p. 51
  12. ^ "We Love Life: Music - 45 RPM Adapters". Welove-music.com. 2009-11-26. Archived from the original on 2009-12-02. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  13. ^ "Boing Boing: Gadgets - Twenty 45 adapters". Gadgets.boingboing.net. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  14. ^ Luminais, Misty (May 2012). In the Habit of Being Kinky: Practice and Resistance in a BDSM Community, Texas, USA (PDF). Washington State University. p. 121. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  15. ^ a b 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"
  16. ^ https://www.ebi.ac.uk/interpro/potm/2007_4/Page1.htm