Q. What is the origin of the symbol triquetra?
— Betsy Schmuck
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Triquetra is a Latin word, meaning “triangular” or “three-cornered.” In its simplest form, the triquetra is three interconnected ovals — one pointing upward, the other two pointing down, to the left and right. Contemporary Americans may have encountered their first triquetra on the television series “Charmed,” but the symbol is much older.
Carvings resembling triquetras have been identified in Indian sites said to be 5,000 years old. In Western culture, the symbol seems to have appeared around the seventh or eight centuries in Norse Viking and Celtic cultures. It appears in the ninth century in the Book of Kells as a decoration, with no particular religious significance, and the symbol has been found in Norwegian churches dating to the 11th century.
Scholars and historians have not determined either the history of the triquetra or one interpretation of its meaning. However, because it is composed of three interconnected parts, different religious cultures ascribe various three-fold meanings to it. Among Christian Celts, the triquetra has come to be identified with the Trinity, especially since the 19th century. Contemporary pagans identify its ovals as symbols of life, death and reincarnation; earth, air and water; mother (creation), maiden (innocence) and old woman (wisdom).