Spiral Design

Spiral motifs, which can be found as early as in Palaeolithic rock art, can be recognised as a significant entoptic form, that is, a visual form that may loosely be described as intrinsic to visual neurology, such that geometric forms of this kind are common to hallucination and are particularly visually compelling. The association of the spiral with hypnotism is testament to this power and spiral designs can be seen as popular motifs in many ancient cultures particularly in Celtic and other Bronze Age art and especially in jewellery. As well as the single spiral, the triple spiral can be seen in Celtic and Greek artefacts, the meaning of which is not completely clear. Suggestions of the meaning of the spiral, particularly in Celtic cultures, include birth or rebirth and other cyclical phenomenon, with extended associations with the feminine. As a cosmological symbol it may be considered to represent contradictory notions of proximate change within a higher order of unity. It has been suggested that, at least in some cultures, such forms as these may derived from hallucinations during ritualistic action that may have involved the use of psychoactive plants. The anthropology of such use of psychoactive plants has established a theory of stages of hallucination, the second of which describes a tunnel or portal to a spirit world, of which the spiral is a significant motif.