Exploring Triple Symbol Meanings in Myths and Cultures
Triple symbol meanings and the power of threes…it is a phenomenon that’s been around since ancient times in many cultures. As a result, lots of symbols and icons have been created to establish three-fold meanings. This article on triple symbol meanings offers a whole list: From the triquetra to the trefoil, you’ll find triple symbol meanings here.
For countless reasons, the phenomenon of three is a very big deal. And when I say phenomenon, I really mean it. The evidence of trinities, triads and triples run rampant in a myriad of cultures and spiritual beliefs.
From the Christian trinity to the Celtic triquetra…the power of three is epic and it’s rooted in our ancestral customs.
Why does the number three demonstrate spiritual unity in such significant ways? Why not the number eight or twelve? Well, I have a few theories. Namely, the number three — from a numerological perspective — packs a powerful punch.
The number three is all about balance. But not just any balance…it’s evolved. Before three came along, there was number two. It’s important to recognize this because two is the building block for three (and triple symbol meanings). Two is the ultimate expression of balance. Every number has a core meaning. Three is about evolutionary unity. It takes the balance established by the number two, then brings it together to create something beautiful. What I am saying here is three is the manifestation of number two being developed…obtaining balance and then finding a new life or new structure within that balance. Three takes a triad of influences and energies and constructs them into a glorious balance. That balance works. It works on so many different levels. Here are some examples of how trinities work from cultures around the world…
A Few Triple Symbol Meanings
From Cultures Around The World
- Mind, Body, Spirit
- Mother, Father, Child
- Past, Present, Future
- Power, Intellect, Love
- Mother, Maiden, Crone
- Father, Son, Holy Ghost
- Thought, Feeling, Emotion
- Creator, Destroyer, Sustainer
- Creation, Preservation, Destruction
- Other World, Mortal World, Celestial World
More Triple Symbol Meanings From Different Perspectives
Need more proof that three is all about evolutionary, cosmic balancing? Here’s more:
In alchemical practice, there is a holy trinity of sulfur, mercury and salt. These elements make up the ‘Great Work’ in alchemy. The Great Work is the lottery – it’s the grand poobah of ultimate unification of power. Alchemy’s purpose is to strive for perfect harmony. That’s what turning metal into gold is all about. It’s not about getting rich with gold, it’s about harmonizing that which is human, and creating conscious gold from within. Salt, sulfur and mercury are simply metaphors used to illustrate a perfect recipe for inner balance. Learn more about Alchemy Symbolic Meanings here.
Not only are their three deities that create cosmic harmonic in Greco-Roman mythology, but there is a foundational trinity representing each god. So the foundational triad is this: Heaven, Earth and Underworld. The three gods that rule over this core triad are, respectively: Zeus – God of Heaven, Poseidon – Overseer of Earth and Sea, Hades – Commander of the Underworld.
This trinity system is similar to the Greco-Roman mythological concept. There are three deities that are the scaffolding for universal structure. Brahma – Ruler of Creation, Vishnu – The Great Preserver and Shiva – The Destroyer. The idea here is that through these three forces, cosmic balance and unity is achieved.
Asian belief systems deem the number three as perfect. It cannot be added to, or reduced in any way. It represents the perfect structure upon which the universe is built. The Chinese culture utilizes the number three in the Great Triad which is: Earth, Human and Heaven.
Pythagoras was a wicked-keen philosopher and mathematician in Greece around 500’s BCE. He associated symbolic language to the meaning of the triangle. In fact, he based an entire theory of perfect harmony based on the triangle. Each side of the triangle resonates with a fundamental quality. These three qualities are: Harmony, Unity and Diversity. If you think about it, these three qualities pretty much sum up our existence. We all require wholeness (unity). We all require balance (harmony) to be stable and whole. And to add a little sparkle to our lives, we need diversity – we need to know we are unique and different…like snowflakes…beautiful and special. All these qualities built into a triad represent full integration of the human condition.
It’s all kinda crazy, isn’t it!? I think it is, but crazy in a good way. Triple symbol meanings offer us structure in a world of perceived chaos and unknowns. Here again, this is why I’m so jazzed about symbolic meaning. Who would have thought something so simple and basic as a triangle, a trident (each protrusion of this weapon is symbolic of something depending on the culture) – or the number three would have such overwhelming, influential portent!?
If all this three business is overwhelming for you – just think of the triangle. It has equal sides. It is a self-standing structure with three parts. Without one side, that structure will crumble. There must be balance within three sides, three energies, three influences, powers, whatever. Maybe triple symbol meanings might become more real to us if we consider just a few visual representations. With that hope in mind, here are a few real-life symbols of the trinity and their meanings. Oh, and while we have triples in our mind – please understand these symbols are known by different names and meanings. I’m giving you the most common interpretations and origins of each triple symbol. So, if you know a symbol by a different name than what I’ve written…I’m not giving false info – I’m just covering the most referenced interpretation.
A Few Triple Symbols and Their Meanings
Also known as the ‘Weird Sisters’ symbol. Also known as the “Knot of Vala”, which is the Scandinavian symbol of the Valkyrie (which is sometimes depicted as three intersecting triangles). In truth, this symbol is known by many cultures and many names. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll give you the low-down.
In its most common form, this triple symbol of the fates represents three concepts of destiny, which are: Spinner, Cutter, Assigner. In Greek mythology, these three fates are sisters. As a whole, they are called the Moirai. Their names and functions are: Clotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Assigner) and Atropos (Cutter). These sisters were considered the catch-all for how our lives moved through time. They were weavers – hence their functions. One sister spun our lives into existence. Another sister assigned our fate in life. The third sister determined the end of our life. This is big mythology. If you take it down a notch, you can see the hand of fate in this symbol. Even if you completely dismiss the idea of fate, it’s tough to deny extraordinary and unique events in life that defy odds. Perhaps our lives are being spun by the Fates of the ancients. Perhaps not. Sometimes, for some of us, the only thing we can do to explain our life-circumstances is to lean on unseen forces tending to the threads of our destiny.
This is an ancient symbol that dates back to the Bronze Age (3300 – c. 1700 BCE). It represents things like basic culmination of elements that makes life work. Stuff like: Human, Nature, Cosmos. This triple symbol was sacred to the Celts. It was associated with their god called Trefuilngid Tre-Eochair.
He was a nature god who lived within certain trees that were honored among the Druids. These sacred trees are: Apple, Hazelnut and Oak. Check out my page on Celtic Ogham meanings to learn more about this trinity of trees. Each section of this symbol represents a branch of these powerful trees. Each branch stands for: Gifts from Earth (apple), Gifts from Gods (oak) and Gifts from Self-Awareness (Hazelnut). These triple symbol bunch of branches stand for: Humankind, Earth and Heaven. Later in history the trefoil represented the shamrock which was a pivotal symbol for Saint Patrick. He used this three-leafed shape to demonstrate the holy trinity to the Celts as an effort to convert them to Christianity.
This triple symbol is primarily female in expression. Where the circles cross in the middle is important. That shape in the middle is called a vesica piscis. A vesica piscis is sacred geometry that signifies the female ovum.
This might be TMI (too much information), but openings, vesica’s, and circles are ancient symbols of the female womb and/or her goodies down south (think vagina monologues). It’s true. Our ancient ancestors considered every opening or orifice to be a sign of the goddess, the divine female. From caves to ponds – the vesica piscis is a very big deal in symbolic language. Consequently, the triple ring resonates with female power. Each ring is symbolic of various feminine qualities like: Maiden, Mother and Crone. This marks the path a woman follows in her development through life. A triple ring also stands for: Mother, Sister, Daughter. This marks the path many women travel with family traditions and roots.
Also known as the triple-alpha symbol, this sign represents more expressions witnessed in the power of three. This triple symbol demonstrates the Nordic concept of three diamonds. These are also called ‘earth diamonds’ and they stand for: Earth, Air and Sea. This symbol is multi-faceted in the fact that there are four sides to each element that composes the trinity.
Each of the four-sided element represents the full extent of the elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water. The combination of all leads to the wholeness of nature and the universe. This symbol is thought to invoke powers of earth, weather and also enhance prosperity. There are variations of this symbol in early Celtic history too, which may point to the three phases of existence: Life, Death, Afterlife. In terms of a triple alpha symbol we dive into the concept of creation. The Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. As such, it stands for the beginning of life. The other features of the symbol speak of consequential stages of life. Together, they represent the same in Greek myth as Celtic: Birth, Death, Beyond.
This triple symbol is most commonly found in ancient Celtic archives. It’s also known as a Celtic triskelion. It defines the protection we all have access to under the universal divine laws which are: Sun – Giving of Divine Knowledge, Moon – Receiving Divine Illumination and Earth – Living Within A Realm of Provision. These are high and fine concepts.
Consider…the sun gives radiance, which is synonymous with knowledge and clarity. The moon shines light in the darkness which is akin to being illuminated in the shadows of our life. The earth gives us pretty much everything (food, clothing, life, oxygen, water, etc) which means it is the great provider. The triple spiral is also a Celtic symbol associated with the sacred and secret order of the Druids. Druids are the wise people of Celtic clans. They were the judges, teachers, law-makers, inspirational figures within the clans. Druids took their work seriously. So seriously, they could not reach the epitome of Druid accomplishment until they went through 20 years of training, or more! There are three sects of Druid training and position: Bard, Ovate and Druid. A bard is one who inspires with word, art, music. An ovate is one who heals, and is skilled in soothe-saying (seeing into the future). A Druid has achieved maximum accomplishment – he or she (yes, there is such a thing as female Druid status) has all skills of Bard and Ovate and Druid wrapped into one. This triple spiral is their symbol. They cycle through life with full capacity to help, heal, inspire and rule within the community.
As with all the triple symbols in this article, the world triad sign is rich with meaning. Many of its roots come from the Orient in which it was deemed as a mash-up of the yin-yang symbol. The third element is the union between male and female. To explain, the yin-yang, at its simplest, is the union and separation between male and female energies.
This includes polarities like: Dark vs Light, Life vs Death, Sun vs Moon, Left vs Right. You get the idea. Polarities can be like oil and water. They can be hard to combine, but our ancient ancestors understood polarities are essential to all life. You can’t experience good without bad. Can’t have light without dark. So what’s the third element? It’s the harmonic joining of polarity. It is the offspring of light and dark. It is that lovely and inexplicable expression of pure potential. Consider: When a male and female come together and produce a child…there’s really no way of knowing what kind of potential that child holds. Same is true with mixing black and white. Same with combining grief and hope. It’s a grab-bag of results when you combine polarities. That’s what the world triad represents. In a way, it’s one of my most favorite triple symbols. Why? Because it has stability and control (the constancy of polarities – dark/light, male/female)…but it has that essence of mysterious surprise. What happens when you blend opposites? Who knows. I like that. It’s the Jack-In-The-Box of the universe. Pop! 🙂
Closing Thoughts on Triple Symbol Meanings
In conclusion, this article on triple symbol meanings is just the tip of the iceberg. I tried my best to cover the most accessible of this type of symbol. I also did my best to cover all the historical implications that are linked with the triad in various cultures. Please realize my word is not gospel. If you have questions, start researching. The internet is an amazing resource, but there are still vessels of knowledge called libraries. There are also great resources in people. You never know what kind of wisdom you can dig up outside the internet. I’m just saying – I know what I’ve written here is accurate, but as with all symbolic meanings – there is an element of opinion and subjectivity. Your opinion matters. Cultural opinion matters. These opinions will influence the meaning of any and every symbol you encounter.
Having said all that, I hope you enjoyed this article on triple symbol meanings.
Please be sure to check out the links at the end of this page for similar articles. You’ll find access to Celtic symbols, triangle meaning, and tons of trinity symbol meanings.
As always, thanks so much for reading.
May you always stay trippy in a triple-kind of way.
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