Pentacles and Pentagrams, What Do They Mean?
What is that five-pointed star symbol that witches often use? Why do they use it? What does it mean? Is it satanic…?
If you’re a non-witch or new to The Craft, you may have wondered about the meaning of the pentacle. Perhaps you have even heard it referred to as “satanic”. As a witch who frequently wears pentacle jewelry (and who doesn’t even believe an entity named “Satan” exists), here’s my explanation…
A pentagram is a five-pointed star. According to dictionary.com, a pentagram is a five-pointed star “made by extending the sides of a regular pentagon until they meet”. They define a “pentacle” as the same, and many do use the two words interchangeably.
I use the term “pentacle” for a pentagram with a circle around it. This symbol is also called a “coin” in traditional tarot. (Easy way to remember the difference: “cle” as in “monocle”, “bicycle”, “tricycle” and so on, comes from “cyclus”, which means “circle or wheel”, and a pentacle has a circle around it and looks kindof like a wheel.)
“The Pentacle – The ancients envisioned their world in two halves – masculine and feminine. Their gods and goddesses worked to keep a balance of power. Yin and Yang. When male and female were balanced, there was harmony in the world. When they were unbalanced there was chaos.” -Dan Brown, ‘The Da Vinci Code’
Traditionally, the design represents the five elements: the top is spirit (or “ether”), and then clockwise there is water, fire, earth and air. The circle around the star represents wholeness, unity, infinity, and a boundary. (Think of it like a “circle of protection” that is often cast before performing a magick ritual.)
The star also represents man (as in a human being, not the gender): the top is the head, the two sides are the outstretched arms, and the two bottom points are the legs.
Most witches and Wiccans wear and/or display pentacles for several reasons. First, they help us to identify each other. In a world of frequent judgement, confrontation, prejudice and persecution, it’s helpful to have a way to recognize those who are on the same—or a very similar—spiritual path, so we can say, “Oh, hey! Me, too!” and introduce ourselves.
Second, many associate feelings of protection with the pentacle symbol. Because the star can be drawn in one continuous line, it is “unicursal” (drawn with one line), and such figures are considered to be sigils (signs or symbols that have magical powers) of protection. Also, the circle represents wholeness and a boundary, which is—again—about protection.
The pentagram symbol is associated with the element of earth, which is a stabilizing, grounding element. (And grounding is soothing, yes?)
Some people believe that an upside-down pentagram is satanic. If you look at an upside-down pentagram, you will see that it appears more like the head of a goat, with two horns, than like the body of a human.
Ancient pagans revered the Horned God (who can look goat-like) and the crusading Christians wanted to discredit all pagan beliefs. Around the Medieval period, a “devil” or “Satan” was created by The Church and many representations of this evil being from that time looked decidedly goat-like, with horns and often hooves. (Note that Satan’s physical appearance is never described in the Bible or any other religious text, and Satan was originally identified as a serpent.) This may have been a deliberate campaign to demonize the Horned God of the pagans.
The upside-down pentagram may have symbolized The Horned God to ancient pagans. (Note, again, that the “Horned God” of the pagans and the goat-like “Satan” of the Christians were two very different beings. One was good and the other evil. Talk about a smear campaign!) At some point in history, as the image of the Horned God and representations of The Devil began to merge in the collective symbolism popularized by the church, someone added a goat head to an upside down pentagram and called it “satanic”.
And maybe they really were worshipers of Satan and that’s what this symbol meant to them. But that is not the original meaning of the pentacle, the original identity of “the Horned God”, or even an image of Satan that is actually depicted in the Bible. (Because there isn’t one, remember?)
So unless someone tells you that they “worship Satan” and that “their pentacle represents Satan to them”, it’s safe to assume that it means nothing of the kind. (And you could always politely ask them, right?)
In nearly all cases, a pentacle is a sign that someone is a witch, Wiccan, or pagan (and they have just as much right to display their beliefs as a Christian does to wear a cross). For many people, it is also a protection sigil that can bring peace and comfort to the wearer. Which means there is nothing “evil” or “satanic” about it.
As always, there are no absolutes, rights or wrongs when it comes to personal spirituality. Experiment and develop your own magick practice that feels best to you.
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