Spiral, in Latin, means “coil.” By definition a spiral is “…a curve on a plane that winds around a fixed center point at a continuously increasing or decreasing distance from the point.” Those are lofty words for something very simple. I am that center point, and from me emanate lines of energy. I determine if they are straight lines or curved. We have been raised to believe in a linear, start-to-finish world. That’s left brain thinking, the masculine, an outcome of patriarchy, or what social scientist Riane Eisler has identified as Dominator Culture.
We are living in a time of massive shifts, begging for more right brain, feminine approaches to life, the spiral path, what Eisler calls Partnership Culture. This is not about “women good, men bad.” It’s not about gender, it’s about the archetypal masculine and feminine energies we all carry. And it’s high time they come into union!
Spiral 1 – Masculine
Spiral 2 – Feminine
Spiral 3 – Union
During my spring 2011 Ireland tour, I wandered into a contemporary Catholic church in the center of a thriving beach town in Co. Sligo. I was stunned to find the triple spiral everywhere. On the doors and the floor, even carved into the backs of every chair. Oh, how I would love to have those chairs at my dining room table! Later that day I was introduced to Father Ian, the parish priest in the village of our B&B. He was curious about my spiritual path, and I was a bit guarded in sharing. I thought talking about the church with the spirals would be a safe conversation to have. I told him that I thought it bold to have the pagan symbol throughout a Catholic church. He said it is not a pagan symbol, it is the Sligo Cross. (I had to laugh—a county in Ireland has claimed a 5,000 year old stone carving as their cross!)
I went on to say that I see the triple spiral as a more contemporary trinity, more fluid, freeing me from the traditional linear Christian cross. Father Ian, with hands clasped behind his back, leaned into me and added, “The Christian trinity is fluid as well, you know.” I agreed, and then shared that seeing Jesus bloody and dying on the cross frightened me as a child. The cross has not been comforting to me, but the triple spiral is. Father Ian nodded in agreement, or at least nodded in recognition of what I said as my truth. We went on to enjoy a supportive dialogue about leading congregations, clergy burnout, and numerous other topics.
I was impressed to hear that there are three churches in Father Ian’s tiny village—his Catholic church, another an Anglican church, and the third a mainstream Christian church. Father Ian has called together meetings and shared worship services with the three religious communities, with great joy and success. He urged me to let him know when my next tour group comes to his area, as he would like to host a special interfaith mass with us. Perhaps the triple spiral really is the Sligo cross!
The triple spiral is fluid, filled with motion, and void one point dominating. Guides at Newgrange say it might be a sun wheel. A pagan friend in Ireland suggests it mimics patterns made in the rushing Boyne River just below Newgrange. No one knows for sure. Having visited Newgrange numerous times, I have come to see the triple spiral as a blueprint to shift energy. I call it to mind when I’m in stagnated either-or thinking, when I can’t decide between this and that, or when I’m stewing on what action to take.
Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic, describes beautifully a solution to dual thinking:
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
each other doesn’t make any sense.
Consciously traveling the triple spiral—whether through thought, using a pencil on paper, or walking between objects—always, always, always reveals a new possibility. It creates motion where there was once stagnation. What was stuck becomes unstuck.
The triple spiral is also a blueprint for acknowledging our three bodies—physical, mental, and emotional. Without all three engaged, I have come to believe that shift cannot fully happen, especially in the long run. We might have a mental “ah ha” moment, but without the body engaged it cannot take root. We might have an emotional “ah ha” but not feel it in our bodies. The triple spiral allows us to temporarily separate out the three bodies, and then rest inside the heart at the center.
In Kathleen’s book, The Anam Cara Journey, you’ll find a triple spiral worksheet in each of the chapters. You will be asked to sit quietly and ask your soul a question, and then begin to travel the triple spiral with a pen or marker. Sometimes it’s beneficial to pause at the center of each spiral, just being in the energy, before moving onto the next spiral. Trust your instincts and your wisdom. The triple spiral is the playground of your soul.