Triple spirals: Magical, simple, complex

Chris and I loped up the hill toward the burial mound along with forty or fifty other tourists – T’s, as we referred to them, laughing at the irony of being both intensely irritated by the vast number of them and being T’s ourselves.

“Look,” she said. “It’s your spirals.”

Not quite.

Newgrange passage tomb entrance stone (photo from Wikimedia Commons because I couldn’t manage to get one without any T’s in it)

The gorgeous earrings I was given for my 59th birthday last year (thank you, loved friend, for the magical gift) have a simpler triskele design, but they are certainly kin to the triple spirals carved 5,000 years ago into the entrance stone and back wall of the Newgrange passage tomb.

My earrings were designed and created by Paula Scott Beltgens. When I asked her about the design Paula said:

The triple spiral has appeared across cultures and religions for thousands of years and perhaps that is why I find it so appealing – as though it defies any one meaning but is able to encompass them all, solid in its three-legged sense of balance. Like the labyrinth, the spiraling nature also speaks to me, cycling into the centre and back out to the edges – motion and stillness – life, death, birth – past, present, future – mind, body, spirit.

Sleeping, dreaming, waking.

Land, sea, sky.

No one knows what the spiral meant to the people who built the passage tomb, but it clearly held great significance. As Paula observed, part of its power is the way it encompasses many meanings.

Kathleen Smyth and Brian Scott-McCarthy of Wild Goose Studio, Kinsale, County Cork, created a triple spiral in bronze that closely resembles the ones at Newgrange. Their video about the design is well worth watching for its gorgeous videography.

Triple spirals have always spelled magic to me. Yet until I saw the ones at Newgrange on our first full day in Ireland, their power didn’t resonate in my psyche as it does now.

It was incredible to step inside that ancient space and walk along its narrow passage to the central chamber, knowing people walked that sacred corridor 5,000 years ago. They entrusted their dead to its protection. And, on the morning after the longest night of the year, they guided the light of the rising sun through its portal to illuminate the triple spirals on the tomb’s back wall.

As Paula said to me, there is a world of contemplation in the spirals’ complex simplicity.

And they hold magic, which I’ll tell you about in my next post!

Paula Scott Beltgens works with copper, silver, bronze, and polymer clay to design and create jewellery with spirit and meaning in her Vancouver Island studio. Her work is available online through Paula Scott Designs.

4 Responses to “Triple spirals: Magical, simple, complex”

  1. carin

    I’ve long been drawn to labyrinths but now I want to study spirals… (loving this armchair travel, by the way!)

  2. Sheila Peters

    Leslie – it’s so good to read these nuggets from your travels – to follow the signs that appear. You do a good combination of planning and welcoming serendipity. And I can’t wait to see your history of Cedarvale.


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