The pentagram, or five-pointed star, may
be the most misunderstood religious symbol around these days. Being the
most common symbol of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, it has nevertheless been
denigrated by movie and publishing industries which seem 'hell-bent' on
connecting it with Satanism and other malevolent practices. However,
like the Roman Cross or Crucifix, it is only when the symbol is INVERTED
that it alludes to negativity. And even then, there are exceptions, as
we shall see.
THE PENTAGRAM by Mike Nichols
In its usual upright position (one point
uppermost), the pentagram is an ancient symbol of protection from evil.
Also called 'the endless knot' (in its interlaced form), the pentagram
was often displayed on doors, windows, and hearths of houses throughout
pre-Christian Europe. It can be traced back to Egyptian and Sumerian
cultures, and has even been found on Native American medicine tools.
Sometimes mistakenly confused with the Star of David, or hexagram (a
six-pointed star emblematic of Judaism), the pentagram is sometimes
called the Star of Solomon, especially by ceremonial magicians.
To many, the lower four points represent
the classical elements of earth, air, fire, and water, while the fifth
point, surmounting the others, represents spirit, the fifth element or
quintessence. Thus, the pentagram symbolizes the four elements of the
material world connected with, but ruled by, the spirit. When the
pentagram is placed within a circle (symbol of unity and wholeness), it
stresses our connection with the universe as a whole.
Another interpretation is that there is
not one point upward -- but three! In numerology, three is the number of
harmony, best expressed in the classical formula: thesis, antithesis,
and synthesis. In other words, it is the middle point that harmonizes
the opposing outer points. The Celtic love of triads (the most common
form of their 'wisdom literature') has its roots in this model. The
upper three points are thus placed above the lower two points, which
represents dualistic opposites that cannot be integrated or harmonized
(seeing everything in black and white).
Yet another interpretation of the upright
pentagram is that it symbolizes the most common view of deity in
Witchcraft. The upper three points represent the Goddess in her
threefold aspect of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The lower two points
represent her consort God, in his twin aspects of God of Light and God
of Darkness. However, in all these interpretations, it is important to
remember that all the points are connected -- each an aspect of the
other, all part of the same whole.
But when the pentagram is inverted, so is
its meaning. Thus, an inverted pentagram may represent the physical
world (four material elements) in domination of the world of spirit (the
fifth element). (This may be why Satanists and other 'demonistic' groups
use this symbol.) With two points uppermost, it may also express a
Neo-Platonic dualism (the old 'war in heaven', good vs. evil theme) --
as opposed to the Pagan monistic view of reality ('the Force') seen in
the single point upward. The most common exception to this rule is that
some traditions of Witchcraft (chiefly British) employ the inverted
pentagram as a POSITIVE symbol of advanced degree. In this case, the two
points uppermost represent the horns of light, symbol of 'the Horned
God', consort to the Great Goddess (like the Greek god Pan).
The word 'pentacle', sometimes mistakenly
substituted for pentagram, really refers to a shallow dish (usually
inscribed with a pentagram) and used as an altar tool by modern Witches,
serving a purpose similar to the 'patten' at a Roman Catholic Mass.
Common variations of this tool include a dish of earth, a disk of
copper, a dish of silver, or a disk of wax.
The suit of pentacles (or 'coins') in the
Tarot deck, the Stone of Fal (coronation stone of kings) in ancient
Ireland, the sangreal of the Holy Grail processions, and the 'Universal
Man' of Leonardo da Vinci, are all related to the pentagram, stressing
its ties to the earth and nature, making it a symbol par excellence of
an earth or nature religion. The five points also represent the five
physical senses and allude to approaching the spiritual realm THROUGH
the sensual -- in fact, the meaning of the Ace of Pentacles in Tarot. In
numerology, 5 is the number of sexuality, combining the feminine 2 with
the masculine 3. Thus, the pentagram also represents the opposite of
But wherever the pentagram is displayed,
one message is clear: evil has no power there.
Document Copyright © 1988, 1998 by Mike
Revised: Thursday, April 2, 1998 c.e.
This document can be re-published only as
long as no information is lost or changed, credit is given to the
author, and it is provided or used without cost to others.
Other uses of this document must be
approved in writing by Mike