This is perhaps the most comprehensive writing I have seen on the Pentagram.
My thanks to Bill Kilborn at HYPERLINK "http://www.journey1.org for allowing me to reprint it here.
The pentagram has long been associated with mystery and magic. It is the simplest form of
star shape that can be drawn unicursally, with a single line, hence it is sometimes called the Endless Knot. Other names are
the Goblin Cross, the Pentalpha, the Witch Foot, the Devils Star and the Seal of Solomon (more correctly attributed to the
It has long been believed to be a potent protection against evil and demons, hence a symbol of safety, and
was sometimes worn as an amulet for happy homecoming. The old folk-song: Green Grow the Rushes, O! Refers to the use of the
pentagram above doors and windows in the line: Five is the symbol at your door.
The potency and associations of the pentagram
have evolved throughout history. Today it is an ubiquitous symbol of Neo-Pagans with much depth of magickal and symbolic meaning.
The pentagram symbol today is ascribed many meanings and deep significance, though much of this is very recent. However,
it has been used throughout history and in many contexts.
The earliest known use of the pentagram dates back to around
the Uruk period around 3500BC at Ur of the Chaldees in Ancient Mesopotamia where it was found on potsherds together with other
signs of the period associated with the earliest known developments of written language. In later periods of Mesopotamian
art, the pentagram was used in royal inscriptions and was symbolic of imperial power extending out to the four corners of
the world. Amongst the Hebrews, the symbol was ascribed to Truth and to the five books of the Pentateuch. It is sometimes,
incorrectly, called the Seal of Solomon (see Hexagram) though its usage was in parallel with the hexagram. In Ancient Greece,
it was called the Pentalpha, being geometrically composed of five A's. Unlike earlier civilizations, the Greeks did not generally
attribute other symbolic meanings to the letters of their alphabet, but certain symbols became connected with Greek letter
shapes or positions (e.g. Gammadion, Alpha-Omega). The geometry of the pentagram and its metaphysical associations were explored
by the Pythagoreans (after Pythagoras 586-506BC) who considered it an emblem of perfection. Together with other discovered
knowledge of geometric figures and proportion, it passed down into post-Hellenic art where the golden proportion may be seen
in the designs of some temples.
Early Christians attributed the pentagram to the Five Wounds of Christ and from then until
medieval times, it was a lesser-used Christian symbol. Prior to the time of the Inquisition, there were no evil associations
to the pentagram. Rather its form implied Truth, Religious Mysticism and the work of The Creator. The Emperor Constantine
I who, after gaining the help of the Christian church in his military and religious takeover of the Roman Empire in 312 AD,
used the pentagram, together with the chi-rho symbol (a symbolic form of cross) in his seal and amulet.
However, it was
the cross (a symbol of suffering) rather than the pentagram (a symbol of truth) that was used as a symbol by the Church which
subsequently came to power and who manifest destiny was to usurp the supreme power of the Roman Empire.
The annual church
feast of Epiphany, celebrating the visit of the three Magi to the infant Jesus as well as the Church's mission to bring truth
to the Gentiles had as its symbol the pentagram, (although in present times the symbol has been changed to a five-pointed
star in reaction to the Neo-Pagan use of the pentagram).
In the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the pentagram
was Sir Gawain's glyph, inscribed in gold on his shield, symbolizing the five knightly virtues - generosity, courtesy, chastity,
chivalry and piety.
In Medieval times, the Endless Knot was a symbol of Truth and was a protection against demons. It
was used as an amulet of personal protection and to guard windows and doors. The pentagram with one point upward symbolized
summer; with two points upwards, it was a sign for winter. During the long period of the Inquisition, there was much promulgation
of lies and accusations in the interests of orthodoxy and elimination of heresy. The Church lapsed into a long period of the
very diabolism it sought to oppose. The pentagram was seen to symbolize a Goats Head or the Devil in the form of Baphomet
and it was Baphomet whom the Inquisition accused the Templars of worshipping. The Dominicans of the Inquisition moved their
attention from the Christian heretics to the Pagan Witches, to those who only paid lip service to Christianity but still followed
an Old Religion and to the wise-ones amongst them. In the purge on Witches, other horned Gods such as Pan became equated with
the Devil (a Christian concept) and the pentagram, the folk symbol of security, for the first time in history, was equated
with evil and was called the Witches Foot.
The Old Religion and its symbols went underground, in fear of the Church's
persecution, and there it stayed, gradually withering, for centuries.
In the foundation of Hermeticism, in hidden societies
of craftsmen and scholarly men, away from the eyes of the Church and its paranoia, the proto-science of alchemy developed
along with its occult philosophy and cryptical symbolism. Graphical and geometric symbolism became very important and the
period of the Renaissance emerged.
The concept of the microcosmic world of Man as analogous to the macrocosm, the greater
universe of spirit and elemental matter became a part of traditional western occult teaching, as it had long been in eastern
philosophies, As Above, So Below. The pentagram, the Star of the Microcosm, symbolized Man within the microcosm, representing
in analogy the Macrocosmic universe.
The upright pentagram bears some resemblance to the shape of man with his legs and
arms outstretched. In Tycho Brahe's Calendarium Natural Magicum Perpetuum (1582) occurs a pentagram with human body imposed
and the Hebrew for YHSVH associated with the elements. An illustration attributed to Brae's contemporary Agrippa (Henry Cornelius
Agrippa von Nettesheim) is of similar proportion and shows the five planets and the moon, at the center point, the genitalia.
Other illustrations of the period by Robert Fludd and Leonardo da Vinci show geometric relationships of man to the universe.
Later, the pentagram came to be symbolic of the relationship of the head to the four limbs and hence of the pure concentrated
essence of anything (or the spirit) to the four traditional elements of matter, earth, water, air and fire - spirit is The
In Freemasonry, Man as Microprosopus was and is associated with the five-pointed Pentalpha. The symbol was
used, interlaced and upright for the sitting Master of the Lodge. The geometric properties and structure of the Endless Knot
were appreciated and symbolically incorporated into the 72-degree angle of the compasses, the Masonic emblem of virtue and
duty. The origins of Freemasonry are lost in the depths of history, obscured by the traditional Craft secrecy of the order,
but there are signs throughout history of the associations of craftsmanship and ritual and symbolism that have remained known
only to a few, and the history of the pentagram has remained occluded in the same kind of mystery. The women's branch of Freemasonry
uses the five-pointed Eastern Star with two points up as its emblem. Each point commemorates a heroine of biblical lore.
known graphical illustration associating the pentagram with evil appears until the nineteenth century. Eliphas Levi Zahed
(actually the pen name of Alphonse Louis Constant, a defrocked French Catholic Abb) illustrates the upright pentagram of microcosmic
man beside an inverted pentagram with the goats head of Baphomet. It is this illustration and juxtaposition that has led to
the concept of different orientations of the pentagram being good and evil.
Against the rationalism of the 18th century
came a reaction in the 19th century with the growth of a new mysticism owing much to the Holy Qabalah, the ancient oral tradition
of Judaism relating the cosmogony of God and the universe and the moral and occult truths of their relationship to Man. It
is not so much a religion as a system of understanding based upon symbolism and the numerical and alphabetical interrelationships
of words and concepts, the Gematria. The Golden Dawn did much to advance and disseminate the roots of modern Hermetic Qabalah
around the world in its time of strength (from 1888 to around the start of the First World War), and through the writings
and work of a number of its adepts and adherents have come some of the most important ideas of todays Qabalist philosophy
and magick. In the 1940's Gerald Gardner adopted the pentagram with two points upward as the sigil of second degree initiation
in the newly emergent, Neo-Pagan rituals of Witchcraft, later to become known as Wicca. The one-point upward pentagram together
with the upright triangle symbolized third degree initiation. (A point downward triangle is the symbol of First Degree Initiates).
It was not until the late 1960's that the pentagram again became an amulet symbol to be worn. Co-incidentally with the
rise of popular interest in Witchcraft and Wicca and the publication of many books (including several novels) on the subject,
there was a reaction to the Church.
In its extreme, one aspect of that reaction was in the establishment of the satanic
cult - The Church of Satan - by Anton LaVay. For its emblem, this cult adopted the inverted pentagram after the Baphomet image
of Eliphas Levi. The reaction of the Christian church was to condemn as evil all who took the Pentalpha as a symbol and even
to condemn the symbol itself, much as had been the post-war attitude to the swastika.
The distinction between the point-upwards
and point-downwards pentagram forms became accentuated in the minds of Pagans and led to the concepts of white Witchcraft
and black. Those who took on board the strong personal ethical code of Wicca, the Wiccan Rede of 'An it harm none, do what
you will' did not wish to be tarred with the same brush as the Satanists whos philosophy is one of the domination of the spirit
by the physical body - the priority of matter and physical existence.
Hence, despite the use and the different meaning
of the inverted pentagram as a symbol of Gardnerian initiation, other Wiccans, notably in the USA where the fundamentalist
Christians are particularly aggressive to those who do not share their beliefs, are against any usage of the symbol. It is
sad to say that even the use of the upright pentagram gives rise to social discrimination against Pagans in some communities.
Otherwise, the pentagram or pentacle has become firmly established as a common Neo-Pagan and Wiccan symbol, acquiring
many aspects of mystique and associations that are today often considered to be ancient folk-lore !
The antiquity of the
pentagram is certain; its meanings and associations have evolved and richened throughout its history. Its use within modern
Neo-Paganism as a group symbol is as important as the cross has been in the history of Christianity and it is in the ubiquity
and the attributed meanings of the symbol that its potency lies rather than in its antiquity. From the Earth aware attitudes
and respect of life of modern Pagans has already come the movement towards protecting and conserving the ecology and resources
of our planet. Perhaps they will see the dawn of a real new age of hope or perhaps just the end of an age of humanity.
Source: Gathered from various places on the Internet, edited by Bill Kilborn. Please do not reprint without permission of the author.