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The pentagram has been used throughout history and in many contexts.
earliest known use of the pentagram dates back to around the Uruk period
around 3500 B.C.E. 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.
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."
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, and
though it's usage was in parallel with the hexagram.
Ancient Greece, it was called the Pent alpha, 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
(i.e. 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.
was known to have traveled all over the ancient world from the mysteries
into which he was initiated, and it seems likely that his travels took him
to Egypt, to Chaldea and to lands around the Indus. There may be a
connection here with the presence of the pentagram in Tantrik art.
the Gnostics, the pentagram was the 'Blazing Star' and, like the crescent
moon was a symbol relating to the magic and mystery of the nighttime sky.
For the Druids, it was a symbol of Godhead. In Egypt, it was a symbol of
the 'underground womb' and bore a symbolic relationship to the concept of
the pyramid form.
Pagan Celts ascribed the pentagram to the underground goddess Morrigan
while early Christians attributed the pentagram to the Five Wounds of
Christ and from then until medieval times, it was a lesser-used Christian
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.
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 into power and who's 'manifest destiny' was to usurp the
supreme power of the Roman Empire, using as an instrument a forged
document -'The Donation of Constantine' The annual church feast of Epiphan
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 it's 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).
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
upwards symbolized summer; with two points upwards, it was a sign for
Knights Templar, a military order of monks formed during the Crusades
gained great wealth and prominence from the donations of those who joined
the order and from treasures looted from the Holy Land.
It is clear from remaining traces of Templar architecture that
architects and masons associated with the powerful order were well aware
of the geometry of the pentangle and the golden proportion and
incorporated that mysticism in their design. Alas, the whole Templar order
fell victim to the avarice of the Church and of religious-fanatic Louis IX
of France in 1303 and the dark times of the Inquisition, of torture and
false-witness, of purging and burning, began, spreading like a slow-motion
replay of the Black Death, across Europe.
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 evil it
sought to oppose.
pentagram was seen to symbolize a 'Goat's Head' or the devil in the form
of Baphomet, and it was Baphomet whom the Inquisition accused the Templars
of worshipping. Around this time also poisoning as a means of murder came
into prominence. Potent herbs and drugs brought back from the East during
the Crusades had entered the pharmacopoeia s of the healers - the wise -
the witches. Prominent deaths
by poisoning caused the Dominicans of the Inquisition to move 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 who knew about drugs and poisons.
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 Witch's Foot. The Old Religion and its symbols went
underground, in fear of the Church's persecution, and there it stayed,
gradually withering, for centuries.
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
and geometric symbolism became very important and the period of 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.
upright pentagram bears some resemblance to the shape of man with his legs
and arms outstretched. Other illustrations of the period by Robert Fludd
and Leonardo da Vinci show geometric relationships of man to the universe.
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 Quintessence.
Freemasonry, Man as Microprosopus was and is associated with the
five-pointed Pent alpha. 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' as its emblem.
Each point commemorates a heroine of biblical lore.
known graphical illustration associating the pentagram with evil appears
until the nineteenth century. Alphas Levi Zahed (actually the pen name of
Alphonse Louis Constant, a defrocked French Catholic abbé) illustrates
the upright pentagram of microcosmic man beside an inverted pentagram with
the goat's 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'.
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 Kabbalah,
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. Eliphas Levi was a profound expositor of the
Kabbalah and was instrumental in opening the way for the rise of the
Victorian lodges of western mystery tradition - the Order Temporale
Orientalis (O.T.O.), the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.), the
Theosophical Society, the Rosicrucians (Fellowship of the Rosy Cross), and
several others, even the modern lodges and traditions of speculative
freemasonry. Levi was also instrumental in taking the tarot from being a
gipsy fortune telling device to a powerful set of symbolic images relating
closely to the Kabbalah (or as it is now called in the west, to
distinguish it 's development from the original Judaic form - Qabalah). It
was Levi who designed upon the form of the pentagram such associative
inscriptions as in the Pentacle of the Tetragrammaton and he who renamed
the suit of 'coins' as ‘pentacles’.
workings of ritual magick in the orders took the symbolism of the
pentagram and it's elemental attributes, along with those of the hexagram
and incorporated them as ritual flourishing or signing of the athame
(ritual knife) to symbolize invoking or banishing in respect to elemental
Golden Dawn did much to advance and disseminate the roots of mode 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, notably Aleister Crowley, have come
some of the most important ideas of today's Kabbalist philosophy and
Crowley also had association with the remaining traces of the old
pre-Reformation 'hereditary' witches, notably through Old George
Pickingill and with Gerald Gardner, generally considered the founder of
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
pentagram was also inscribed on the altar pentacle; it's points
symbolizing the three aspects of the Goddess plus the two aspects of the
God in a special form of Gardnerian Pentacle. The writings of Gerald
Gardner, an initiate of old Dorothy Clutterbuck, and of his associate
Doreen Valiente, brought the long-withered stem of witchcraft - the Old
Religion - out into bloom once more, after centuries of occlusion, with
the caution that the general misrepresentation of it's former nature had
made wise, and the new religion of Wicca was born.
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 it's extreme, one aspect of that reaction
was in the establishment of the satanic cult - The Church of Satan - by
it's 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 that took the pentagram as a symbol and even to condemn the
symbol itself, much as had been the post-war attitude to the swastika.
distinction between the point-upwards and point downward 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 who's 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.
is sad to say that even the use of the 'upright' pentagram gives rise to
social discrimination against pagans in some communities.
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 folklore!
The antiquity of the pentagram is certain; its meanings and associations have evolved and enriched throughout its history. It's 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 it's potency lies rather than in it's 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.