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
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. 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.
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
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 asceticism. But wherever the pentagram is displayed, one
message is clear:
evil has no power there.