4) Always tell the truth (in whatever way you feel most artistic at the time). It is absolutely manditory (x3x3x3) that a true Irish druid always tell the truth, but it is also manditory (x3x3x3) that he or she be very very very creative with words, and (three things) that they think of these two (not a druidy number - eck!) things as the same thing.
-- Droop the Druid's Guide on How to Be a Druid
It's almost always joked about when it comes to Druids - the number 3 and it's multiples. All jokes aside, the number held a lot of significance for the Ancient Celts as we can tell from a number (ha, pun!) of their myths, traditions, artifacts, etc. I've researched this tripling custom to historically justify the use of it for myself.
Some symbols common to the Celts are composed of three parts. The Druid Sigil, for example, is a symbol that been found in the foundation in sites of Romano-British origin. It is composed of a circle intersected by two parallel lines. Today, Henge of Keltria (a modern order of Druids) uses this symbol. There is the Triskele, a design which was most likely developped by the Irish-Christian Monks. In some designs, a sort of pie-circle of three parts, but the lines inside the circle swirl together. In others, a triangular form with three main parts. (See illus. below.) Jennifer Smith, runecaster and maker, founder of Tara Hill Designs, uses the Triskele as a base for her castings, representing the physical, mental or spiritual aspect of the prediction.
Curiously, runes are Norse in origin, a culture that also valued the number three, along with many other Indo-European cultures. I reason that the number must have had an immense influence if it's influence survived until today in the forms of the Holy Trinity, for example, or as common clichés in the English language.
Among different mythologies we also come upon triplets, and here are but a few. As aforementioned, most Christians believe in the Holy Trinity. Let,s also not forget the Three Wise Men. The Hindu also have an aspect of three in their patheon: dieties Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva have three heads. The Greeks have the Three Furies. The Norse have The Three Norns, the three sisters (often considered Goddesses) of fate. Unsurprisingly, thse triplings also exist in confusing Celtic pantheon. The Morrigù, for example, somes seems to be a combinations of the Godesses Babd, Morrigan, and Nemain. There sia lso the representation of the female in three different life stages: maiden, mother, crone.
In our modern world, I find this "trinary logic" makes perfect sense. 3 meals a day. Solid, Liquid, Gas. 3 dimensions. 3 classes. 3rtd times a charm
The Celtic Triads were a series of traditional laws, traditions, and customs recorded in a sort of poetic-triplet form. In the days of the Ancient Celts the people did not use writing and instead taught orally. I find it therefore makes sense that everything would be remembered as a triad: short, consise and pleasing to the ear. Afterall, doesn't a listing like that sound better when there are three?
Research seems to point out that it was only with the coming of Christianity that women began to lose their legal status. Celtic society is said to have been considerably egalitarian, it's women enjoying more rights then any other culture at that time. If you read through many triads, you'll find as I did that many of them are quite sexist and also contain terms related to the Christian Church. I've concluded that this is due simply to the fact that these laws were probably only written and/or translated after Christianity, and therefore would have been changed in order to make more sense for their culture.
Below is a selection of Irish Triads, gathered from various sources, translated into English that I find clever and still applicable to my own life.
|Trí duirn ata dech for bith: dorn degsháir, dorn degmná, dorn deggobann.||Three hands that are best in the world: the hand of a good carpenter, the hand of a skilled woman, the hand of a good smith|
|Tréde conaittig fírinne: mess, tomus, cubus.||Three things which justice demands: judgment, measure, conscience|
|Tréde ara carthar escara: máin, cruth, innraccus.||Three things for which an enemy is loved: wealth, beauty, worth.* (fame)|
|Trí buirb in betha: óc contibi sen, slán contibi galarach, gáeth contibi báeth.||Three rude ones of the world: a youngster mocking an old man, a healthy person mocking an invalid, a wise man mocking a fool.|
|Trí buidir in betha: robud do throich, airchisecht fri faigdech, cosc mná báithe do drúis.||Three deaf ones of the world: warning to a doomed man, mocking* (pitying) a beggar, keeping a loose woman from lust.|
|Trí óible adannat seirc: gnúis, alaig, erlabra.||Three sparks that kindle love: a face, demeanour, speech.|
|Trí comartha clúanaigi: búaidriud scél, cluiche tenn, abucht co n-imdergad.||Three ungentlemanly things: interrupting stories, a mischievous game, jesting so as to raise a blush.|
|Trí báis ata ferr bethaid: bás iach, bás muicce méithe, bás foglada.||Three deaths that are better than life: the death of a salmon, the death of a fat pig, the death of a robber.* (of a criminal)|
|Trí fuiric thige degduni: cuirm, fothrucud, tene mór.||Three preparations of a good man's house: ale, a bath, a large fire.|
|Trí gretha tige degláich: grith fodla, grith suide, grith coméirge.||Three shouts of a good warrior's house: the shout of distribution, the shout of sitting down, the shout of rising up.|
|Trí hingena berta miscais do míthocod: labra, lesca, anidna.||Three maidens that bring hatred upon misfortune: talking, laziness, insincerity.|
|Trí hingena berta seirc do cháintocud: túa, éscuss, idnae.||Three maidens that bring love to good fortune: silence, diligence, sincerity.|
|Tréde neimthigedar crossán: rige óile, rige théighe, rige bronn.||Three things that constitute a buffoon: blowing out his cheek, blowing out his satchel, blowing out his belly.|
|Tréde neimthigedar cruitire: golltraige, gentraige, súantraige.||Three things that constitute a harper: a tune to make you cry, a tune to make you laugh, a tune to put you to sleep.*|
|Trí miscena indsci: rigne, dlúithe, dulbaire||Three hateful things in speech: stiffness,*(impediment) obscurity, a bad delivery.|
|Trí túarascbaid cach ngenmnaide: fosta, féile, sobraide.||Three things that characterise every chaste person: steadiness, modesty, sobriety.|
|Trí thúarascbait cach n-ainmnetach: sámtha, túa, imdercad.||Three things that characterise every patient person: repose, silence, blushing.|
|Trí airdi gáisse: ainmne, faiscsiu, fáthaige.||Three signs of wisdom: patience, closeness, the gift of prophecy.|
|Tréde immifoilnge báis do gáeth: fúasnad, ferg, mesca.||Three things that make a wise man foolish: quarreling, anger, drunkenness.|
|Trí caindle forosnat cach ndorcha: fír, aicned, ecna.||Three candles that illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge.|
|Trí heochracha aroslicet imráitiu: mescca, tairisiu, serc.||Three keys that unlock thoughts: drunkenness, trustfulness, love.|
|Trí adcoillet gáis: anfis, doas, díchuimne.||Three things that ruin wisdom: ignorance, inaccurate knowledge, forgetfulness.|
A Guide to the Druids and Celtic Spirituality
Trecheng Breth Féne: The Triads of Ireland
http://www.lincolnu.edu/~focal/docs/triads/triads.html (Irish and English Versions)
A Compilation of Triads
http://www.illusions.com/rowanhold/3things.htm (History, English Versions)
The Number Three in American Culture