In today’s post, we will be examining one of the most prominent Celtic symbols, the triquetra. Here is everything you should know about the triquetra symbol, its meaning and origins.
The Origins of the Celtic Trinity Knot, Triquetra
The triquetra is one of the Celtic symbols that embody the ancient Celts’ belief that everything that is important in this world comes in threes. Also known as the trinity knot, the triquetra is formed by one continuous line that interweaves around itself, just like other Celtic knots.
The word “triquetra” means “three-cornered” in Latin. Although it has been generally accepted that the symbol is of Celtic origin, its exact source is still under debate.
Meanwhile, experts have an idea of how old the symbol could be. They based these assumptions on pieces of evidence that show the triquetra.
The trinity knot has been found on several heritage and historical sites. For instance, the triquetra — or at least, symbols that resemble it — has been found on heritage sites that are more than 5,000 years old.
The triquetra has also been found inscribed on carved stones dating as early as the 8th century in Northern Europe. Early Germanic coins also bear the Celtic symbol.
The legendary Book of Kells, also sometimes called the Book of Columba, also included the triquetra in its decorative artwork. The Book of Kells is an illuminated Gospel book manuscript in Latin that contains the four canonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The manuscript is believed to have originated in the 8th or 9th century A.D. Because of this evidence, it has been thought that the Trinity Knot bears importance in religion, especially among pagans.
Furthermore, the triquetra is also similar to one of the most prominent Viking symbols, Valknut (Odin’s symbol). This resemblance has strengthened the idea that the Triquetra may have been a prominent religious symbol, given that its appearance resembles the symbol of Odin, one of the primary gods in Norse mythology.
A Closer Look at Triquetra’s Appearance and Elements
As mentioned above, triquetra is just one of the Celtic symbols that resembles a continuous knot and embodies the concept of threes.
Based on its appearance, some believe that it may have been developed during Ireland’s Insular Art Movement, which came about in the 7th century. If this is true, triquetra’s design can be considered to be one of the simplest knots from that period.
The triquetra, along with other Celtic knots, had been rampant until the Norman Invasion, when this design movement started to decline. However, Celtic knotwork was still kept alive by those who patronized it and believed in the symbols’ meanings and powers.
By the 15th century, Celtic knotwork started to be seen again. Since the middle of the 19th century, during the Celtic Revival, knotwork designs were fully revived.
Considered one of the oldest Celtic symbols, the triquetra’s shape has a mathematical reference. Although they may look simple, triquetra’s trefoil knot is formed of three vesicae piscis.
A vesica piscis is a mathematical shape formed when two circles or disks with the same radius intersect each other in a way that their centers lie on the perimeter of one another (think the center of a Venn diagram). The shape is related to the Christianity symbol, ichthys, which looks like a fish.
Moreover, the triquetra is sometimes depicted to have a circle entwining the three vesicae piscis.
The Meaning of Triquetra and How Wiccans and Pagans Used It
Before Christianity, the trinity knot is believed to have been used by pagans to represent the three stages of life. It is also believed to symbolize the threefold nature of the “Triple Goddess”: mother, maiden, and crone.
The mother essentially represents creation, while maiden represents innocence. The crone, on the other hand, represents wisdom.
The three interlocking knots are also related to the forces of nature: earth, water, and fire.
The triquetra has also been thought to represent female fertility, as many think that the shape of the vesicae piscis represented the female reproductive opening.
How the Christians Adopted the Celtic Symbol Triquetra
Christians adopted the triquetra because it alluded to one of Christianity’s primary foundation, which is the belief in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, as the three vesicae piscis resembles interlocking fishes, the Christians linked it to Ichthys, which is now more commonly known as the “Jesus fish”.
As a Christian symbol, when the triquetra is drawn with a circle, the circle is considered to emphasize the oneness of the Trinity. The circle also symbolized God’s love for all.
Other Regional, Historical, and Cultural Uses of the Triquetra
Because the triquetra is a classic Celtic design, it has long been related to Ireland’s ancient culture. There’s also evidence that the ancient symbol was not only used by the Celts.
It is believed that the Germanic tribes from the northern parts of Europe also used the symbol, somehow proving that the symbol was not exclusively used by the Celts. The symbol was also traced in the Asian region, between Europe and India.
Moreover, the trinity knot is also sometimes called the Irish Love Knot, as it is believed to also represent eternal love.
The triquetra is also one of the Celtic symbols that are now being used in Modern Neopaganism as a protective symbol.
The trinity knot is one of the Celtic knotworks that are widely used today as a design. It can be seen in jewelry and is also widely used as a tattoo design. People who identify as modern Celts also use the triquetra to display their heritage and association with the Celtic culture.
The symbol is now widely used to represent the three major stages in the cycle of life: life, death, and rebirth. Some also associate it with the promise of love or marriage, particularly that of the husband to love, honor, and protect his wife.
Some also interpret the triquetra as the symbolism of the family: father, mother, and child. Meanwhile, there are also others who associate it with time: past, present, and future.
Ultimately, the circle that often interconnects the knots of the triquetra is interpreted as the representation of the bond between the three elements that the symbol denotes, may it be the Christian Trinity, the Triple Goddess, or time.
Triquetra Tattoo Meaning: Celtic Trinity Symbol Tattoo Ideas
Triquetra tattoos are quite common among people of Celtic origins and/or pagan, neo-pagan or Wiccan faiths.
Since the symbol represents the trinity of the mother, the maiden and the crone, which is one of the most important concepts in both ancient Celtic religion and modern Wiccan and other neo-pagan religions, a triquetra tattoo would be a perfect choice if you are a follower of such religions.
On the other hand, since it is an endless knot it can be considered a symbol of eternity. You can use it to represent the eternal nature of anything whether or not it is a trinity.
Check out our articles on other Celtic symbols throughout the top menu if you enjoyed reading this post about the triquetra symbol, the Celtic symbol for trinity, its meaning and origins.
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