what is a pentagram?

Let’s get down to the basic’s a little bit. My best friend asked me the other day what the difference was between a pentagram and a pentacle, with the assumption one was satanic and one was not. The truth is, the answer isn’t quite as simple as such a black and white answer. To put the answer plainly, in terms of something being evil or not, goes way back to the eradication of pagan religions, or any deity worshipping religions. When you ask the average person, “is this evil” they will likely associate it to the horror movies they’ve seen, or the misconceptions they’ve been taught, which has left them to assume it is in fact evil or *omg* Satanic. The bible has many a point where it points to anything non-Christian, or witchcraft in nature, being that of devils play. To put it plainly, yes some witches are Satanists, but no that doesn’t make them evil and no that is not the case for *most* witches. Now I am not here to say one religion is more correct than the other, believe in whatever you want, you’ve got my support. But what I do want to clarify is the use of the pentagram/pentacle, and it’s modern day meanings.

From Dictionary.Com:

penta

a combining form occurring in loanwords from Greek, meaning “five” ( Pentateuch ); on this model, used in the formation of compound words ( pentavalent ). Also, especially before a vowel, pent-.

-gram

a combining form occurring in loanwords from Greek, where it meant “something written,” “drawing” (epigram; diagram ); on this model, used in the formation of compound words ( oscillogram ).

pen•ta•gram

[pen-tuh-gram] noun a five-pointed, star-shaped figure made by extending the sides of a regular pentagon until they meet, used as an occult symbol by the Pythagoreans and later philosophers, by magicians, etc. Also called pentacle, pentangle, pentalpha.

Pentagrams date back to Ancient Greek and Babylonian times, today most commonly being associated as a symbol of faith by Wiccans. Penta means five, five is a number of conflict and war, which again concerns dominance. Life is fivefold: conception, birth, growth, maturity, and death. If 3 is the first number of manifestation, and 4 of stability, 5 is about action and power. Despite its modern association with the devil, did you know that the pentagram was once used by Christians, as a symbol for the five wounds of Jesus? Neo-Pagans are also heavily associated with the pentagram, and it is commonly tied to a deity The Horned God. Again, no, not the devil. The Horned God is the divine male aspect (which this in of itself is super complicated, but generally speaking, if you don’t understand Wicca, the SparkNotes is everything is about balance. The Divine Male and the Divine Female. My understanding is some of this is changing with time, and the acceptance of more than two concrete genders, but this is a general idea.) of the Wiccan religion and is a representation of nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting, and the life cycle. A pentagram is a five-pointed star. In witchcraft, it is often used to symbolize the five elements. The top point representing Spirit or Akasha and the rest of the arms, going clockwise are Air, Fire, Water, and Earth respectively. Think of the pentagram as being similar to the Christian Cross or the Star of David, the pentagram is a Wiccan/Pagan religious symbol.

Pentacles, much like pentagrams, are an even five-pointed star, that has been encased within a circle. Sometimes the two words are used synonymously, however, most Witches/Wiccans differentiate them via the circle they are encased in. For those who insist that a pentagram has a circle, this actually cannot be true simply from the etymology of the word itself. The word pentagram translates to a fluid line that intersects at 5 points to create a shape. When we add a circle to this we are adding a 6th line. So simply by translating the term clearly states it is without a circle. The pentacle is the pentagram that is enclosed in a circle. This represents the embodiment of ritual. The 5 Elements in a circle of protection with the point up, with the point down it, represents the Horned God.

The pentacle is used for protection and to evoke spirits. It represents all the elements. Many people mistakenly claim it represents Earth Element, but this is actually not the case. This is because the Altar Tile represents the Element of Earth and traditionally it has a Pentacle drawn on it as the altar tile always includes a symbol of faith on it, and for many Wiccans and Pagans that is the Pentacle. So where an altar tile may have a pentacle on it, the altar tile is what represents Earth, not the symbol.

Another more intricate pentacle is the Gardnerian Pentacle. The circled pentacle has at its center the eight-armed cross signifying the divisions of the year marked by the Sabbats. The two crescent moons and the circle represent the waxing (maiden) moon, the full (mother) moon and the waning (crone) moon – the ‘triple goddess’ of primordial nature. The symbols on the lower points of the pentagram stand for the two god aspects – the horned god and the god of ‘death’, of the underworld. The two S shapes are the spiraling opposite and balancing snakes of the caduceus – of yin and yang – the dual forces of positive and negative or male and female. The three X crosses represent the three anointings of initiation, of the breasts and of the genitals.

The Wiccan Religion also recognizes Three Degrees of Wiccan initiation, each marked with a different stage of a pentagram. In the Wiccan religion, as is the same in many religions, one’s studies, are marked by degrees. In most covens, it is a tradition that a witch initiate has to wait a year and a day, before being granted the first degree. Much like any tier system, you are awarded degrees based on the advancement of your knowledge within the practice. By the time you are awarded the third degree, one should be comfortable with the role of leadership and/or mentorship towards your peers. These, are marked with varying pentagrams, as shown above. (A few traditions have a fourth degree, but this is very uncommon.)

Now let’s talk about the hyper-complicated, yet I’m going to simplify the meaning of the inverted pentagram, or Baphomet. In the latter half of the 20th century, the inverted pentagram became associated with the devil and satanism. It is usually inverted with one point down. Some Satanic practitioners have adopted the inverted pentagram as a way of representing certain energies. Christianity now views the pentagram as a symbol of evil even though it was used to represent Christ years ago and had no evil implications. The pentagram now instills fear in most people and is associated with evil, due to Hollywood movies, media hysteria, and other religions. Something that many practitioners of Wicca, tend to want to glaze over, is the second Degree of Wicca, is an inverted pentagram. Which is simply used as a tool to mark the level of your learning, and has nothing to do with anything evil. I am not going to get into modern day Satanism, or the Church of Satan, maybe another post, but the use of the inverted pentagram is in no way evil in nature. Think of it like an ax, and ax is a useful tool, that in and of itself is not evil or bad. An ax held in the hands of an ax murderer, someone with malicious intent, is another story. The Sigil of Baphomet is the official symbol of The Church of Satan and is similarly trademarked and copywritten by them.

I recognize how long winded this explanation was, while somehow only barely covering any of these topics. The point that I want to make with all this is, a pentagram/pentacle/inverted pentagram, is not evil. These are religious symbols, no different than any other religious symbol. Would you see someone wearing a Star of David or Christian Cross and think they are devil worshippers because it doesn’t look like maybe your religions protection symbol? Of course, you wouldn’t. Please keep this in mind and hopefully, you found this post at least somewhat informative.

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Twenty Something. Wife. Cat Mom. Vegan Brat. Junkfood Enthusiast.

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