The triskelion or ‘triskele’ is also known as the tri-spiral or ‘Spiral of Life’. The three spirals in the triskelion are interconnected with no open ends thus creating one continuous line. Each spiral turns in the same direction. The three spirals represent balance, harmony and continual motion indicative of the flow of life and of the Earth in her seasons and cycles.
This symbol is found on many ancient carvings, the most famous of which is Newgrange in Co Meath, which dates back to 3,200 BC. The symbol is carved into the stone at the main entrance. It is one of the most famous stones in Megalithic art. The same symbol is found on one of the stones inside the chamber.
The triskelion is often thought to have Celtic origin, but it was carved at least 2000 years before the Celts inhabited Ireland. According to Celtic tradition, the triskelion is connected to the mother goddess. It is an invocation of the three material domains of earth, air, and water. The god Manannán is probably most often the one symbolised by the triskele, though some also use it for the goddess Brighid.
The Celts believed that all life moved in eternal cycles, regenerating at each point. Celts also believed that all important things came in three phases; for example: birth, death and rebirth and mind, body and spirit.
According to Uriel’s Machine by Knight and Lomas (2003), the triple spiral may represent the nine-month period of human pregnancy, since the sun takes a fourth of a year to go from the celestial equator (an equinox) to extreme north or south declination (a solstice), and vice versa. During each three-month period, the sun’s path across the sky appears to form a closely wound quasi-helical shape, which can be likened to a spiral, so that three spirals could represent nine months, providing an explanation for a link between fertility and the triple-spiral symbol.
What the symbol meant to the pagans who built Newgrange and other monuments is unknown; but, as Christianity came into the forefront in Ireland before the 5th century, AD, the triskele took on new meaning, as a symbol of the Trinity and, therefore, also a symbol of eternity.