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Triquetra, What does it mean?

Updated on August 14, 2017
iantoPF profile image

Peter was born and raised in Wales. Is a fluent Welsh speaker with a love of the ancient traditions of his country. Student of Celtic legend

Triquetra on one of the Funbo Runestones, located in the park of Uppsala University.
Triquetra on one of the Funbo Runestones, located in the park of Uppsala University.

The sacred symbol

The Circles of Existence, sometimes called the Triquetra became popular as a result of the television series "Charmed" In that television series it is represented on the cover of the Hallowell sister’s “Book of Shadows” A book containing spells and incantations passed down by generations of witches. The Triquetra has a much older representation. The word “Triquetra” is a Latin word that translates as “Three cornered” However for the ancient Celtic people it had a sacred and special meaning. The Symbol has been found carved on stones in various parts of North West Europe and is found on the Irish Book of Kells. Its widespread use marks it as something more than decoration. We find the answer to the question of its meaning in ancient story and legend.
The three points have led to some in the modern Pagan movement claiming it as a representation of the Goddess in her three manifestations of Maiden, Mother and Crone or as a representation of the God in his manifestations of Youth, Warrior and Sage.
There is a much older definition where the sacred symbol of the ancient Celts represents three realms and an ability. In order to explain fully I have to use Welsh words but literal translations rarely convey the meaning behind a word. So here I am discussing each realm, using the clues found in the old myths and legends of the Brythonic Celts.

The circle of our mortal existence.

Source

Abred, our mortal home

The first Circle is called "Abred"
This is mortal existence. This is where we are now. Abred encompasses this Earth and all the other Worlds that exist on this material plane. We are born to live out our mortal lives here in Abred.
This mortal plane, this Middle Earth, is not some punishment nor is it a testing ground. It just is. It’s the place where we live a mortal existence and experience the “Cause and Effect” laws. Cause and effect are different to Karma. Karma is an individual experience. It refers to what may happen to the individual as a result of action or inaction. Ancient Druid worldview did not share that concept. Rather they considered all behaviour in terms of how it would effect everyone around. How would the action impact the circle of our horizon. Actions, whether good or bad have an effect and call us back to Abred. Only when we have learned to live without footprints, without disturbing the flow of the universe, then we will be ready to move on. Until then we are caught in the circle of our mortality, to die and return. This story illustrates the dilemma;
“There was once a priest whose duty it was to sacrifice goats. One day while preparing a goat for sacrifice he heard the goat laugh, a very human laugh. Surprised, he asked the goat why he was laughing. The goat explained that for the past 500 years he had been born as a sacrificial goat, to die on the altar and be reborn only to be sacrificed again but this time he was to be reborn as a man. The priest was pleased for the goat but then he saw a tear in the goat’s eye. He asked why the goat was sad. The goat replied; “Because 500 years ago I was a priest who sacrificed goats.”

Annwn, a place of feasting and of reflection.

A place of feasting and merriment
A place of feasting and merriment | Source
Sunset over Cefn Sidan. Can be grim and forbidding or a place of reflection.
Sunset over Cefn Sidan. Can be grim and forbidding or a place of reflection. | Source

Annwn, Death is not permanent

The second Circle is "Annwn"
When we pass from this mortal existence our spirit, that essence of us that is truly us, enters Annwn. For those who die bravely and honorably in battle this is a place similar to the halls of Odin in Scandinavian legend. Annwn is also a place of rest and reflection; it can be a home of joy and delight for those of a less warlike nature or for those who wish to rest from war. For the wicked it can be a grim and forbidding place but it is not an eternal resting place for anyone. After we absorb what we have learned and experienced we re-enter the Cauldron of re-birth.
We die into Annwn and are born into Abred to die into Annwn and so on. Each time, although we begin with a clean slate, not remembering what happened in previous incarnations, we smooth out the footprints of our past. We leave new footprints, for good or ill, they hold us to mortality until we are able to free ourselves.

Gwynfyd, becoming divine

Source

Gwynfyd, The "White Life'

The third Circle is called "Gwynfyd" literally "White Life"
When we have passed all the trials of Abred and Annwn it is time to move on. Now we go to Gwynfyd, known in Irish as "Tir na Nog" the land of youth. Here, in these undying lands, we face other adventures.
Druids kept a collection of Triads. Verses of three that were used both as mnemonics, to remind them of stories, and as fountains of wisdom. Two that speak of Gwynfyd are:
Three are the principal blessings in the circle of Gwynfyd, — freedom from evil, freedom from care, freedom from death.
Three are the prerogatives of the Divine, to be self infinite, to become finite in the finite and unification with all the various states of existence in the circle of Gwynfyd.
It would seem that the ancients considered that those who entered Gwynfyd became divine.

Triquetra, the sacred symbol

The symbol of the Ceugant
The symbol of the Ceugant | Source

Triquetra, the symbol of the Ceugant

Now it is time to add the three Circles together, where they intersect forms a sacred symbol that we have come to know as the Tri-Quetra.
There are beings that are able to travel freely between all three Circles or spheres of existence. These beings are said to live in the "Ceugant" They move among us without action. However, just being around them, being in the presence of certain people, we are inspired. Things happen without any action on their part.
Sometimes a fourth Circle is added to symbolize the Ceugant itself and the wanderers travelling through the three Circles.
This is the symbol of the Ceugant and the travelers of the Multiverse.

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    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Time may have twisted the translation for my father, but I swear he told me that the song he sang to me said:

      "Give me a pancake or I'll take a dump on your doorstep"!

      Hey that's what he told me!

      It may have just been typical of his sense of humor.

      Write on.

      CP

    • iantoPF profile image
      Author

      Peter Freeman 7 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Hello Christopher; Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes I would love to visit Vermont. So far I have seen relatively little of the states. Work gets in the way of life.

      Pancake Tuesday in the UK, or Shrove Tuesday as it's called by the church is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The pancakes in Wales and the UK are very different to the pancakes in USA restaurants.

      The Welsh word for Pancake is Crempog, There are a few words that English has borrowed from Welsh and this word is the origin of Crumpet. The only song I know associated with pancakes is;

      Modryb Elin Enog

      Os gwelwch chi'n dda ga i grempog?

      Cew chithau de a siwgr brown

      A phwdin lond eich ffedog

      Modryb Elin Enog

      Mae 'ngheg i'n grimp am grempog

      Mae Mam rhy dlawd i brynu blawd

      A Sian yn rhy ddiog i nol y triog

      A 'nhad yn rhu wael i weithio

      Os gwelwch chi'n dda ga i grempog

      Translates as;

      Auntie Elin Enog Please can I have a Pancake You have tea and brown sugar and your apron is full of pudding.

      Auntie Elin Enog

      My mouth is very dry for a pancake, My mother is too poor to buy flour and Sian is too lazy to get the treacle. My father is too ill to work. Please may I have a pancake.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Ianto,

      As I read your hubs I feel like I am coming home, becoming reacquainted with things familiar that I just couldn't quite remember.

      My father spoke Welsh before he learned English, but he had forgotten much of it by the time I came along. He used to sing me "The Pancake Song" that had something to do with the observance of Lent. He worked as a butcher most of his life, but I don't think he did many goats.

      You should visit Vermont sometime...4 distinct seasons and mountains reminiscent of Wales. There are many Welsh descendants in this area due to the lure of jobs in the local slate quarries.

      The more I learn from your hubs the more I want to know.

      Thanks.

      CP

    • catrak profile image

      catrak 7 years ago from Brazil

      thank you for sharing this!

    • iantoPF profile image
      Author

      Peter Freeman 7 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Most of my Hubs deal with Welsh Legend and the lessons hidden within them. Though not specifically about the language You might enjot my Hub on the Welsh National Anthem It's got Tom Jones making an attempt at singing it and then a stage full of Welsh entertainers singing the full song. I also have a Hub about my home town called "Sosban Fach" that has a California group of renaissance singers singing a Welsh song. I also was asked to write a Welsh song for the Halo 3 Xbox360 game. You'll find that under "Halo 3 ODST lyrics"

      I hope you find them enjoyable and interesting, but mostly enjoyable.

    • profile image

      Audrevea 7 years ago

      I think it even varies across Ireland (Dublin speakers would be slightly different than those in the West). It's not surprising really - there's a big body of water between the west coast of Britain and the east coast of Ireland. And they were tribal kingdoms rather than a single nation.

      I haven't read all your hubs yet, but if there isn't one on the Welsh language then please do write one. Spoken Gaelic is so lovely.

    • iantoPF profile image
      Author

      Peter Freeman 7 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Audrevea; You are too kind. Thank you. Celtic languages have two basic stocks, Irish belongs to the Goidelic, or Gaelic group while Welsh is of the Brythonic group. There are differences and similarities. For instance "Tir" means Land in both languages.

    • profile image

      Audrevea 7 years ago

      Tir Na Nog is something different in Welsh? That's very interesting.

      All your hubs are interesting. Why is your score not 305?

    • iantoPF profile image
      Author

      Peter Freeman 8 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales

      Thank you itakins. I appreciate you taking the time to read mt hubs. I hope I can keep you fascinated. :)

    • itakins profile image

      itakins 8 years ago from Irl

      Another fascinating hub.