The Triscele represents the triadic nature of Being

A Collection
Druidic Triads

Copyright ©, The Summerlands, Inc., Imbolc 1999
(see below)

The wisdom of the Druids was often taught in triadic form as a group of seemingly simple statements, yet with an almost fractal-like depth to the information provided. This page is dedicated to the gods of Druids and to Druids everywhere as a resource in better understanding the teachings of our predecessors and forebears.

The Triads have been stated and translated by some in academia but never truthfully in an academic way by Pagan folk to my knowledge. What we will present in our collection of Druidic Triads are the original Triads in their native languages, followed by the academic translations and then a Pagan interpretation of the Triad itself. This interpretation will many times be accompanied by definitions and discussions as they occur among the Druids of An Daire Draíochta. Currently, the Triads being presented are based upon discussions conducted by: Searles O'Dubhain and Topaz Owl.

The ancient Druids had specific stories in mind when they created such Triads for themselves and their students. In this way, each Triad could have been an index to the tales in much the same way that some consider Ogham were used to index knowledge and memories. This thought might cause us to consider whether there is an Ogham - Triad link. Such an idea would fit right in with the existence of the three phrase Ogham of Morann Mac Main, CúChulainn, and Mac ind Oic.

The three phases of body, mind, and spirit are associated with the Word Ogham of Morainn (the physical), the Word Ogham of CúChulainn (the mental), and the Word Ogham of Aonghus (the spiritual). They can also be considered as being representative of Past, Present, Future; Tradition, Experience, Inspiration; Body, Mind (in an active sense), Spirit (in the sense of higher level mental states). A judge, such as Morann was; a warrior, such as CúChulainn; and a deity, such as Mac ind Oic; would each represent a different perspective in the lives of people and the world.

To the Celts and other Indo-European people, the mind had a higher and lower function. In one consideration of the Ogham and the Dúile they have been partitioned into the above referenced states between action and spirit, at the dividing line between the Moon and the Sun. The Moon rules emotion, life force and the automatic responses of the body. It also rules, instinct, subconsciousness and intuition. The Sun OTOH governs image, self-esteem, consciousness, deductive reasoning and outward perception. Beyond them are the Stars and the Sky that connect us to the Gods and the Infinite Ones.

Within the Triads and the Ogham is contained the Wisdom of the Druids. When we consider such Triads in our discussions, let's look at each of them to determine if they could contain the structures of: Past, Present, and Future, or Mother, Father, Child, or even Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. If they have these sorts of things within them, then they might also be ranked upon a diagram in their order of association. As such, they would perhaps give us insights into the cosmology and spiritual belief of the Celts expressed as a knotwork, or tapestry, a living road map for where we have been, where we are and where we might expect to go. Not every Triad will have an esoteric or hidden meaning, though many have more than one meaning. Each one of the Triads will be more deeply discussed at An Daire Draiochta in The Summerlands and (it is hoped) on other Druidic lists and sites.   As our knowledge of them grows, we will expand the knowledge that is shared on these pages as well.


The Triads of Ireland

1. Cenn Hérenn: Ardmacha.

The Head of Ireland: Armagh.

2. Ordan Hérenn: Clúain Maic Nóis.

The Dignity of Ireland: Clonmacnois.

3. Ana Hérenn: Cluain Iraird.

The Wealth of Ireland: Clonard.

4. Cride Hérenn: Cell Dara.

The Heart of Ireland: Kildare.

5. Sruithe Hérenn: Bendchor.

The Seniority of Ireland: Bangor.

6. Cóemna Hérenn: Lusca.

The Comfort of Ireland: Lusk.

7. Áinius Hérenn: Cenannus.

The Sport of Ireland: Kells.

8. Dí shúil Hérenn: Tamlachta 7 Findglais.

The Two Eyes of Ireland: Tallaght and Finglas.

9. Tech commairce Hérenn: Tech Cairnig for sligid Assail.

The Sanctuary of Ireland: the House of Cairnech upon the Road of Asal.

10. Idna Hérenn: Inis Cathaig.

The Purity of Ireland: Scattery Island.

11. Reclés Hérenn: Glenn Dá Locha.

The Abbey-church of Ireland: Glendalough.

12. Féinechas Hérenn: Clúain Húama.

The Jurisprudence of Ireland: Cloyne.

13. Tech Foichle Hérenn: Fernae. T

The House of Wages of Ireland: Ferns.

14. Litánacht Hérenn: Less Mór.

The Singing the Litany of Ireland: Lismore.

15. Senchas Hérenn: Imblech Ibair.

The Lore of Ireland: Emly.

16. Bérla Féine Hérenn: Corcach.

The Legal Speech of Ireland: Cork.

17. Légend Hérenn: Ross Ailithre.

The Learning of Ireland: Roscarbery.

18. Téite Hérenn: Tír Dá Glas.

The Wantonness of Ireland: Terryglas.

19. Anmchairde Hérenn: Clúain Ferta Brénainn.

The Spiritual Guidance of Ireland: Clonfert.

20. Escaine Hérenn: Lothra.

The Curse of Ireland: Lorrha.

21. Brethemnas Hérenn: Sláine.

The Judgment of Ireland: Slane.

22. Dúire chrábaid Hérenn: Fobur Féichín.

The Severity of Piety of Ireland: Fore.

23. Áibne Hérenn: Ard mBreccáin.

The Delight of Ireland: Ardbracken.

24. Diúite Hérenn: Ross Commáin.

The Simplicity of Ireland: Roscommon.

25. Fáilte Hérenn: Ráith mBoth nó Druimm Lethan.

The Welcome of Ireland: Raphoe or Drumlane.

26. Desherc Hérenn: Dún Dá Lethglas.

The Charity of Ireland: Downpatrick.

27. Trichtach Hérenn: Dairchaill.

The [... Example] of Ireland: Dairchaill.

28. Fossugud Hérenn: Mag mBile.

The Stability of Ireland: Moville.

29. Martra Hérenn: Tulen.

The Martyrdom of Ireland: Dulane.

30. Ailbéimm Hérenn: Cell Rúaid.

The Reproach of Ireland: Cell Ruaid (Ruad's Church).

31. Genas Hérenn: Lann Ela.

The Chastity of Ireland: Lynally.

32. Trí tairleme Erenn: Daire Calgaig 7 Tech Munna 7 Cell Maigenn.

The three places of Ireland to alight at.

33. Trí aithochpuirt Hérenn: Clúnin, Glenn DáLocha, Lughad.

The three rent-paying places of of Ireland: Clonard, Glendalough, Louth.


> The Triscele represents the triadic nature of Being
Irish Triad 40

Trí srotha Hérenn: Sinann, Bóand, Banda.

The three rivers of Ireland: the Shannon, the Boyne, the Bann.

Tbe Triads of Ireland, collected and translated by Kuno Meyer, Ph.D.

This is a Pagan version of the same Triad:

The three streams of inspiration in Ireland: the goddess Sinann, the goddess Bóand, and a Good Woman..

To me, this triad is all about bridging the gap in the knowledge of the mind to allow the Grand Feminine nature that is in each of us to stream freely into being. When we invoke this deep well of inner knowledge and intuitive knowing we create a world around us that becomes a fertile land. There are dindshenchas about the encounters of Sinann and Bóand with the Well of Segais and in each instance a challenge occurs between the goddess and the well, with a resulting stream bursting forth and an act of creation occurring from the death of the goddess or a loss of her physical form. The idea of dying that is expressed in each instance is not an actual death, since both goddesses are of the Ever-Living Sidhe. I view these deaths as being a rebirth that occurs through an opening up of the ways of knowledge within the self.

The terms of the Triad from the Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL):

The word srotha is translated as rivers in the usage above, but can actually mean streams, rivers or currents. In a poetical sense, srotha means streams of poesy, as in the Cauldron of Poesy materials regarding imbas. This use of srotha would seem to be what is being indicated by the triad and not an actual river, as the first two river names are also the goddess names: Sinann and Bóand. The third river name in Meyers's translation is called the Bann, but the original name given in Old Irish is actually "Banda," which translates literally as "good woman" and is translated in the DIL as "feminine, womanly, pertaining to a woman."

From the Metrical Dindshenchas we learn this about Sinann and Bóann:

In the dindshenchas (place name story) about the Well of Segais and the Boyne River the story of how knowledge was brought into the world  when Bóann challenged the well. The story of the river Shannon parallels the creation story of the Boyne and further demonstrates how the Irish viewed all rivers and knowledge to be interconnected at their source. This source IMO is the Goddess Danu who is the Mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods of order and skill. She is the Mother Goddess of the Irish and the source of all rivers of knowledge.

Here's the Dindshechas about Sinann:

"The noble name of Sinann, search it out for us,
since ye venture to lay bare its origin:
not paltry was the action and the struggle
whereby the name of Sinann became immortal.

Sinann, radiant, ever-generous,
was once a maiden right active
till she met all earthly misfortune,
the daughter of Lodan from heroic Luchar.

In the still Land of Promise (Tir Tarngire),
that no storm of bloodshed mars,
the deathless maid gained the fame that was her undoing,
the daughter of bright Luchar, whom I celebrate.

A spring (not sluggish) under the pleasant sea
in the domain of Condla (it was fitting,
as we recount in telling the tale): -
to gaze upon it went Sinann.
A well of lasting sorrow
is by the edge of a chilly river
(as men celebrate its fame),
whence spring seven main streams.

Here thou findest the magic lore of Segais
with excellence, under the true spring:
over the well of the mighty waters
stands the poets' music-haunted hazel.

The spray of the Segais is sprinkled
on the well of the strong gentle lady,
when the nuts of fair Crrnmond fall
from its royal bosom bright and pure.

Together in plenteous foison
shoot forth all at once from the goodly tree
leaf and flower and fruit;
none of them all is unlovely.

In this wise, clear without falsehood,
they fall afterwards in their season
upon the honoured well of Segais
at the like hour, with like excellence.

Nobly they come, with bright activity,
seven streams, in an untroubled gush,
back into the well yonder,
whence rises a murmur of musical lore.

Let us recount the entire journey
whereon went Sinann of noble repute
to Lind Mna Feile in the west
with the choicest of her splendid equipment.

There lacks not any treasure we could desire
to the noble lady of the (bright ocean).save magic lore in its sequences:-
it was a wonted practice for her fresh life.

The Well fled back (clear fame
through the murmur of its musical lore!)
before Sinann, who visited it in the north,
and reached the chilly river.

The woman of Luchar full of gentleness
followed the stream of Segais
till she reached the river's brink
and met destruction and utter frustration.

There the comely lady was drowned
and perished under heavy injury:
though the woman of warlike ardour is dead,
her noble name clave to her river.

Hence with zealous affection
is called the Pool of the pure-white modest woman.
In every place (an easy visit) is known
the noble pleasant name of this Sinann."

The Well of Segais in Irish mythology is the Well of Knowledge that is accessed by knowledge seekers, Druids and Poets. It is said to have five or seven streams coming from it (one for each of the senses, depending on one's classification system). surrounding it, are nine hazel trees that drop their nuts into the well which contains the Salmon of Knowledge. It is this type of fish that Fionn was said to have accidentally tasted when he acquired his ability to divine and foretell. The tale of Sinann is a parallel to the tale of Bóann at the Well of Segais near Newgrange. It is an Irish Pandora's box type of story, yet it is more closely tied to the creation of the physical world and knowledge, rather than chaos and disruption. I see in the tale myself the process for obtaining knowledge that involves an inward journey (into the well) and a surrender to its source (akin to death and a second birth or initiation). In both cases, the source of the knowledge is approached through a feminine deity. Indeed the Irish Wisdom Goddess is named Brighid and is said to be a daughter of Bóann and The Dagda.

Many places in Ireland have such place name stories or "dindshenchas." There are three collections of them known: The Metrical Dindshenchas - collected and translated by Edward Gwynn (my source), the Banshenchas, and the Prose Dindshenchas. Almost all of these collections draw from the dindshenchas in the Book of Leinster. This knowledge of tradition and place surrounded a person in ancient Ireland. Every stream and hill had a story about the deities and the ancestors. The Land was a Goddess and also the living history of the People.

If we consider the instances for Sinann and Bóand in the triad, and remember that wisdom and knowledge are invoked from the Well of Segais by each goddess, then the meaning of the Triad becomes more than a river or a stream.  It becomes a stream of knowledge and awareness.  It becomes three streams of inspiration.


> The Triscele represents the triadic nature of Being
Irish Triad 63

Trí meinistri fer Féne: i.cích, grúad, glún. do.

The three halidoms of the men of Ireland: breast, cheek, knee

Tbe Triads of Ireland, collected and translated by Kuno Meyer, Ph.D.

This is a Pagan version of the same Triad:

Three sacred places of the men of Ireland:
the teat of loyalty, the honor of a blushing cheek, and the knee that is grounded in respect.

The triad talks about the "men" of Ireland as "fer Féne." This is a common reference in Old Irish literature and tradition to the armies of Ireland that are outside of Ulster. The triad also is clearly about the breast (or teat), the cheek and the knee and not the heart, face and knee. If we follow this progression, it gives us a baby's actions, a youth's actions and those of a mature adult in acknowledging sovereignty to another. The metaphor seems to be that sovereignty and loyalty are a life long affair. It was a common expression among the ancient Irish to say that they were "sucking someone's teat" to imply that they would be unquestioningly loyal to them. .

The terms of the Triad from the Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL):

cích - (a.) pap, (the female) breast. Of breast heart as seat of emotions. (b.) In phrases indicating attesting of loyalty, allegiance, good faith, etc., by sucking the breasts of recipient. As a token of asking quarter. Guarantee of breast and cheek (this definition gives the Triad as an example). (c.) suckling. (d.) recesses of woods or tops of mountains.

grúad I. cheek... blistering of cheeks. Fig. with reference to shame or honor shown by the cheeks. "I prove by my honor (lit. by my cheeks). II. the brow, the edge of a ridge or furrow; the convexities or the heights..

glún (a.) a knee. knee to ground. (b.) Fig. of persons (from the idea of the infant on the knee of parent or nurse): prop, support, sustainer. (c.) Fig. of family relationship: a generation. (d.) part of the framework of a boat.

There are many references in Irish to the texts where these words and their meanings were used. I think it can be seen that each can be a part of a structure of landscape; each can be associated with honor or support; each can be a characteristic of a familial relationship or a stage of life. The overall sense of the triad seems to associate greater things like places and concepts with reactions of a person as manifested through body parts and how they are used to express such relationships.

meinistri - A box or case used to carry vessels and other insignia used in Divine Service, or sometimes relics: sometimes translated, 'service set' or credence-table'; it formed part of the traveling equipment of a saint or cleric in early times; minister - A minister (usually of religion).

halidom 1. Something considered holy. 2. A sanctuary. [ME, OE haligdom : halig, holy + -dom, -dom.]

It seems clear that a halidom is a box for carrying sacred relics and objects, and can also be a sanctuary. Further (to me), the sanctuaries that are being considered in this Triad seem to be associated with men who are also sacred: a conqueror in the case of the breast, a leader in the case of the cheeks and a priest or king in terms of the knee. Each of these halidoms of manhood are associated with an outward action that also has an inward virtue: the sucking of the breast with loyalty, the flushing of the cheeks with honor and the bending of the knee with respect and service.

> The Triscele represents the triadic nature of Being
Irish Triad 65

Trí dotcaid threbtha: gort salach, iamur cléithe, tech drithlennach.

Three unfortunate things of husbandry: a dirty field, leavings of the hurdle, a house full of sparks.

Tbe Triads of Ireland, collected and translated by Kuno Meyer, Ph.D.

These are two Pagan versions of the same Triad:

Three misfortunes of a dwelling: an impure land, hidden refuse, and a house full of sparks.

Three misfortunes of a farm: contaminated land, a dung-heap inside the palisade or fence, and a house full of sparks.

If we look at the three meanings of the first Pagan Triad's components, I think we can see that what the Triad is trying to say is that a home or an abode is poisoned by the environment in which it is established (a land that is divided against itself or that has lost its spiritual awareness), the baggage that it inherits (prejudices and a loss of respect in the wayof living) and the potential for destruction that can occur from the frictions that arise from these causes (hence the sparks... something we see in flame wars that often happen on lists and news groups of the Internet, though I'm sure that the Triad means an unstable and viscious environment).

I think this Triad could apply in this sense both to the current environments of the United States (in the impeachment hearings and partisan politics), Ireland (the troubles) and Israel (the Palestinian question). If we wish to have fortune in our dwellings, then we must heal our land and re-evaluate our basic beliefs and practices. I am reminded of the wasting of the king in the search for the Grail.

In the case of the second Pagan version of the Triad, it may be better for understanding if this translation read "...a defiled field..." or maybe even better, "...a contaminated field..." Husbandry is farming, basically, so I would tend to go with a non-usable land interpretation. Iarmar cléithe would then be, loosely, a dirty or unkempt barnyard or the yard surrounding the dwellings.

These things are certainly about cleaning up your act! Things can't grow in contaminated or barren land, it would be unpleasant and unhealthy to have animal (or human) droppings unused inside the palisade that surrounds the living area (it should be gathered and used beneficially on crops -- on that barren land!), and if the fuel of your fire creates a house full of sparks, one is also careless with the fire and the fuel may be unsuitable. I am thinking that green wood creates sparks and burns inefficiently. More poor husbandry; not allowing your firewood to cure long enough.

The second Pagan version of the Triad is about keeping the land in balance for the optimum prosperity of the people and other beings it supports. When the land suffers, everyone suffers, and that is the unfortunate thing. That is what this triad is all about -- doing things right.

The terms of the Triad from the Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL):

Dodcad (dorcaid) is used for ill luck, misfortune.

Trebtas is a farm or a dwelling.

Gort can mean a field (arable or pasture land). A field of battle.. Land, territory. A corn crop, standing corn. Ivy. Fir. The Ogham G.

Salach can mean dirty, foul, though it seems to be more applied to things that are impure, vicious, or defiled, profane.

Iarmar - posterity, remnant, survivors. In a derogatory sense: leavings, refuse.

Cléithe has a wide variety of meanings; everything from a tree or a ridge pole, to a warrior band, to hiding, or concealing, to a fence, a palisade or a hurdle.

Tech usually means a house as in the House of Donn, Tech Duinn.

Dithlennach means full of sparks; sparkling, brilliant.

The two Pagan versions of this Triad are slightly different, but in many ways they are very similar. That is one of the strengths of the Triads as a teaching and learning tool. They provide us with a framework or a yard stick for evaluating a variety of life's situations. When the triadic measure is taken of these situations, universal truths are revealed, and often the way to correct or improve them   is also indicated.

Additional thoughts regarding this triad: a dirty field (in the context of crops or pasture) could also mean a weedy field, which would also mean a messy/aesthetically unpleasant/less productive field. Also, I see the triad form leading us from the outer edges of the property (field) to the inner places (inside the palisade, the yard) to the very heart of the home (hearth) though the "unfortunate husbandry" is an infestation.

The idea of coming from the periphery to the center in a Triad makes any Triad an individual statement of the process of creation as far as Celts were concerned (a complete expression of this concept can be found in "Coming into Being" contained within "Celtic Heritage" by Rees and Rees). Perhaps each Triad does this in order to show the way towards creative and triadic knowledge?

> The Triscele represents the triadic nature of Being
Irish Triad 127

"Trícoiri bíte in cach dúini: coire érma, coire goriath, coire áiged."

"Three cauldrons that are in every fort: the cauldron of running (?), the cauldron goriath, the cauldron of guests."

Tbe Triads of Ireland, collected and translated by Kuno Meyer, Ph.D.

This is a Pagan version of the same Triad:

Three cauldrons that exist within every human being: the cauldron of awakening, the cauldron of devotion, the cauldron of celebration.

In a sense, my own pathway to imbas involved these three steps (even before I knew the word describing the experience was imbas). In my youth, I pursued philosophy and truth with a passion, embracing meditation as a way of going within to discover for myself the meaning of life and my place in that purpose. It was only after I had committed myself completely to the task and meditated regularly on a daily basis for months, that a breakthrough occurred. It was at that time that the sudden light came into the darkness and I was uplifted by an experience of ecstasy beyond the bounds of form and body.

I view these experiences of my own as an alignment of the three cauldrons that carry one to imbas. I'll be the first to admit that my personal experiences with spirit have greatly influenced how I view the words and the teachings of the ancients in this matter. To me there is a truth within experience, tradition and imbas that harmonizes into a song of creation and being. That truth and harmony are the goals of my own teachings regarding the song. I hope to expand my cultural knowledge and skill in communicating so that the pathway will be less elusive for those who study the experience and who quest for their own sudden light.

The terms of the Triad from the Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL):

érma - Course, movement, motion.
érmach - Lively, spirited, mobile. A guide, ruler.

I have seen this translated as "motion," but believe it means more like when motion comes to a person from spirit, which is to say, when they become enlivened or awakened.

It seems to be associated with the Modern Irish word "éirim," which means:

1. Riding, driving; course, gallop; movement, journey.
2. Range, scope; tenor, drift.
3. Inclination, tendency, bent.
4. Aptitude, talent; intelligence

I see it more as an awakening of inner talents or gifts, finding oneselfand knowing your destiny.

Goriath - Pious.
Gor - Pious, filial, dutiful, warm.

The warmth of "gor" to me is associated with the Enclosure of Gorias which is the place of the Spear of Lugh. It is ruled by the Druid Semias, who represents the pathway or the opening of the ways to spirit. In my cosmology, I place this quality in the South where in lives music and harmony, hence I see it as devotion in terms of family and commitment. Gor is the essence of being dedicated to the tribe and the center of warmth, which is the heart and the hearth fire.

áiged - Act of driving, racing (horses). Act of celebrating, holding festivals. A pillar, upholder.

The last word, "áiged," appears to mean that which rises or impels. It is the life of spirit that comes out of an activity. It is the child of awakening and devotion. In the "Cauldron of Poesy" materials, these cauldrons are given as examples of the process by which a Poet gains imbas. The cycle of awakening (initiation), devotion (confirmation) and celebration (spiritual ecstasy) are the pathway to imbas IMO.

Many other Triads from all Druidic and Celtic sources will be presented as each day passes.

A Few Words About Triads

The Triads themselves are not exclusively of Irish origin, as wise people, (and The Wise everywhere among Indo-European peoples), and The People themselves, have taught their wisdom in this manner throughout the ages. Wisdom can be as deep as Creation. The further one goes into its well, the more one discovers that there is much more to learn and much more to experience. Such is the case with any one of these Triads alone. In a few words and a single Triad, wisdom has created wisdom. There are well known collections of Welsh and British Triads that will also be considered and presented on these pages, along with triadic wisdom from the Vedas and modern times. May wisdom grow in past, present and future!

Please feel free to contribute your thoughts and ideas regarding the Druidic Triads to us on the Bruidhean Message Board or members can continue the discussions within The Summerlands at An Daire Draiochta, The Druids' Gathering.

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