A triskelion or triskele
(Greek for "three-legged") is a symbol consisting of
three interlocked spirals, or three bent human legs, or
any similar symbol with three protrusions and a
threefold rotational symmetry.
A triskelion is the symbol of Brittany, as well as the
Isle of Man and Sicily (where it is called Trisceli).
The Manx and Sicilian triskelions feature three running
legs, bent at the knee and conjoined at the crotch.
Spiral forms of the triskele are often classed as solar
symbols, while the legged version, sometimes including a
gorgon mask or Medusa's head at the central axle point
in the Sicilian version, suggests a chthonic
The triskelion symbol
appears in many early cultures, including on Mycenaean
vessels, on coinage in Lycia, and on staters of
Pamphylia (at Aspendos, 370-333 BC) and Pisidia.
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.
The Manx Triskelion
In the Isle of Man' symbol, which is located in
the Irish Sea, the "three legs embowed" of the heraldic
triskelion are represented in armour, "spurred and
"On Manx banknotes, the triskelion appears within a rim
containing the Latin inscription QUOCUNQUE JECERIS
STABIT ("Wherever you throw it, it stands").
The Manx triskelion is documented since the 13th or 14th
century at the latest, and it is alternatively known in
the Manx language as the tre cassyn ("three legs").
The symbol appears on the Isle of Man's ancient Sword of
State, which may have belonged to Olaf Godredson, who
became King of the Sudreys (Southern Hebrides and the
Isle of Man) in 1226. Kneeling clockwise is the correct
symbol as it is said that bent or kneeling in an
anti-clockwise fashion signifies aggression in heraldry.
However, many Manx Churches show the anti-clockwise
The Sicilian Triskelion
Familiar as an ancient
symbol of Sicily, the triskelion is also featured on
Greek coins of Syracuse, such as coins of Agathocles
In Sicily, the first inhabitants mentioned in history
are the tribes of the Sicani and the Siculi, who have
given Sicily its more familiar modern name.
The triskelion was revived, as a neoclassic-and
non-Bourbon-emblem for the new Napoleonic Kingdom of the
Two Sicilies, by Joachim Murat in 1808. The symbol dates
back to when Sicily was part of Magna Grecia, the
colonial extension of Greece beyond the Aegean. Pliny
the Elder attributes the origin of the triskelion of
Sicily to the triangular form of the island, the ancient
Trinacria, which consists of three large capes
equidistant from each other, pointing in their
respective directions, the names of which were Pelorus,
Pachynus, and Lilybæum. The three legs of the triskelion
are also reminiscent of Hephaestus's three-legged tables
that ran by themselves, as mentioned in Iliad xviii: "At
the moment Hephaestus was busily turning from bellows to
bellows, sweating with toil as he laboured to finish a
score of three-legged tables to stand around the sides
of his firm-founded hall. On each of the legs he had put
a gold wheel, that those magic tables might cause all to
marvel by going with no other help to the gathering of
gods and by likewise returning to his house."
The Third Reich
Das Dritte Reich
("The Third Reich") is a 1923 book by German author Arthur
Moeller van den Bruck, the ideology of which heavily informed
the Nazi party.
The book formulated an "ideal" of national empowerment, which
resounded throughout a Germany desperate to rebound from the
Treaty of Versailles:
was Germany's Third Rome.
For Moeller van den Bruck, Germany's great misfortune lies in
the political system created by the Weimar Republic, one of
competitive parties and liberal ideologies.
An admirer of Mussolini, he looks for a strong leader. The Third
Reich adopted a variation on the triskelion as the insignia for
a Waffen SS division composed of Belgian
volunteers. It is claimed, possibly apocryphally, that the
similarity to the swastika caused confusion or distress amongst
some Jewish refugees interned on the Isle of
Man during World War II.
The triskele, usually consisting of
spirals, but also the "horned triskelion", is used by some
Polytheistic Reconstructionist and Neopagan groups.
As a Celtic symbol, it is found primarily of groups with a
Celtic cultural orientation and, less frequently, can also be
found in use by some Germanic Neopagan groups and eclectic or
syncretic traditions such as Wicca.
The spiral triskele is one of the primary symbols of Celtic
Reconstructionist Paganism. Celtic Reconstructionists use the
symbol to represent a variety of triplicities in their cosmology
and theology; it is also a favored symbol due to its association
with the god Manannán Mac Lir.
Wicca is syncretic in nature and often aesthetically adopts
symbolism from various cultures, particularly Celtic symbolism.
It is less commonly used amongst Germanic Neopagan groups due to
the non-Germanic origins of the symbol; use by Germanic groups
may be due to confusion or association with Norse symbols with
triple symmetries, like the Valknut, the Triquetra, or the
symbol found on the Snoldelev Stone.
"BDSM" is an abbreviation derived from the terms bondage and
discipline, domination and submission and sadism and masochism.
It defines a spectrum of usually sexual behavior, that can
include dominance, submission, punishment, masochism, bondage,
role play and a large variety of
BDSM can also be referred to as "kinky sex", "(consent) power
exchange", "fetish", "SexMagick" or "the lifestyle".
A form of the triskelion has been
proposed as a BDSM Emblem by some BDSM groups, partly based on a
description in the Story of O.
The specific emblem design is meant to be shown with metallic
spokes and circle, and three holes (not dots) within the design.
The South African white supremacist
paramilitary group, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), have
used a flag consisting of a red background with a white circle.
In the circle, three black sevens form a design distantly
reminiscent of the triskelion.
In spite of the similarities to the swastika (and the overall
resemblance to the Nazi flag, both having a black symbol on a
white disc on a red background), they claim their flag is
inspired by a Biblical meaning of the seven, and the fact that
the organisation was founded on the seventh day of the seventh
month, 1973 (from which the three 7's can be extracted).
A triskelion shape is the basis for
the Roundel of the Irish Air Corps (unique among air force
roundels). It is loosely based on the Flag of Ireland and
Celtic triskele boss designs.
The Triskelion is shown on the seal of Tau Gamma Phi, the most
dominant fraternity in the Philippines. A member of Tau Gamma
Phi is called a Triskelion.
The triskelion is accompanied by the motto "FORTIS VOLUNTAS
FRATERNITAS" on the seal.
A triskelion pattern forms part of the seal of the United States
Department of Transportation. The three spirals represent air,
land, and sea transportation.
The seal was adopted on February 1, 1967.
Triskelion is the name of the GSA at Brandeis University, one of
the oldest such organizations on the East Coast. It was named
for the Star Trek episode.
A fractal version of the triskelion, consisting of a large
blue-silver raised dot with three curved arms of similar dots
around it, is a major motif of the 2005 TV
series Threshold. It is the symbol of the aliens who invade