You may find yourself perusing our symbols and runes page and wondering just what the crap these squiggles and lines mean. Well, fear not! We’ve decided to expand a little on some of our designs so you know just what you are getting.
This is our first shape: the Norse Triskelion. You’ve probably seen it around before– lots of metalheads like to get this engraved into their very skin. It appears in a lot of video and board games, too, that wish to purvey that Norse or Celtic feel. This symbol is basically a direct way for your brain to say, “Ok, we’re thinking about Vikings now.” But just what does it mean?
Three is a sacred number in mythology and folklore. You’ll see it crop up anywhere, from three little pigs to the three ghosts that visit Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In a storytelling sense, having three of something is the smallest amount possible to establish a pattern. When threes happen in stories, it’s usually a sign of magic, important lessons, and general witchery. So the three arms of this symbol have, symbolically, a lot of power.
Threes in Mythology and Folklore
Which is why symbols involving threes are so prevalent in cultures the world over. Symbols that bear threes in this particular style are called triskelions, and they’re present all over the place. In fact, they are particularly popular in Celtic mythology, often relating to the Holy Trinity for Christians or the three worlds the ancient Celts believed in. A similar triskelion in Japanese mythology is themitsudomoe, a traditional symbol adopted by many samurai. This triskelion represents the bond between earth, man, and sky.
Triskelions also feature in modern-day flags. Sicily, Ingushetia, and perhaps most well-known, the Isle of Man, all feature different three-sided patterns that are important to their cultures. Ingushetia is one of the smallest regions in Russia, but the indigenous people there worshipped the sun and the universe. This strange symbol ties them all together, in the color red to represent the blood spilled by their people in their frequent conflicts. The green represents Islam, the prominent and greatly fought-over religion of the area.
The Sicilian flag features the head of the Gorgon, Medusa, with a triskelion made up of legs. These legs, 'like a beautiful woman,' represent the three beautiful shores of Sicily.
And finally, the Isle of Man's flag contains a triskelion of armored legs. Historians don't really know why the Manx chose this symbol to represent them, but it's been their symbol since at least the 13th century.
The Horn Triskelion
But the Norse have a triskelion, too, and it's called... wait for it... the Norse triskelion. Or the horn triskelion. This is because each of the three arms look like drinking horns. In fact, you may actually already know WHICH three drinking horns it means to depict.
If you have been following our blog for a while now, you probably remember when I wrote about the sacred mead of poets, made from the greatest poet of all, Kvasir. You may recall that Odin stole this mead from the giant Suttung’s daughter in three sips from his giant mouth and turned into an eagle, flying it away to Asgard where it could be kept safe forever more and distributed to worthy human skalds and poets only as Odin dictated.
Well, the triskelion is literally those three meads in their three horns– Óðrœrir, Boðn and Són. Put together like this, they represent– who else?– Odin and his wily, tricksy ways. This is a symbol for poets, skalds, people who have clever tongues and quick minds. This is a symbol for tricksters, historians, and musicians.
So if you choose to get this symbol engraved on your chosen alehorn, you’re essentially asking Odin to imbibe your drinkage with the same knowledge, cleverness, and quick tongue that the sacred mead made from Kvasir’s blood would give you.
Important disclaimer: Alehorn does not guarantee drinking alcohol from horns bearing the triskelion will make you clever-witted, charming, or a story-telling trickster. So be warned and use this symbol cautiously!