Triquetra, What does it mean?
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.
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.
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
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
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.