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A trident (pron.: //), also called a trishula or leister or gig, is a three-pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and was also a military weapon. Tridents are featured widely in mythical, historical and modern culture. The major Hindu Lord and God Shiva and Greco-Roman sea god Poseidon or Neptune are classically depicted bearing a trident.
Tridents can be distinguished from pitchforks in that the latter is an agricultural tool with two to six tines (also called prongs) which are shaped in such a way that they can be used to lift and pitch (throw) loose material.
The word "trident" comes from the French trident, which in turn comes from the Latin tridens or tridentis: tri "three" and dentes "teeth". It is also related to Sanskrit tri (त्रि "three") - danta (दंत "tooth"), although several Indian languages prefer another similar word, trishula (tri त्रि "three" + ṣūla शूल "thorn"), derived from Sanskrit, meaning "triple spears". The same meaning has the Cyrillic Тризуб (Trizub) which is a combination of two words Tri (three) and zub (tooth). Tryzub is the Coat of Arms of Ukraine which takes its roots to the Medieval princely family of Kievan Rus, descendants of Rurik. The Greek equivalent is τρίαινα (tríaina), from Proto-Greek *trianja (threefold), cognate with the Latin triens. The "trident" of Poseidon is his weapon.
A number of structures in the biological world are described as trident in appearance. Since at least the late 19th century the trident shape was applied to certain botanical shapes; for example, certain orchid flora were described as having trident-tipped lips in early botanical works. Furthermore, in current botanical literature, certain bracts are stated to have a trident-shape (e.g. Douglas-fir).
Tridents for fishing usually have barbed tines which trap the speared fish firmly. In the Southern and Midwestern United States, gigging is used for harvesting suckers, bullfrogs, flounder, and many species of rough fish.
As a weapon, the trident was prized for its long reach and ability to trap other long-weapons between prongs to disarm their wielder. In Ancient Rome, in a parody of fishing, tridents were famously used by a type of gladiator called a retiarius or "net fighter". The retiarius was traditionally pitted against a secutor, and cast a net to wrap his adversary and then used the trident to kill him.
Parallel to its fishing origins, the trident is associated with Poseidon, the god of the sea in Greek mythology, the Roman god Neptune, and Shiva, a Hindu God who holds a trident in his hand. In Greek myth, Poseidon used his trident to create water sources in Greece and the horse. Poseidon, as well as being god of the sea, was also known as the "Earth Shaker" because when he struck the earth in anger he caused mighty earthquakes and he used his trident to stir up tidal waves, tsunamis and sea storms. In Roman myth, Neptune also used a trident to create new bodies of water and cause earthquakes. A good example can be seen in Gian Bernini's Neptune and Triton.
In religious Taoism, the trident represents the Taoist Trinity, the Three Pure Ones. In Taoist rituals, a trident bell is used to invite the presence of deities and summon spirits, as the trident signifies the highest authority of Heaven.
A trident also has references as:
Trident, Burmese, 18th century
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