Just the facts on religion.

Triple Spiral

The triple spiral (sometimes called a trikele or triskelion) is a prehistoric symbol that appears most notably at Newgrange, a passage tomb in Ireland constructed around 3000 BCE.

At Newgrange, the triple spiral appears prominently on the entrance stone as well as on a stone inside the passage, suggesting a public and private role for the symbol.

It is extremely difficult to know the meaning of this symbol given its prehistoric date. As with all the abstract symbols at Newgrange, however, the triple spiral "clearly had significance in the context of burial ritual."1

The spiral design, though not often in triple form, appears in cultures all over the world since ancient times. It can represent a wide variety of concepts such as the sun, air, water, the creative force, birth and death, and the cyclical seasons.2

Triple figures and symbols were particularly popular among the Celts and pre-Celtic peoples of Britain and Gaul. Many Celtic gods and goddesses were depicted with three heads or in triads.3

This Celtic triple symbolism, which could possibly be a shadow of pre-Celtic Neolithic concepts, suggest three states of being (sleeping, dreaming, waking); the three worlds of Celtic cosmology (Heaven, Air, and Earth); and the totality of time: present, past and future.3

In medieval times, triple spirals appeared on Celtic Christian crosses and illuminated manuscripts (including the famous Book of Kells), where they represented the Trinity.

Today, the triple spiral is one of the symbols of Celtism or Celtic Neopaganism.

  1. “Newgrange, Ireland.” World Encyclopedia of Archaeology (2007)  

  2. “Spiral.” Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols (1987)  

  3. “triple.” Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (1997)  


Further Reading