H. Zell, Turbo imperialis 01, crop, CC BY-SA 3.0
You will have noticed that there are spirals at the heart of many natural phenomena. There is a certain spiral based on really simple mathematics which appears everywhere in the natural world from the very small to the very, very big. This spiral is known as 'The Fibonacci Spiral' and it is based on a series of numbers put together by the the Italian Mathematician Fibonacci in the 13th century.
You can see this spiral all around you in the natural world, from shells and flowers to hurricanes and all the way up to galaxies! It is obvious there is something very fundamental about this spiral as it underlies the formation of so many natural things. However the maths that make up the sequence is really incredibly simple. All you do is add the previous two numbers of the sequence together.
You start with 1 and add 1.
The next number is 1+1 so it is 2.
Then it is 1+2 which gives 3.
Then 2+3 which gives 5 and 3+5 which gives 8 and so on. The sequence of numbers looks like this.
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 31, 52, 83 etc
You can see each number is just the sum of the two before.
If you plot this sequence using squares representing each value in the sequence. (so for '5' use a block 5 bricks long) At each step, add a block the length of the previous two combined, you can plot the Fibonacci spiral as it grows.
Spirals are as attractive to us now as they have been for thousands of years. The spiral pattern is one of the first symbols our ancestors carved when they first started making rock art. The most famous megalithic rock art in Ireland is at Newgrange and it is covered in spirals.
We can guess at what meaning was associated with these spirals, but it seems that they certainly represented some notion of infinity and our journey within it. Perhaps even a concept of endless life or rebirth. They saw that the pattern occurred all around them from the very small to the very big and that it somehow lay behind nature, so it was obvious for them to read into the symbol a meaning.
Its also thought that hallucinogenic mushrooms may have played a role as spiral patterns are commonly seen when you have taken mushrooms. These are 'entopic' patterns which means they are created within the mind. A spiral does seem to symbolise the endless dance of nature, a spiral circular dance never quite returning to the same place.
I suppose that it should come as no surprise then that 'spirals' still feature in contemporary as well as tribal jewellery and tattoos. The standard 'ear stretcher' used by hundreds of thousands of people is a spiral earring which very follows the fibonacci spiral. Even today among all our modern technology we still feel an affinity with the spiral as the most fundamental and ancient of all the symbols we use.
And now for the plug! While you are here why not have a look at our selection of Spiral Earrings