“The human mind always makes progress,
but it is a progress made in spirals.”
Madame de Stael
I love spirals! Just look up images of ‘spirals in nature’ and you will find they are myriad and each one of them is so unique and so beautiful! I have been enamored with spirals, especially Celtic spirals, since I was a young adult.
As I grow older, I see my life as moving more in an upwardly-outwardly winding spiral rather than as a straight, or curvy, or branched path. It seems that life moves from the tiny inmost center and continually expands outward and upward at the same time. It seems to me that the lessons I have learned started small, and then are often revisited in a deeper and more expansive manner as I move through life, each time learning more, understanding more. The spiral pattern of life keeps on expanding outward and upward to infinity!
The triple spiral, or triskele, is a very ancient Celtic symbol often seen in pre-Celtic and Celtic art. It is found at many Irish Megalithic and Neolithic sites, particularly at grave sites where they mark the tomb entrance or tomb mound. The photo above is from the 5200-year-old Neolithic passage grave, Newgrange, in Ireland. I have had the pleasure to visit it twice, once with my son when he was 16 years old, and once with my daughter in 2017. The triskele is clearly visible on this immense stone, and many spiral patterns are carved on the other stones that form the structure of this grave. Walking around and standing inside this immense structure, surrounded by spirals and triple-spirals more than 5000 years old, is an awe-inspiring spiritual experience that cannot be fully explained in words.
In Christian times, the very ancient triskele came to symbolize the Trinity, where God, Christ, and Spirit intertwine with one another and with all of creation. The central space where the 3 spirals touch expresses a place of meeting, the place of such a vast emptiness and sheer mystery that, as humans, we will never be able to fully understand.
Of this spiral, Jan Richardson says, “We walk its path, inward, outward, journeying ever around the mystery at its center. As individuals and as communities, we are called to times of spiraling inward, to attend to our own souls. We are propelled in turn, into times of spiraling outward, to attend to the world beyond us. In all our turnings, the presence of God persists.” ¹
In the past 18 months, we have all had many, many moments of spiraling inward as we have been compelled to distance ourselves from others and from the myriad activities that we had previously been immersed in. It has been a time to settle in; a time for introspection, for slowing down and silencing, for going more deeply inward, for attending to our own souls, and for assessing what is really most important to us and to our loved ones.
Now the lesson, as we now begin to be able to spiral more outwardly, is to “attend to the world beyond us.” What is needed from each of us to move the spiral of humanity upward and outward? What part does each one of us have to play? What is ours to do that will help to continue to move humanity along on the spiral trajectory to triskele, where ALL of humanity is one with God~Christ~Spirit, touching and existing within the vast emptiness and sheer mystery of meeting?
God of the Twisting Path,
God of the Turning Spiral,
God of Revelation,
God of Infinite Mystery:
may this God enfold
and entwine you
in every step. ¹
– Rita Simon
¹In the Sanctuary of Women; A Companion for Reflection & Prayer by Jan Richardson