When an inverted triangle surfaced in a recent advertisement for President Trump’s campaign, it stoked the debate that frequently surrounds the divisive leader. The symbol’s historical association with Nazi concentration camps enraged critics of President Trump and forced Facebook to remove the advertisements for “violating its policy against organised hate.” On the other side of the aisle, officials and supporters of the President’s campaign said that the symbol was only an emoji-like representation of antifa, the subject of the advertisement.
As the discussion continues, many Americans are pondering the symbolism of the triangle and its true significance. The solution is not as straightforward as you may have expected. The simple triangle has appeared regularly throughout history as a sign representing a wide variety of distinct concepts, with the earliest examples going back to ancient civilizations. Let’s examine the convoluted history of the very symbolic triangle.
Strength in Three
Similarly to how simple motions can sometimes be the most meaningful, simple shapes can sometimes convey the most profound message. The simple, yet oh-so-symbolic triangle is the ideal illustration. Throughout history, a basic triangle has been utilised to convey a staggering variety of meanings. As a figure with three sides, the triangle has an eternal link to the number three, which is frequently emphasised by its various metaphorical connotations. Mystical teachings, for instance, frequently rely on the power of three to achieve their objectives.
Numerology attributes a great deal of significance to the number three, including the capacity to bring good fortune. The concept that three is a fortunate number is the origin of the proverb “third time’s a charm,” and this relationship to good fortune is reflected in the three-sided triangle. Spiritually, the number three is associated with magic and intuition, as well as optimism, creativity, inspiration, and self-expression.
In the vast majority of triads, two of the sides represent two aspects that unite to form a third aspect. This is the fundamental relationship between the triangle and creation and creativity. In fact, the number is frequently associated with originality, rewards, and successful endeavours.
It may appear that a geometric triangle has nothing to do with the fight of the sexes, but historically speaking, this was not always the case. In ancient times, a standing triangle with its point at the top signified the “blade,” a male symbol. In the former patriarchal societies, the blade was a sign of male strength, fire, dominance, ambition, and values. The phallic overtones of the sign are symbolised by the upright point, which is meant to symbolise masculine authority.
The triangle is also implied in the male gender sign, which depicts an arrow resembling a triangle’s point. This emblem is derived from the Roman god Mars, who was revered for his manly strength and abilities. From a contemporary standpoint, the United States Army still use triangle-shaped rank insignia. A sergeant has more stripes than a private, a colonel has more stripes than a sergeant, and so on. The giving of more triangle stripes signifies greater power and authority.
In contrast, an inverted triangle with the point at the bottom resembles a stemless wine glass and is referred to as a “chalice.” In the past, the blade was intended to evoke phallic images, whilst the chalice’s more open shape was intended to depict the womb. In addition, water is the element most commonly associated with women and femininity, which could be related to the concept of a feminine chalice.
Ancient cultures connected women to Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Consequently, women were supposed to be aesthetically pleasing and warm, welcoming, and compassionate. The relationship to the gender emblem for females is somewhat less evident, although the female symbol includes what faintly like four little chalices formed by the bottom cross.
Geometric figures, including triangles, are prevalent in historical faiths. Numerous triangle-centered symbols existed long before ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Greeks utilised them scientifically in architectural projects. Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician famous for his theorem, felt that geometry played a much bigger role in the universe than mere mathematical applications. He gave far deeper connotations to many shapes, and his interpretations had a significant impact on the development of western philosophical beliefs. The most significant and enduring meanings that emerged over time were typically associated with religious or magical applications.
Numerous ancient civilizations employed triangles to represent religious themes. In Christianity, the triangle symbolises the Holy Trinity, which consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Greek and Roman mythology, triangular trinities included Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades (Greek) and Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto (Roman) (Roman). In Egyptian mythology, Osiris, Isis, and Horus constituted an additional significant holy trio.
The classic Star of David, the most generally recognised symbol of the Jewish faith, is created by superimposing a right triangle and an inverted triangle. Individually, the two triangles reflect the equilibrium of two opposing forces. Men, with their strength and authority, and women, with their gentleness and submissiveness, reflect these conflicting energies, if you look back to the concept of the sword and the chalice. The star formed by combining the two triangles represents a balance between the two forces. Important in Judaism, this sign is also seen in Hinduism and Buddhism, where it also represents balance in those religions.
Throughout history, the triangle has been used to symbolise several forms of spiritual and metaphysical trinities, including mind, body, and spirit; past, present, and future; life, death, and rebirth; waxing, waning, and full (moon); love, truth, and wisdom; and maiden, mother, and crone. Mahayana Buddhism concentrates on three distinct bodies: Dharmakaya, the unmanifested mode (the supreme state of absolute knowledge); Sambhogakaya, the heavenly mode; and Nirmanakaya, the earthly mode (Buddha on Earth).
On the darker side of religion, occultists and practitioners of occult rites employed triangles as summoning symbols. While the practitioner typically relied on performing rituals within the safety of a circle, he or she anticipated that the called entity would appear within a triangle drawn on the floor.
After so many years of math education, many individuals have learnt to view triangles solely in mathematical terms. The shape has an essential function in science, notably in engineering. Throughout history, triangles have frequently been employed to symbolise mystical and magical qualities that transcend factual knowledge. They are common in mysticism-related historical literature and artwork.
The origins of the concept of strength within the triangle can be traced to physical science. Triangles are the most durable geometric shape. The natural distribution of weight across all three sides of a triangle makes it much less susceptible to collapse. In mysticism, the triangle frequently represents emotional power and character, while it can also represent physical strength.
Depending on how it is utilised, the triangle’s adaptability demonstrates themes of magic, awe, and originality. None of the other forms can achieve this. A square has the same meaning regardless of its orientation, whereas a circle gives no diversity for establishing a different meaning. Inverting the triangle, however, results in a completely different meaning.
Aristotle and the ancient Greeks defined four physical elements: fire, air, water, and earth, as well as one nonphysical element: spirit or aether. These elements’ alchemist-assigned symbols were all versions of the triangle. Fire is symbolised as a right-side-up triangle, while its elemental opposite, water, is represented by an inverted triangle. The symbol for air is a triangle with a horizontal line crossing it at its apex. The Earth inverts this triangle so that the horizontal line passes through the triangle towards its base. The opposing, overlapping triangles of the Star of David symbolise the non-physical spirit element.
In numerous instances, the orientation of a triangle impacts its meaning. Triangles with the point at the top are supported by a sturdy base. As masculine force, strength is related with the fire and air elements and can be observed in the symbols generated by alchemists. With contrast, in the symbols for water and earth, the two feminine elements, the inverted triangle indicates feminine vitality. When the two triangles overlap in opposite places, the hexagram commonly known as the Star of David is formed. The combination symbolises both unity and harmony in addition to diversity.
In rituals, triangles were frequently employed, and triangular element symbols frequently featured in written magic and spells. Using unique elemental qualities, astrologers also employ the elements to characterise the different zodiac signs. Those with fire element signs are supposed to be daring, strong, and passionate, whereas those with water element signs are believed to have healing abilities and pure, tranquil dispositions. Air zodiac signs are thought to be excellent communicators with a wealth of intelligence and inventiveness. It is believed that signs with the earth element signify both grounded stability and fecundity.
Numerous of history’s most influential civilizations adopted triangles as symbols with profound meanings. Notable examples include the Celtic culture with its intricate knots, the Egyptian culture with its pyramids, and the Freemasons with their Eye of Providence, also known as the all-seeing eye enclosed in a triangle.
Particularly prevalent in Celtic culture are references to the number three. Evident in the triskelion, which resembles three interlocking spirals, the triquetra, which resembles a knot of rounded triangles, and other Celtic knot motifs. The frequent use of the number three in Celtic culture includes the classification of worlds as other world, mortal world, and heavenly world.
Pyramids are essentially three-dimensional triangles consisting of a base with four sides and four triangular sides, although the number of sides can vary depending on the shape of the base. The Egyptian pyramids are the most well-known historical example of the utilisation of triangles, but pyramids have also been fundamental components in magic and meditation throughout history. Numerous historical documents mention the shape, notably in relation to the use of crystals for purposes ranging from attracting partners to healing.
Many archaeologists believe that the ancient Egyptians adopted the pyramid shape for their graves because of Ra, the sun god of Egypt. According to legend, the god sat on a pyramid-shaped dirt mound that grew from the primordial sea. In keeping with this hypothesis, the shape resembles the pattern of the sun’s rays’ dispersion.
The valknut tattoo sign consists of three interlaced triangles. The name is derived from Old Norse and meaning “knot of fallen warriors.” Unresolved controversy surrounds the precise significance of the symbol. Archaeologists are uncertain as to why ancient Germanic tribes inscribed the symbol on artefacts, but they believe it has a connection to Norse mythology and the god Odin. The valknut symbol has appeared on significant items throughout history, such as a golden ring from the late eighth or early ninth century and a Viking ship discovered in Norway around the year 800. The Swedish picture stones Stora Hammars I and Tangelgarda have valknut symbols as well.
Modern usage of the emblem is typically associated with paganism and heathenism, though these are not the sole interpretations. The connection to Odin and the existence of the symbol on several items associated with monuments or cemeteries indicate a probable association with death in ancient cultures. Some white supremacist organisations have utilised the valknut as organisational emblems, which is a more contentious application.
In Hinduism, the Sri Yantra is a sacred geometrical emblem. It consists of nine interlocking triangles that radiate from a central point to form a total of 43 smaller triangles, the centre of which represents the boundary between the physical and spiritual realms. The nine main triangles point both upwards and downwards, representing the union of masculinity and femininity. Consequently, numerous individuals wear the emblem as a talisman for enduring relationships.
Modern gamers and fans of the popular The Legend of Zelda video games understand the Triforce symbol as a source of “ultimate power,” which is consistent with several cultural triangle interpretations throughout history. It refers to the Golden Goddesses in the game’s ancient literature: Din, Goddess of Power; Nayru, Goddess of Wisdom; and Farore, Goddess of Courage.
The Triforce is comprised of three triangles, each having its unique significance. The Triforce of Wisdom is positioned on the left, with its right base point contacting the left base point of the Triforce of Courage, which is positioned on the right. The Triforce of Power floats above the two and rests on their apexes. Together, the three triangles form a larger triangle with an inverted triangle-shaped hole in the middle. In the game, the crest of the royal line incorporates the Triforce symbol, and amassing all three Triforces establishes perfect balance and providence.
Darker Modern Usage
In the past, triangles frequently represented strength and power in a favourable perspective, however today, triangles might have negative connotations. For instance, historical inverted triangles were frequently associated with gentler feminine traits, but this was not the case in Nazi Germany. The Nazis put inverted triangles on captives’ clothing to indicate their classification. For example, red inverted triangles indicated political prisoners, and pink inverted triangles marked gay males. In recent years, the LGBTQ community has redesigned the pink triangle and used it as a memorial to the atrocities they have endured. The twin yellow triangles aligned in the shape of the Star of David identified Jewish inmates.
In daily life, triangles on roadways serve as ominous warnings of impending danger or causes for vigilance. The most prominent triangular sign in the United States is the Yield sign, which warns drivers to yield to cars approaching from other directions. If motorists disregard the warning, the results might be devastating. In some nations and occasionally in the United States, triangular warning signs display a variety of additional cautions, including the vital biohazard warning. Additionally, safety reflectors in automobile emergency kits are frequently triangles.
Beyond the scope of symbolism, a few geographical triangles send shivers down the spines of superstitious individuals on very opposite parts of the globe. The infamous Bermuda Triangle consists of the triangular stretch of water between Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. Many ships and aircraft have inexplicably vanished over the period of decades in the area known as the Devil’s Triangle. Their disappearances remain unexplained to this day.
On the opposite side of the globe, the similarly fabled Dragon’s Triangle spans the ocean between the Philippines, Guam, and Miyake, Japan, and has its own eerie history. The location, sometimes known as the Devil’s Sea, is the subject of legends involving a dragon that takes ships and sailors into the murky depths. The stories may be taken directly from a fantasy novel, but the unexplained disappearances are a cold, harsh fact.
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