The symbol of the Isle of Man is a type of Triskelion, a Celtic symbol made of three legs
The ‘Three Legs of Mann’ is a quirky national symbol that goes back generations. If you ask a Manx man what it means, they might say “Whichever way you throw, it will stand” but this meaning only goes back to the 17th century.
The design and idea behind it probably originated with a spoked wheel or triple spiral which was important to the people who lived on the island thousands of years ago. It’s thought to represent a solar wheel and is an artifact of the island’s pagan past. Outside Laxey there’s even a carving of this design in stone that’s said to be at least 4000 years old.
Local artisan John Dog Callister weaves ‘Three Legs of Mann’ with rushes
These days you’ll find the three legs of man on t-shirts, tourist souvenirs, government emblems, home-wares, and even the Isle of Man’s flag. It’s the humble design that my friend John Dog Callister makes with wild rushes that is my favourite though.
At local events throughout the summer John Dog expertly weaves them for delighted crowds. He picks the rushes from the countryside and shows anyone who cares to watch how they can be transformed into rustic home decorations. He’s probably made thousands of both the three legs and his Bumbee cages by now.
Woven pieces made from rushes mature to a golden straw colour
The woven three legs of Mann design that I have pictured in this post is now three years old. John Dog made it for me at the 2013 Queenie Festival in exchange for some soap pieces that he wanted to use in a demo. I have it hanging on my office wall and over the years it’s dried to a golden straw colour. I’m actually amazed at how robust it is after all of this time.
Today of all days it makes me smile because today is Tynwald day and no doubt John Dog will be weaving them by the dozen for those visiting St Johns for today’s festivities.
Today is Tynwald Day, the Isle of Man’s national day
Each year on the 5th of July the Isle of Man’s government officials and leaders meet on the old Viking hill in St Johns to read the nation’s new laws. It’s going on now and as I write each new law being read in both English and Manx Gaelic to hundreds of locals watching from the grandstands.
My favourite part of the day is visiting all of the local producers including John Dog. I used to book a stall at the same event with Lovely Greens Handmade but I’ve cut down on the number of events I do in the past year. All the better, because now I can enjoy the event as a spectator.
If you’re heading down too, make sure to check out the Viking Village and make your way among the market stalls. There will be many fine producers and you might even spot John Dog. He also offers willow weaving workshops in the winter so if you’re interested in learning how to make ‘Three legs of Mann’, Willow Wreaths, or Willow Baskets, visit his website.