Star of life, Witches' foot, Blazing star, Pentalpha, Druid's Root,
Witches' cross, Witches' star, Endless knot, and to some:
Satan star, Goblin's cross
For many, the pentacle is an emblem of paganism. Many (including myself) wear a pentacle pendant, ring, or some other type of jewelry as a symbol of their religion - a tangible affirmation of their beliefs.
What is it?
A pentagram is a 5 pointed star, the lines used in drawing it still intact. A pentacle is a pentagram enclosed in a circle.
In Wicca, when "pentacle/gram" is mentioned it is almost always meaning the "upright" type - one point at the top and two at the bottom. When this is the other way round the pentacle/gram is said to be "inverted". This tends to be avoided by many Wiccans, as we'll see later.
The pentacle is always drawn in one continuous stroke, earning it the title the "endless knot".
NOTE: Some say that a "pentacle" is when it is a physical object, whilst a "pentagram" is a drawing or diagram. Others say "pentacle" refers only to a paton - a magickal tool. In this text, a "pentacle" is the encircled type, whilst a "pentagram" is unencircled.
What are it's meanings?
My interpretation is shown above - that of a portrayal of the 4 magickal elements under Spirit:
EARTH: (lower left hand corner) represents stability and physical endurance.
FIRE: (lower right hand corner) represents courage and daring.
WATER: (upper left hand corner) represents emotions and intuition.
AIR: (upper right hand corner) represents intelligence and the arts.
SPIRIT: (at the topmost point) represents the ONE and the Divine.
This, while encircled, is a magickal "diagram" of the Universe; the circle symbolizes completeness, or the All, and the 5 points are the components of this. All are equal and in balance.
"As above, so below" - as with the universe so with people. The whole person, made up (ideally) of all components in balance. You can see it makes the shape of a person, reinforcing the idea of both this balance inside ourselves AND the Law "as above so below";
Another way of looking at this is that it is a "map" of our place in the universe - as a smaller part of it, not an entity separate from it. We have our little "person" figure, fitted so perfectly with this circle that represents the universe as to be a part of it.
Some say this is shown by Leonardo da Vinci's drawing -
This is a graphic portrayal of Spirit over the physical elements - some consider this a goal.
The pentacle has always been counted as very protective. In medieval times it was used as a protection against demons, and it is worn, visualized or placed around the house by modern-day Wiccans to protect.
It is associated with the underground (perhaps this is it's link to Earth, which it represents?). In Egypt it was a symbol of "the underground womb" (yup, sounds like Earth all right..), the pagan Celts ascribed it to the underground goddess Morrigan, and to the Greeks it was the symbol of Kore (Persephone), who descends into the Underworld each year.
To me, this Kore connection gives it the association of rebirth and hope. As it was poetically put - "Kore was dragged into the underworld an innocent, but emerges a queen.". Kore not only descends into the underworld - she emerges (is reborn) from it, and this gives us Spring.
Some say it was the symbol of Godhead to the Druids.
To the Christians, until relatively recently (the "Burning Times"), it was a secondary symbol of their faith (used with or instead of the cross). This is because it symbolized the 5 wounds of Christ on the cross - one in each palm/wrist, one on each ankle and those made by the crown of thorns. The spear wound wasn't counted as Christ was dead at the time.
To the Jews it represented the 5 books of Moses - the Pentateuch. NOTE: it is NOT the "star of Solomon", although it is sometimes said to be. The Star of Solomon has 6 points.
In Ancient Mesopotamia, it was symbolic of the imperial power extending out to "the 4 corners of the world".
In many, many cultures it was a symbol of knowledge and truth. (I seem to recall a story of a well with 5 streams coming from it, and 5 salmon?) In some cases, forbidden knowledge.
It is strongly associated with the apple, because when you cut an apple horizontally through the middle, you get a 5 pointed star. (The apple is often seen as a symbol of knowledge - remember the Adam & Eve story!)
It is called the "Star of Life". It's interesting to note that 5-fold symmetries are almost exclusively (but oh-so-commonly) found in living organisms. (5 fingers, 5 toes, many flowers, starfish, apple, etc.) Also see point about the Fibonacci numbers later on.
It is a union of male and female principals. The circle is considered feminine, the "sticks" masculine. The inner space & circle the womb, the points the male organs.
This is also shown with 5 being a union of the feminine 2, and masculine 3. OR, if you prefer - the masculine 2 and feminine 3; It is believed that homosexuals bring an equal amount of essence of both the male and the female, thusly maintaining the balance.
To some it is not one point on top, but 3! These represent the trinity - most notably in Wicca the Triple Goddess. The lower points can be taken to represent either duality/polarity, or the "dark and light twins" of the God -
Thus the two noted cycled of the Wiccan belief system are represented. The "Triple Goddess" cycle of the moon (Maiden, Mother, Crone) and the "God" cycle of the sun (and the year). A common legend of the year is when it is split into 2 halves - summer & winter - ruled by the "Oak King" (light) and the "Holly King" (dark). These are 2 aspects of the God.
Pythagoras considered the pentacle an emblem of perfection. It was called the "pentalpha" by Pythagoreans, who used it as a symbol to recognize each other during persecution. "Pentalpha" means "5 Alphas" - because it looks like 5 "Alphas" (A) linked together. Alpha is the 1st letter in the Greek Alphabet.
To the Gnostics it was the "blazing star", relating to the magick and mystery of the night sky.
The pentagram used to be a symbol of the Masonic Guilds ("expert stonemasons initiated into Mystery Schools learning which included sacred geometry." It was later used as the symbol of the sitting Past Master of the Lodge.
The woman's branch of freemasonry, (The Order Of The Eastern Star), uses it inverted, as it's emblem - each point represented a heroine in the Bible.
It can be taken to represent the 5 stages of life; Birth - the beginning, Initiation - blossoming of the Maiden, Consummation - the Mother or fertile prime, Waning - the Crone, and Death. The cycle goes round - even Death leads on to Birth.
In medieval times it symbolized the 5 "knightly virtues" - Piety, Chastity, Generosity, Courtesy, Chivalry. Sir Gawain had it for his symbol.
The points can be made to represent many things. Two examples from Starhawk's "Spiral Dance" are the "pearl" pentacle - Love, Wisdom, Knowledge, Law, Power; and the "iron" pentacle - Sex, Self, Passion, Pride, and Power.
A pentacle crafted of silver is said to represent lunar energies and the Moon, a pentacle crafted of gold is said to represent the solar energies and the Sun.
The pentacle is acknowledged as a symbol of Earth, especially when crafted of copper or clay.
Because of Earth associations, it is sometimes used to draw wealth and luck.
Represents the 5 traditional manifestations of the Horned God - human, bull, ram, goat, stag.
Symbol of the mind controlling the body - the mind (and "spirit") is on top.
And here's one I thought of, but I haven't seen before; It is a magickal belief I've heard voiced (In "Spiral Dance", for example, although I recall hearing it elsewhere..) that what we take as being separate things are in fact just lots and LOTS of connections and relationships of little bits. (think, person = a bunch of atoms, relating and arranged in a certain way.) We connect certain parts of the circle (the All), and we have a "person". Magic/k!
Significances of the number 5:
Almost exclusively found in living things (in the natural world)
5 commonly acknowledged senses - touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight
Ireland had 5 great roads, 5 provinces and 5 paths of law
The Faery Folk are said to count by 5s
Celtic Mythological figures wore 5-fold cloaks
5 were the wounds of Christ on the cross - 2 on ankles, 2 on hands/wrists, and those caused by the crown of thorns (counted as 1)
5 vowels - A, E, I, O, U
5 virtues of medieval knight - courtesy, chastity, chivalry, generosity, piety
The Wiccan Kiss is 5 fold - feet, knees, womb, heart, lips.
5 is associated with Mars
It is argued we originally counted by 5s - using our fingers.
Combines the feminine 2 (even numbers are "feminine" because they are "open" - (: :: :::) odd are "masculine" because when drawn they are "pointy" ( :. ::. :::.)) with the masculine 3. Because we're randy buggers. *grin*
Of the placement of the magickal elements:
NOTE: This is not the universal arrangement. It seems to be the one that is most common, however, and it is that one that rings true to me. As shown in the first diagram, the elements are often placed in the order; Spirit - top, Water - top left, Fire - bottom right, Earth - bottom left, Air - top right.
I've found certain patterns in this placement;
The elements traditionally belonging to a certain sex (Fire & Air are "masculine", Water and Earth are "feminine") are connected by an unending line, and thusly are not really next to each other. In other words, like in primary school Phys Ed lines it alternates "boy, girl, boy, girl" when reading in the intended order. As, in alchemy, feminine elements are also "cold" and masculine elements are also "hot", it alternates "hot and cold" elements as well;
This sequence and order is the sequence of the elements in the astrological Zodiac as well, although in astrology we start on Fire. The sequence in astrology is "Fire, Water, Air, Earth", which as you can see travels around the pentacle.
Those vertically in line on the left have "crossed" alchemical symbols, and those vertically in line on the right are both "plain";
The elements vertically in line are also alchemical opposites. i.e.. one is "moist" and one is "dry", one is "hot" and one is "cold". They don't share an alchemical trait.
The elements horizontally in line share the alchemical traits of moist/dry. Those on the upper left and right are both moist (and "flowing"), and those on the lower left and right are both dry (and "fixed")
The Pentacle, the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence:
It's interesting to note the relationship of the perfect pentacle with the so-called "Golden Ratio/Proportion".
The Golden Ratio was valued by artists since the Renaissance as forming the rectangle most pleasing to the eye. (I seem to recall hearing once that the ancient Greeks used it as well, but don't quote me.) The ratio between the height and length of the rectangle was the Golden Ratio, which was - "the ratio of height and length is the same as that of length to the sum of width and height."
This ratio is 1.618 approximately, and is called phi.
this means is that you can create a new rectangle, using the length of the old
one as the height, and the length of this new rectangle will be the sum of the
length and height of the old if you keep the same proportion. You can create a
spiral from these rectangles, by adding a square with proportions that were the
The series of lengths & heights of the rectangles formed by this is also interesting because it forms the basis of the Fibonacci Sequence. The Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence of numbers where the next is gained by adding the previous two together. i.e.; 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.
Once you get to 3 & 5 and beyond, divide one number by it's predecessor and the answer will always float around phi.
Why do we care about the Fibonacci Sequence? Because the numbers in it are renowned for often appearing in nature - from the number of petals in flowers, to the bumps on a pineapple to the bits of a pine cone.
And how do these fit with the Pentacle? The pentacle contains the Golden Ratio. The part of a line that makes up one of the sides of one of the triangles, divided by the part of a line that makes up the central pentagon gives you the Golden Ratio. And so on. i.e.
r / s = phi
Try it and see! It's best to make a hypothetical pentacle to save measuring errors. Personally, I think this is a very fascinating and interesting point.
Inverted vs. Upright:
Although nowadays many people (pagans included) associate the inverted pentacle with evil, and the upright with good, this is a relatively recent development. Because of the negativity strongly surrounding the inverted pentacle, I personally think it's unwise to use it (and definitely NOT in public sight!), and the "upright = use, inverted = don't" policy is a nice, clean way of defining things. However, here are some of the meanings and uses of the inverted pentacle.
The inverted pentacle represented winter, whilst the upright represented summer.
It is a symbol of Gardnarian 2nd degree initiation. Some say this represents the need of a Witch to face the shadows within so it won't rise up unexpectedly later.
Some use the inverted pentacle for banishment/binding/waning moon magick.
With the point that represents both the head and Spirit at the bottom, and fire and earth at the top, it can be taken to represent physical & material wealth and gratification above all else.
It was Eliphas Levi who first interpreted the inverted pentacle as "evil". (He was an ex-abbe with occult knowledge who floated around in the 19th century. His real name was Alphonse Louis Constant.) He showed a picture of the uninverted pentacle with a man within (this is the "good" version) next to an inverted pentacle with a goat's head within (the "bad" one.) This goat's head is said to belong to Baphomet, an idol "demon" worshipped early in the millennia. These are Levi's drawings;
This "goats head" connection is played on by Satanists. The shape of the lines in an inverted pentacle can be seen as forming an Evil Horned Beaste;
Some pagans see this and interpret it not as a demon, but the Horned God. Added to this, when the pentacle is inverted the two points interpreted as representing the God are on top. Thus, to some, the inverted pentacle is a symbol of the God, the upright is the symbol of the Goddess.
It could be said that the "Baphomet" image is what drew Anton LaVey into adopting the inverted pentacle as a symbol of the faith he created in 1966 - the Church of Satan.
Pentacle (encircled) vs. Pentagram (open):
It is said that the pentagram signifies openness (about your beliefs, presumably), and sometimes aggressiveness. An open, active approach to your beliefs. On the other hand, a circled pentagram suggests that which is protected or hidden (self-contained.)
The circle represents eternity, infinity and completeness, as well as the cycles of nature. An example of this self-containedness could perhaps be in the reputed use of the pentacle to contain demons/entities. (I've heard this refuted by some, though..) The pentacle, in my limited experience, seems to be the more popular and used form of the pente.
The circle "stresses our connection with the universe as a whole", and I agree that the "as above, so below" viewpoint is not really represented by the open pentacle.
It could also be argued that the protective qualities of the pentacle are not there (or as strong) in the unenclosed version.
Invoking vs. Banishing:
In witchcraft this is the
ritual act of moving
around a circle in a clockwise direction.
To call the spirits one starts at Spirit tracing to Fire (1), tracing to Water (2), tracing to Air (3), tracing to Earth (4), tracing to Spirit (5), and finishing the pentagram with Fire (6); This is invoking power to begin a meditation. The Fire attracts the Sprits.
In witchcraft this is the ritual act of moving
around a circle in a counter clockwise direction.
To dismiss the spirits one starts at Spirit tracing to Earth (1), tracing to Air (2), tracing to Water (3), tracing to Fire (4), tracing to Spirit (5), and finishing the pentagram with Earth (6). (This is called "grounding" - Letting the energy created by invocation be dissipated back into the Earth.
The Rule of Three
Ever mind the Rule of Three
Three times what thou givest returns to thee
This lesson well, thou must learn
Thee only gets what thou dost earn!
The Tameran Wiccan (Egyptian Eclectic Wiccan):
š This page is a compilation of information that I found in various places on the net as well as my own books and my own practice. Note that there are many iterations of the mystery and significance of both the Pentagram as well as the Pentacle. This is just my slant on it. I understand that there will be some of my reader's that may be either confused, frightened, somehow thinking that Brian has lost his mind. I assure you, this is NOT the case. What you have read is based on facts, (too many sources to credit). Albeit, you may think that this entire page may be biased. Could be. Some Pagan's, (Such as most Wiccans) believe that the Elements, Water and Air should be reversed. My reasoning for believing the order is that when I trace a pentagram, I use the 'sticks' to guide me, rather than circling the circumference of the pentacle, thus in order to preserve true balance, one must alternate Male, Female, Male, Female, The One. (ie: FIRE, WATER, AIR, EARTH, and SPIRIT). Also, as is with my case, there is truly only one Deity, it is the same one that I was brought up with. I call it "The ONE", and The "Supreme Being". There are many ways to communicate with the creator. Sometimes, you pray directly to it, and sometimes you use channels to communicate. (ISIS and RA for example, note the balance of a Female combined with Male). The reason why I refer to the ONE as it, is because I believe that The ONE is made up of two incarnations, ISIS and RA. This is from Neo-Pagan, Egyptian Eclectic - called Tameran Wicca. The beauty of this religion is that you can make it what you will, so long as "Ye Harm None". Which is more than I can say for an awful lot of other, more popular, organized religions. To be truly challenged, a person must at some point stop trusting in what was taught to them as children, and re-thinking the entire self and your relationship to the universe. Rarely does something like this happen easily. It usually comes from a life/death experience, altering your entire being. One that tests your metal down to it's innermost core... some of you know what I went through, and am still experiencing.
*Song is The Mummer's Dance. Click here for the lyrics.