Some symbols of our ancestors are used by many cultures, such as the Tree of Life, the Triskelion or the Pentagram. Have you ever heard of the Irish Trinity Knot? You probably know this symbol made of knots that are similar to Celtic patterns. It was popularized in 1998 with the famous series: "Charmed", just like the Triskelion. In reality, this mystical symbol goes far beyond fiction and has existed since the dawn of time under the name of "The triquetra".
In symbolism, the triquetra is a three-cornered shape consisting of three overlapping or interconnected arches with pointed outer sections that resemble a knot. It is an ancient symbol with multiple meanings. As suggested by the initial syllable "tri", which means "three", and quetrus, "angles".
You've probably seen medallions, charms, sterling silver necklaces and other ring-shaped jewelry. The shape of this ornament is essentially a stylistic interpretation of a fish. Today, the word is commonly used to refer to a much more specific three-cornered shape, formed by three overlapping arches.
Christian meaning of Triquetra
According to Christian beliefs, the Triquetra represents the Trinity. These geometric shapes often include a circle emphasizing the attribute of spiritual unity or immortality. It is also a symbol of protection, emphasizing the fact that it cannot be broken. It is sometimes called the Trinity Knot or the Trinity Circle.
The use of this symbol was predominantly in Celtic influenced areas, such as the Irish and Scottish communities. Moreover, nowadays, this symbol is a vestige always very present in the Celtic culture.
Triquetra Wicca meaning
One of the most popular versions of the triquetra today is one that incorporates a circle into the design. The circle alone is a powerful shape. With no boundaries and no beginning or end, it has long been used as a symbol of magic and even plays a role in many religious rituals in cultures around the world.
In Wicca, a practitioner must "draw the circle" before the rite can begin. The circle here represents both a safe zone within which our modern-day witch friends are protected from outside forces (and also from invoked spirits). This enclosed space that contains the spells cast also strengthens their powers.
It is a common belief that the circle can be used to represent eternity, as it has no beginning and no end. This is why we often hear the expressions "the circle of life" and "the cycle of life and rebirth".
Its exact origins are unknown, but the symbol has been found in various forms on Indian heritage sites, as well as in sculptures in Northern Europe and on German runes and coins. The famous symbol has also been found in Celtic culture in the legendary Book of Kells manuscript, believed to date back to the 9th century.
For centuries, the creation of this symbol has been wrongly attributed to the Celtic people. To this day, there is no proof of the veracity of this information. However, this widespread belief gives the impression that this version of events is widely accepted.
While people most often associate this symbol of the intertwined loop with Celtic mythology, Germanic culture has also played a large part in anchoring these emblematic ornaments in European culture. Most European triquetra are less than 2000 years old, and many of its uses are clearly decorative rather than symbolic.
Triquetra symbol use
Uses of the triquetra have become much more common over the past two hundred years as the British and Irish have become more interested in their Celtic past. The use of the symbol in a variety of contexts is particularly important in Ireland. It is this modern fascination with the Celts that has led to erroneous historical claims about them.
Nowadays, the triquetra symbol has become a widespread decorative element: talisman, emblem, logos, tattoos etc.. It is used as a symbol with different interpretations:
- Life, death, rebirth
- Love, honor, protection
- Father, mother, child
Triquetra symbol of protection
In the neo-pagan culture, the triquetra represents the 3 phases of a woman's life:
- The young girl
- The mother
- The elderly woman
This symbolism can be found in different communities such as Wicca which echoes these stages of life with the symbol of the triple Goddess. The triquetra can also represent concepts such as the past, present and future, or, the body, mind and soul, but also in the Celtic philosophy of the earth, sea and sky.
Pagans have also sometimes considered it a spiritual symbol of protection against darkness, although these interpretations are often based on the mistaken belief that the ancient Celts attributed the same meaning to it. Nevertheless, different peoples have appropriated this symbol and its meaning according to their beliefs and culture.
Whether it is a magical, runic, mythological symbol or Celtic art, with such a wide range of meanings the Trinity Knot has multiple interpretations. The lack of information on the origins of the Triquetra does not allow to establish a unilateral meaning. However, far from being a bad thing, each of us can draw our own meaning from the Celtic knot.