On many pages I have drawn small pentacles, as I do when I sign my name on letters and documents. I believe the pentacle to be one of the oldest geometric symbols known to humans. It consists of a five-pointed star inside a circle. It is the key symbol in the Craft. It is the Witch’s mandala, a geometric diagram of all existence, that encompasses both creatrix and creation.
The pentacle has a rich history in the magical and spiritual customs of many cultures. In Greece it was the symbol of Demeter’s daughter Kore, the Goddess of vegetation and the fruits of the field, because the apple contains a star composed of five seeds in its core. Today gypsies call the five-seeded pentacle in the apple “the Star of Knowledge”. Pythagorean mystics honored the pentacle, which they called “Pentalpha”, because it consisted of five interwoven alphas: the Greek letter “A”, which stood for birth and beginnings. In Egypt a five pointed star represented the great underground womb of the Mother Earth. The Celtic tribes also saw it as a sign of the Goddess of the Underworld, Morgan. In Babylon the pentacle was an amulet of protection and healing. In Judeo-Christian traditions the pentacle was the first of the Seven Seals, which represented the secret name of God, and King Solomon wore a pentacle on his ring as a sign of power to work magic. Among the old European tribespeople the pentacle represented the Horned God, a shapeshifter who had five manifestations: a human, a bull, a ram, a goat, and a stag. The Celtic hero Gawain had a pentacle inscribed on his shield.
The star is alwaysdrawn with one continuous stroke, with one point upright, and to me it represents the continuous outline of the human body: the head at the top, the two arms, the legs, the mystic center where all points cross. It is a symbol of the human body that goes back millennia, and it resonates to something old and sacred in our souls. Even people who know little about Witchcraft feel this when they look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous representation of the Microcosmic Man that shows the muscular male body, arms and legs outstretched, standing as a five pointed figure in the perfect circle. It looks as if he could lift off the page and soar. Instinctively we know that this proud, self-confident, almost defiant stance is at the heart of what it means to be human. Perhaps it is the strength of the triangle, one of the strongest geometric figures, that resonates with our sense of purpose.
The five points also represent the five senses, through which earthly knowledge enters the mind. The center can stand for the sixth sense, the deep unconscious, or the ethereal connection of each human being with the All or the Higher Self.
The circle around the pentagram represents the totality of all intelligence. It is the sign for the God and Goddess, the fullness of cosmic intelligence. The circle pulls in light and directs it toward the center along its many radii. Each time I see a pentacle I am reminded of the encircling power of the All that surrounds and protects us, assuring is that each human being is at the center of divine life. Our Divine Mother encloses each of us in her womb. No matter where we are, what we do, in her we live and move and have our being. Other religious groups and even political bodies have instinctively understood the power and meaning of this sacred emblem. While traveling through Europe I was startled but overjoyed to find the pentacle pieced into mosaics and stained glass windows in Catholic cathedrals. The states of Oklahoma and Texas use the pentacle as a part of their state seals.
To use a scientific metaphor, the pentacle is a circuit charged with energy. The star reflects and refracts light, and light carries information. When made of silver it draws in light just as the moon does, retaining all the rays except those reflected in silver. When made of gold, it draws in and carries the strength of the sun. Metallurgists tell us that molecules of silver are crescent-shaped, like the moon, and molecules of gold have spires or rays, like the rays of the sun. By wearing a pentacle on our bodies we are constantly drawing down and in the moon power or sun power found in light. The circle is the never-ending, perfect intelligence that fills the universe and runs down the arms of the star, inward to the human body, uniting All That Is and the individual in perfect wisdom. Such is the ideal. Of course not every Witch fully realizes the ideal in her or his life. We must cooperate with the power of the pentacle, allowing its power to shape our consciousness. We must return to it often, meditating on its mystic meanings and seeking within it the universal wisdom.
As a sacred symbol we put the pentacle everywhere, much like the Christians use a cross and Jews a Star of David. Each Witch wears a pentacle somewhere on his or her body, frequently on a chain around the neck, or a bracelet, sometimes as a logo on a shirt or jacket. Witches who are “out” in their lives display it quite openly, others, out of fear of discrimination or persecution, wear it beneath shirts or blouses or woven secretly into the hem of their clothes. In whichever ways are appropriate each Witch needs to live in the presence of the pentacle and draw in the energy that is unique to it and to her.
The power of the pentacle affects each of us differently but it always operates the same, bringing wisdom and protection to whoever wears it. Some Witches have been lured by its ancient structure since they were little children. Even before they knew what it stood for they were drawn into its deep meaning and purpose. They resonated with it, and it led them to the Craft. Others begin to understand the symbol only after being introduced to Witchcraft. But for each of us learning the secrets of the pentacle is a lifelong process. Because the pentacle represents perfect wisdom it is as much a path as it is the source and goal of our lives.