Cross Triangle

A triangle and a cross is a pretty common symbol with a well-understood meaning. However, the triangle is almost invariably pointing upwards. Here we show an unusual design where the triangle points downwards. What is the reason for this?

Cross Triangle

Cross Triangle
Sulfur Symbol

A cross with a triangle is not uncommon, but usually the triangle points upwards like a church steeple..

This page is mainly about the downwards-pointing triangle shown on the left. The symbol shown on the right is the alchemical symbol for sulfur, and for that, please see the Brimstone Cross.

Most people are in common agreement with the meaning of the Cross, but there is less agreement on the meaning of the triangle. Interpretations are as diverse as:

Caterpillar logo
  • the Christian representation of the Holy Trinity
  • the pyramid in Freemasonic symbols
  • the yellow triangle in the logo of Caterpillar Inc.

And curiously, this latter example puts us on the right track, bulldozing away all the mystery behind the meaning of the downwards-pointing triangle on the Cross Triangle symbol.

Just as its antipodean partner has disparate meanings, the downwards-pointing triangle has a wide variety of interpretations. It has been used by the esoteric to denote the female, by alchemists for water, and by gays to show unashamed pride.

What, if anything, do any of those interpretations have to do with the Christian cross above the triangle? We can think of a few things:

  • The 'female' could represent Mary. (See also Marian Cross)
  • The 'water' could represent the flow of water from Jesus when he was crucified, and by extension, the spiritual cleansing of man's sin
  • The 'homosexuality' (Ha! And you thought we wouldn't dare mention that) - a subject that Jesus was very precise about. (Read what Jesus said about gay people.)
Tail fin

Yet none of the above has much to do with the origin of this symbol. The photo on the left was kindly sent to us by a keen observer in Texas, USA, who noticed a cross above a triangle on the empennage (posh name for "tail") of a 1998 Cessna Citation 10 at Love Field in Dallas, TX. The aircraft is registered to Peter Holt, CEO of Holt Cat, the largest Caterpillar dealership in the United States.

Cross Triangle Ranch
Cross Triangle Ranch entrance, showing the symbol as a "gatepost"
(Click photo to enlarge)

Not a poor man, he has quite a few business interests and properties, one being a ranch in Texas named... yes, you've guessed, the Cross Triangle Ranch.

His wife, Julianna, manages successful race-horse breeding on the ranch and that gives a hint to the origin of the symbol. The Cross Triangle is a symbol for branding on the hides of livestock. This is one of the oldest cattle brands in Texas and would have been known to the quintessential cowboys of the American Old West. 

But returning to the brand featured above, the question arises: Why should the triangle point downwards? And the answer is probably pragmatic:

When making the branding iron head, the triangle and cross are made separately and then welded together. If the artisan tried to attach base of the cross to the triangle's apex, this would melt the apex. Attaching the base of the cross to the middle of the triangle's side, avoids this problem.

Branding livestock made cattle-rustling more difficult. Branding an aircraft is less logical; a thief only takes a few seconds to use a can of white spray paint.

...the male being an upwards pointing triangle. Esoteric folk seem to be obsessed with sexual symbols.

A rain cloud descending as a raindrop; an obvious symbol (if you have lots of imagination)

The gay association with a pink triangle possibly originates from Hitler's insistence that gays wore a pink triangle, although it is understood these pointed upwards.

Branding has not been restricted to cattle. Humans also have been branded in the past by slave owners, by civil and military judiciary, and even by the Church (for crimes such as adultery or for being Anabaptist). Fortunately we are more enlightened today. Even so, people self-brand themselves to join gangs or fraternities, and countless people brand themselves with tattoos.


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