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A triskelion or triskele is a motif consisting of three interlocked spirals, or three bent human legs, or any similar symbol with three protrusions and a threefold rotational symmetry. Both words are from Greek “τρισκέλιον” (triskelion) or “τρισκελής” (triskeles), “three-legged”,1 from prefix “τρι-” (tri-), “three times”2 + “σκέλος” (skelos), “leg”.3 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.
A triskelion is the symbol of Brittany, as well as of the Isle of Man and of Sicily, where it is called trinacria.4 The Manx and Sicilian triskelia feature three running legs, bent at the knee and conjoined at the hip area. In Welsh the name given is trisgel, with the first part tri being the Welsh word for three.
Triskelion and spirals on a Galician torc terminal
The triskelion symbol appears in many early cultures, including the west’s first astronomical calendar in Ireland at the famous megalithic tomb of Newgrange built around 3200 BCE5, 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.6 A symbol of four conjoined legs, a tetraskelion, is also known in Anatolia. Celtic influences in Anatolia, epitomized by the Gauls who invaded and settled Galatia, are especially noted by those who theorize a Celtic origin for the triskelion.
Irish Spiral triskele
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 BCE8 predating the Celtic arrival in Ireland but has long since been incorporated into Celtic culture. A variant of the symbol is also found carved into the wall in the inner chamber of the passage tomb. Because of its Celtic associations, it is also used as a symbol of Brittany, alongside the ermine.
Fairies are pagan in origin and are found amoung all branches of the Celtic families. Once known as pagan gods and goddesses, the tradition to worship these little beings spread to France, Germany, and the British Isles. The Welsh peoples originally worked within a matriarchal society. They worshipped The Mother Goddess, and they called fairies The Mothers. Hence, Fairyland was always the Land of Women and fairies are often depicted as such.
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