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The Triskelion / Triskele Symbol: A Guide To It’s Meaning And History

The Triskelion / Triskele Symbol: A Guide To It’s Meaning And History
The Celtic Triskele, the Triple Spiral, the Triskelion… the Celtic Spiral knot.

Out of the many Irish and Celtic Symbols, the Triskele/Triskelion is one of the only symbols with such a wide variety of different names. 

The most frequently used are ‘Triskele’ and ‘Triskelion, but there are many others, which you’ll find below. Thankfully, the Triskelion meaning is much clearer.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from the history of this ancient symbol and what it symbolizes to where it can be found in Ireland today.

About the Triskelion / Triskele / Celtic Spiral

Celtic spiral knot

Photo left: Sergio Foto. Right: vilax (Shutterstock)

OK, to avoid confusion, I’m going to quickly outline the many different names that you’ll hear used to refer to the Triskele.

Keep in mind that some websites and blogs have invented nicknames for this Celtic symbol which have unfortunately caught on and added to the confusion…

There are six names that are most frequently used to refer to the ancient Triskele symbol. They are:

  • The Triskelion
  • The Triskele
  • The Celtic Triskele
  • The Celtic Triskelion
  • The Celtic Spiral
  • The Celtic Spiral Knot 

The Triskele / Triskelion meaning

triskele meaning

Photo by UnaPhoto (Shutterstock)

The truth behind the Triskelion meaning varies quite a bit online, depending on the website that you visit.

There tends to be a common theme (usually involving the number three) with many of the different symbols coveted by the Celts.

The Triple Spiral and the Importance of the Number Three

If you read our guide to Celtic symbols and their meanings, you’ll know the Celts believed that everything that was truly important came in threes.

As you can see in the photo above, this Celtic spiral symbol has three clockwise spirals, each of which connects from a central hub.

The Triple Spiral is a common symbol that can be found in both Celtic art and architecture. In fact, many believe that the Celtic spiral is one of the oldest symbols on earth.

Triskelion Symbol Meaning: What the Spirals Represent

But what’s with all of the spirals? The three spirals on the Triskelion symbol are believed to represent the three worlds:

  • The present physical realm
  • The spirit world of ancestors
  • The celestial world of the sun, moon, stars and planets

The flowing knot design represents the Celt’s all-important number three along with endless lines with no visible point of start or finish.

In a nutshell: The Celtic Triskelion meaning revolves around strength and progress and the ability to move forward and overcome adversity (represented by the appearance of movement in the symbol).

The History of the Celtic Spiral / Triskele

triskele symbol

Photo left: Jeanette Dietl. Right: Black Me (Shutterstock)

This Celtic Spiral is old. Very old. It’s believed that the Triskele is around since the Neolithic times, which is roughly 3,200 years BC!

The Triskelion was found carved into Newgrange (circa 3200BC) in County Meath. A tomb that’s older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.

Today you’ll find the Celtic Triskelion symbol on the roundel of the Irish Air Corps, the flag of Sicily and on the seal of the US Department of Transportation and.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Triskele Symbol

We’ve had a lot of questions about the Triskele symbol. While I’ve been able to answer some, there are many that either 1, make no sense or 2, are impossible to provide an answer to.

I’ve had a flick back through my inbox at the most FAQ about the Celtic Triskele that I’ve received and popped them into the section below.

If you have a question about the Triskele that we haven’t tackled, let me know in the comments section of this guide.

Is the Triskelion meaning different if used for a tattoo?

We get an awful lot of questions from people that are debating getting a Triskelion tattoo. The Triskelion meaning doesn’t change, regardless of whether it’s on the skin or on a t-shirt.

Can the Triskele meaning be interpreted as a symbol for strength?

Yes, it definitely could, although the Dara Knot and the Ailm are the more appropriated Celtic symbols for strength.

Is it seen as disrespectful to get a Triskele tattoo?

To be honest, I’m not sure. In my opinion, you generally have three reactions to tattoos involving ancient symbols:

  • The ‘Not-Bothered’ folks
  • The ‘Yea-That’s-Grand’ people
  • The ‘OMG-I’m-So-Offended-That-You’d-Disrespect-An-Ancient-Symbol-By-Putting-It-On-Your-Skin’ people

Do whatever makes you happy at the end of the day. Just maybe don’t get it tattooed on your forehead…

I’ve heard that the Celtic Spiral meaning is different from the Triskele

The Celtic Spiral is the Triskele… The confusion around this seems to be coming from a well-known tattoo design website that’s trying to make them out as two different symbols.

What is a Triskelion?

A Triskelion is an ancient Celtic Symbol that is widely believed to be one of the oldest symbols on earth.

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Friday 9th of September 2022

Thanks so much for sharing my father told me all about your culture and how beautiful the symbolism is so when he died I got a Triskelion tattooed at the base of my neck love it


Monday 8th of November 2021

Thanks for the information! I got a bit confused about how to determine whether a Triskelion is clockwise or counterclockwise though. Do you start from the centre of a spiral and follow it to the central hub of the Triskelion, or the other way round? (I tried to find that out on other websites as well, but found both ways.) Thanks. :)


Friday 25th of March 2022


I was thinking the same thing. I see on pictures of Newgrange that it turns counter-clockwise. I just hope that all pictures of the kerbstone in Newgrange have not been flipped and are shown in mirror view. One can do that with pictures obviously :) But - for now - I trust that it is counter-clockwise!

Lisa Thornton

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

Thanks for the info!

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