Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Pentagram Symbol

The Pentagram has a long history as a magical talisman. First found in Sumer (Mesopotamia), the people often referred to it as “The Star of Ishtar”. For them, the points of the Pentagram corresponded to the directions of forward, backward, left, right, and above.

The Pentacle used by Neo-Pagans is the Star Pentagon of Pythagoras. This polygon is constructed by connecting the alternative vertices of a pentagon. (A pentacle within a pentagon represents power, regeneration, and transcendence.) The lines bisect each other according to the ratios of the Golden Mean. Each point is an isosceles triangle, which represents “trinity”. At the heart of the polygon is the pentagon, which imbues strength.

The Pythagoreans labeled the corners of their Pentagon (starting with the upper left arm, and going clockwise) “water, earth, form, heat, and air” respectively. For them, it embodied their Physical Order of the Elements. Going counter-clockwise (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Spirit in the modern Pentacle) created the Metaphysical Order of the Cosmos. (To the Pythagoreans, repetitions of the number five imbued the physical with sacred energy.)

Until recently, Christians wore the Pentacle for protection. The five points represented the Five Wounds of Christ. Also, the Five Joys of Mary (the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension, and Assumption) were depicted by the Pentacle. In addition, the 14th Century poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” alluded to other Christian correspondences of the Pentacle such as the Five Virtues of Knighthood, Noble Generosity, Fellowship, Purity, Courtesy, and Compassion.

It was the use by European occultists that gave the Pentacle its unsavory reputation for the general public in modern times. In addition, the Magician Eliphas Levi further urged the wearing of the Pentacle with the single point upwards. According to him, this represented spirit over matter. The reverse, he believed attracted sinister forces since it overturns the proper order of things. Upside down, it represented Baphoment, the goat of Black Magic.

From Sumer to today, the Pentacle has been a symbol of protection. Rooted in Greco-Roman Paganism, the Pentacle became associated with goodness and health. Wear it to express the ideal forms of the sacred and profane united into a cosmic whole.

Note: According to various dictionaries, “pentacle” and “pentagram” are synonymous. However, many Wiccans and other Pagans refer to a “pentacle” as a pentagram enclosed in a circle.

Works Used:

Hart, Francene, Sacred Geometry Oracle Deck, Bear and Company, Rochester Vermont, 2001

Mamn, Nicholas, “The Sacred Pentagram of Sedona”, Spirit of Ma’at, Volume 4, January 2004

Skinner, Stephen, “Sacred Geometry”, Sterling Publishing, London, 2006.

Sophistes, Apollonias, “The Pythagorean Pentacle”, Biblioteca Arcana, 1999

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, Grimore for the Apprentice Wizard, New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 2004


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