Spirals can be found gracing ancient sacred sites in many places around the world, in intricate rock art and temples, architecture, and in petroglyphs. They are also used in decorative and ceremonial tools, pottery, clothing, and jewelry.
The spiral pattern can also be commonly found in nature, for example as a “logarithmic spiral” in the unfolding of a ferns, the spiral of a sea shell or a slug, vortexes (water, wind, etc.), galaxies, and so on.
Often considered a “primitive” worship symbol, spirals actually hold a remarkable connection to the movement of the sun and the earth in the cosmos, explained in The Path of the Spiritual Sun as follows:
While we often think of our earth’s rotational movement around the sun as being in an ellipse on a flat plane, it is really rotating in a spiral around the sun as the sun itself moves at great speed throughout space (at around 450,000 miles per hour) in its own rotation around a greater sun, in an even greater rotation around the center of the galaxy—dragging the planets of the solar system with it in a great whirling spiral. Recent evidence from NASA shows our solar system actually has a tail much like a comet because of its movement through space.
The spin of our earth, rotating around the sun, which is rotating around the galactic center, is a small spiral within larger and larger spirals, almost like the spinning hands of a clock, counting seconds, minutes, and hours of cosmological time.”
~ The Path of the Spiritual Sun 1 2
An illustration of how this cosmic spiral movement works can be seen in a video in the gallery above.
Spiral Symbol in Europe and Russia
Spirals frequently form a main feature of ancient sacred sites, often playing a role within the marking of solstices and equinoxes. For instance In Ireland at Newgrange, the light of the rising winter solstice sun enters the innermost chamber and lights up a spiral pattern along the back wall. Numerous other spiral carvings can be spotted within this 5000 year old complex, such as for example on the kerbstones at Knowth and Dowth.
Likewise it can be found in many ancient sites throughout Europe, such as in Scotland, Portugal, and Malta.3 It is a common pattern in the petroglyphs of the Guanche of the Canary Islands. It can also be found incorporated into architecture in Greece and Rome, such as for example in column designs, which can also be found in ancient Persia (Persepolis, Iran).
It also made a common appearance in the art and pottery of the Minoan culture in Crete. And likewise was found prominently in Cycladic ceramic objects known as “frying pans” from roughly around 2800 – 2300 BC (early Bronze Age) found in the Cyclades islands in Greece. These ceramics are not believed to be a kitchen object and their exact use is unknown, but they were named after their shape which is similar to a pan. Interestingly they were all decorated with symbols related to the sun.4
Spiral decorated pottery, jewelry, and other objects that are at times as old as 5000 years have been found throughout Europe. An example of a 5000-3000 year old ceramic from Danube Valley can be seen here.
At the ancient site of Arkaim in Russia, a spiral feature formed of stones can be seen on the ground.5
Spirals in the Pre-Columbian Americas
At Chaco Canyon, the ancient Anasazi center in the USA, a special arrangement of stone slabs and a massive spiral carved in the rock highlights summer solstice when a “sun dagger” pierces the center of the spiral. It also similarly marks the winter solstice and the equinoxes. The Anasazi people also incorporated this symbol into many of their petroglyphs and pottery. Other pre-Columbian peoples in the region also appear to have used this symbol, and it is quite prolific at many ancient petroglyph sites throughout the USA.
In Mesoamerican culture it was often incorporated into the architecture and symbolic adornments of temples and sacred sites, for example as a common motif on the feathered serpent. Interestingly it is said that the South American wisdom bringer Viracocha, who seems to have been the same person as Quetzalcoatl who brought the Religion of the Sun into central America, was said to have worn clothes with a spiral pattern. Quetzalcoatl is also the name of the feathered serpent deity in Mesoamerican culture.6
Spiral Symbol in Asia and Oceania
This motif has also been incorporated by cultures who came into contact with the lost civilization of the sun, such as the Maori of New Zealand who use special Moko facial tattoos featuring various kinds of symbolic spirals. Interestingly, 3000-4000 year old Caucasian mummies found in the Tarim Basin in China (recognized as having been part of a solar religion by archeologists) also featured spiral tattoos on both sides of their nose.7
The spiral symbol can also be commonly found in Bronze Age pottery and metallurgy in Asia, such as for example in the numerous Dogu figurines found in Japan, Bronze vessels found in China, and pottery found in Thailand.
- Ammonite fossil. Photo by Jonathunder, [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Unfolding of a fern. Public domain image found here.
- Low pressure system over Iceland. Public domain image found here.
- Newgrange in Ireland spirals. Photo licensed from BigStock.
- Spiral engravings at Dowth, Newgrange, Ireland. Photo by Dagmar Willhalm [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Spiral symbol at Knowth, Newgrange Ireland. Photo by Kevin Stroup [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Image modified.
- Malta spiral design temple of Tarxien. Photo by Ellywa [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Limestone spiral carvings, also found in ancient Malta megaliths. Photo by A,Ocram [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Prehistoric spiral petroglyphs on the island of La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Image licensed from Bigstock.
- Guanche petroglyphs found in Cueva de Belmanco in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Photo by Zyance [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Classical columns sketches — commonly used in ancient Greece, Rome, and subsequently throughout Europe, as well as Persia (Iran). Image credits: right: Public domain image found here. Left: Persian columns from Persepolis — public domain image found here.
- Real life marble column from Greece (c. 300 BC). Public domain image found here.
- Vessel featuring spiral symbol found at the palace of Phaistos, 1800-1700 BC (Minoan culture of Crete). Photo by Zde [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Minoan spiral fragment. Photo by Asb, [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Roman spiral pattern mosaic. Photo by Allie_Caulfield [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Cycladic ceramic c. 2700 – 2300 BC. Photo by Zde [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Cycladic ceramic c. 2800 – 2700 BC. Photo by Olaf Tausch [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Cycladic ceramic c. 2800 – 2500 BC. Photo by Zde [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Cycladic ceramic c. 2700 BC. Photo by Zde [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Cycladic pan fragment c. 2800 – 2300 BC. Photo by Zde [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Bronze Age fibulas from Serbia. Photo by Jozefsu [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Spiral pendant from Koban culture era in the Caucusus region. Photo by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr [CeCILL or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Bronze Age bracelet from Moravia and Slovakia featuring spiral symbol. Photo by Kozuch [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Bronze Age arm ring / bracelet from Germany c. 1200 BC. Public domain image found here.
- Bronze Age fibula from Germany. Photo by Photographed by Bullenwächter [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Spiral symbol from Hungary, Bronze Age, c. 2600 – 2300 BC. Photo by Bjoertvedt [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Similar spiral pendants from Bronze Age Poland. Photo by Tzawisko [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Bronze Age spiral from Sweden. Photo by Gunnar Creutz (Achird) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Illustration of Dacian gold bracelets (Bronze Age Europe). Public domain image found here.
- Dacian spiral gold bracelets. Photo by CristianChirita derivative work: Boldwin [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Illustration of more gold spiral bracelets from Romania. Public domain image found here.
- Anasazi spiral at Zion National Park. Image licensed from Bigstock.
- Ritual stone spiral pattern found near the ancient city of Arkaim in Russia. Photo by Zarina s96 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Sketch of spiral carving found near Novosvobodnaya, Adygea (Russia). Photo by Сергей 6662 [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Anasazi ceramic jar. Public domain image found here.
- Grand Canyon early Pueblo ceramic bowl. Photo by Public Domain [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Petroglyphs in Nevada in the Valley of Fire State Park, USA. Image licensed from Bigstock.
- Petroglyphs in Southern Utah’s San Juan County at John’s Canyon. Image licensed from Bigstock.
- Chaco Canyon spiral. Public Domain image via NPS found here.
- Hohokam Petroglyphs at Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park. Image licensed from Bigstock.
- Feathered serpent with spiral pattern at mouth (Mexico City). Public domain image found here.
- Feathered serpent at the Teotihuacan temple in Mexico. Photo by JK23JK23 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Dogu figurines from Japan. Photo credit: left: Photo by Rc 13, by [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Right: Photo by Vassil, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Jomon pottery with spirals (Japan). Photo by PHGCOM [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Prehistoric Ban Chiang pottery found in Thailand, dating back to bronze and iron ages, commonly featuring spiral symbols. Photo by Kiwiodysee [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Spiral pattern vessel from Bronze age China (Late Shang Dynasty Era). Photo by Mountain [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Shang Dynasty art featuring spiral motif. Photo credit: top left: Cooking vessel c. 1300-1046 BC — photo by Daderot [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Top right: Bat shaped vessel, 13th century BC — photo by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D., Professor of History, Sias International University, Xinzheng, Henan, China. [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Bottom: spiral covered tiger, c. 1200 BC — photo by Daderot [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Maori facial tattoos featuring spirals. Public domain image found here.