triskelia

Isle of Man coin from the mid 1700s

Something about the Acrobat™ wheel reminded me yesterday of something I'd seen before: the three armoured and spurred legs that are on the Isle of Man flag, most often seen in conjunction with the TT race.  It is the potential springiness of a bent leg that operates much like the shock absorber on the Acrobat™ wheel that made the connection, rather than any overt visual trigger. 

As a heraldic device, as it has been since the 13th century for the Isle of Man, since ancient times for Sicily, the sources for such an odd conjunction of three legs, running clockwise, armoured or bare, are vague.  Idiopathic even.  
For Sicily, its triskele is supposedly drawn from the triangular shape of the island (original name Trinacria).  

The Isle of Man is a Gaelic island just 50 km from Ireland, culturally part of the Western Isles, overwashed with Scandinavian invasions.  The triskele of three legs was the emblem for a 10th century Norse king whose territory included both Ireland and the Isle of Man, perhaps appropriating the Celtic trinity of sea/wind/fire which form a triangle around earth. Earlier than that, histories simply say it is a pagan sun symbol.  The legs should run clockwise (according to the sun theory, sunwise being another name for clockwise) but I keep seeing it printed with them running counter-clockwise.  Like the reverse swastika of the Nazis, to change direction sometimes means something sinister. Having the Isle of Man used as an internment camp by Britain during WWII can't have helped. 

The Isle of Man TT race badge

Stephanie Whitesigns