Ancient symbols persist

Branding iron cmyk

This black branding iron was donated to the museum by John Kermode who used it on his farm near Methven until the 1960s.

Some people may recognise the three-legged design as coming from the Isle of Man.  No-one is really certain when or how the connection between the island and the design came about.

It certainly was in use by the 13th century. Perhaps it signifies the hardiness of the island folk as the motto associated with the design (in latin, quocunque jeceris stabit) means whichever way you throw it, it will stand.

The three legs are part of the family of motifs referred to as triskelion or triskele and can be found on prehistoric objects throughout Europe and even Asia.

For example, a neolothic underground tomb at Newgrange, Ireland, which was built about 3200BC, uses the design on the main door lintel.

Apart from its age, the fact that the legs or arms often face the rising sun suggests that it may have been a religious symbol from a universal pagan culture.

Some symbols and traditions of this ancient religion were adopted by the early Christian Church as a means to make the transition from the old ways to the new faith easier.

Festivals such as Easter and Christmas are well known examples. This theory would explain why the three-limbed motif, as found in the Isle of Man as well as on the flag of Sicily, would be allowed to continue to be used, while other pagan symbols were proscribed.

Like the shamrock, this figure could be said to represent the trinity and so was acceptable for public and official use.