The pentagram has been around for thousands of years - despite the common misapprehension, the pentagram has never been a sign of evil. The association between the pentagram and Devil worship is relatively recent. The pentagram has a very long history and was once even used by the Catholic Church - today, it is a symbol of the Wiccan faith.
The pentacle is a pentagram with a circle drawn around it. It is a powerful symbol of protection generally placed on the altar.
The circle symbolises eternity and the cycles of life and nature.
The pentagram is a five pointed star with interwoven sides that can be drawn without the pen leaving the paper. It is also called the Endless Knot, Witch's foot and Goblin's Cross. The pentagram drawn 'upright', as in the picture above, generally symbolises the four elements (the four lower points) connected with, but ruled by, Spirit (the uppermost point).
The word pentagram comes from the Greek word pente, meaning "five" (as in 'pentagon') and the Greek verb graphein, meaning "to write" (as in 'telegram'). Thus, pentagram refers to a five pointed star, or "any figure of five lines". It is most often used to refer to a symmetrical, five pointed star, with equal sides, drawn either with a single line or with two closely spaced parallel lines.
Archaeologists have found pentagrams on Mesopotamian pottery dating back to 3500 B.C.E. They also appear in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, and were used by the Christian Church in the early Middle Ages. In the twelfth century, because of the writings of the Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen, the pentagram became the central symbol of the microcosm ('all that is in the Cosmos is mirrored in man, the small Universe').
Hildgard of Bingen saw the pentagram as representing human form, because we have five senses - sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell - and five "members" - two arms, two legs and a head. Because Christians believe humans were made in God's image, she also saw the pentagram as representing God. Other Christians saw it as representing the five wounds of Christ and so it was considered to be a powerful symbol of protection against evil. Earlier Hebrew tradition associated the pentagram with the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. At this time it also represented truth.
In the late Middle Ages, the pentagram was used to symbolise knightly virtues - chastity, chivalry, courtesy, generosity and piety (shown in the English poem Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight).
It was during the Inquisition that the pentagram first became associated with evil and the Devil in the form of Baphomet (the goat idol of the Knights Templar). In the popular imagery of the time, the pentagram was thought to symbolise the head of a goat, the Devil or a Witch's foot.
The Inverted Pentagram
The inverted pentagram is immediately associated with Satanism by lots of people. The Satanists of the world make life very difficult for we Witches, as the symbol they adopted (the inverted pentagram) looks very much like the pentacles and pentagrams worn by Witches all over the place. Some Satanists even call themselves Witches. These two facts are probably the root of the "Don't Witches worship Satan?" conversations many of us have had. But, this isn't a rant about how misinformed society is and Satanism is too big a can of worms to open here.
In Wicca, the inverted pentagram does not symbolise the Devil. That would be very difficult, considering we don't believe in the Devil. The inverted pentagram does have a place in Wicca, though many Witches don't use it because of the above negative connotations. But, for those who do use it, it can symbolise a few things - second degree initiation (in the Gardnerian Trad, we think), the God (the two uppermost points do look like horns) and Spirit existing within all things (instead of above them).
|The five points of the pentagram represent the four elements and Akasha (a Sanskrit word used to describe Spirit), the substances crucial to all life. This pentacle is my East Coast one, with the Melbourne direction-element correspondences built in.|
Pentagrams can be drawn with two intentions - to bring energy towards you ('invoking') or to send it away ('banishing'). Banishing pentagrams are drawn roughly clockwise (widdershins) and invoking pentagrams are drawn roughly counterclockwise (deosil in the Southern Hemisphere). Invoking pentagrams can be drawn in the air when calling the quarters during the casting of a magick circle to lend a physical constituent to the mental concentration - obviously, you would draw the pentagram from that element's starting point when facing its direction. Banishing pentagrams can also be used when releasing (not exactly banishing - be polite!) the quarters - again, giving a physical element to the action.
Invoking pentagrams can also be used in magick. For example, to draw the energy of the element of Fire into a gift for a girlfriend/boyfriend (Fire being the element of love and passion) you would draw the Fire invoking pentagram over the gift - now it has those desirable Fire energies and, as a bonus, is also protected.
The Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence
What does the pentagram have to do with this mathematical stuff? It's quite interesting, I promise.
The Golden Ratio was valued since at least the Renaissance (14th-17th centuries) by artists because it formed the rectangle most pleasing to the eye. The ratio between the height and length of the rectangle is the Golden Ratio, which is described as "the ratio of the lengths of the two sides is equal to the ratio of the longer side to the sum of the two sides". This works out to approximately 1.618, and is symbolised by the Greek letter phi, φ.
What 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. If a square is added to the long side of a golden rectangle, a larger golden rectangle is formed.
This ratio forms the foundation of the Fibonacci Sequence of numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144... and so on) where each number is formed by adding the previous two numbers. Once you get to 3+5 and beyond, divide one number by its predecessor and the answer will always hover around φ. The Fibonacci Sequence can be found in nature, from the branching of rivers to the spiral of our galaxy.
And how is this relevant to the pentagram? It's relevant because the pentagram 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. These pentagrams are very pleasing to the eye - they look 'right' and 'balanced'.