I was looking for something to use here on the blog as a symbol for Ireland or St. Patrick’s Day. I didn’t want to go the typical shamrock and leprechaun route. We’ve all seen enough of those. Instead, I began to focus on their triple spiral symbol, the triskele. It first showed up on the stones at Newgrange in County Meath, a large burial mound or temple which dates back over 5000 years, making it older than the pyramids of Egypt.
The elaborately carved stones featured three spirals which meld effortlessly into one another, as though it is a continuum without beginning or end. Though its origins and meaning are still vague at best, this triple spiral has come down through the ages as being symbolic of the trinity of later Christian believers and even found its way into the form of the ubiquitous shamrock. I think the mystery and symbology of the triple spiral is fascinating in the way it still resonates in some primal part of us. It is an elemental symbol, a part of who we are as a people. And by that, I don’t mean simply the Irish but all people. Everyone can identify with this symbol of the unity of time and constant rebirth.
Maybe this unifying aspect is why there is such great appeal of this day for so many, Irish and non-Irish alike. I know that while I drink a Guinness or two today, probably dressed in a Kelly green shirt as I listen to Danny Boy or some other maudlin ballad for the umpteenth time, I will stop for a moment and think of this trinity of spirals and feel a unity with the past. And the future and the present.
Maybe the song will be Carrickfergus. Here’s a version from Loudon Wainwright III that I very much like.