Pentagram ~A five pointed star, encased by an outer circle. Adopted by the first pagan practioners, it is always seen with it’s apex pointing upward toward the Divine.
The Early RootsThe earliest known use of the pentagram can be found around 3500 BC at Ur of the Chaldees in Ancient Mesopotamia. It was found here on fragments of broken pottery with some of the earliest findings of written language. In later periods of Mesopotamian art, the pentagram was used in royal inscriptions as a symbol of imperial power extending out to “the four corners of the world”. The pentagram was also used by the Hebrews as a symbol of Truth and for the five books of the Pentateuch (The first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures). In Ancient Greece, 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. It was called the Pentalpha (A five-pointed star, resembling five alphas joined at their bases), composed of five geometrical A’s. Pythagoras was known to have traveled all over the ancient world. It’s that his travels took him to Egypt, to Chaldea and to lands around the Indus where he shared his knowledge and views. Because of his travels we maybe able draw a connection with the presence of the pentagram in Tantrik art. These early Hindu and Buddhist writings seem to share Pythagoras’ view of the star and it’s symbology. The Gnostics were early practioners of Gnosticism; The doctrines of certain pre-Christian pagan, Jewish, and early Christian sects who valued the revealed knowledge of God, the origin and end of the human race as a means to attain redemption for the spiritual element in humans. These people saw the pentagram as a ‘Blazing Star’. Sharing it’s symbology with the crescent moon it was related to the magik and mystery of the night time sky or the mysteries of the dark. Celtic Druids, saw the pentagram as a symbol of the Godhead. Celtic Pagans saw the sacred nature of five or the important nature of “five-ness” in many things. Which is reflected in much of their symbology. It’s also important to note that these Celtic traditions provide the foundation for much of modern Paganism practiced today. We can find an example of the importance of 5 in the old Irish tale, “Cormac’s Cup of Gold”. The hero of the tale “saw a royal fortress with four houses in it, and a bright well with nine ancient hazels growing over it. In the well, were five salmon who ate the nuts that dropped from the purple hazels, and sent the husks floating down the five streams that flowed therefrom. The sound of the streams was the sweetest music.” … “The spring was the Well of Knowledge, and the five streams the five senses through which knowledge is obtained. No one will have knowledge who drinks not a draught out of the well itself or out of the streams. Those who are skilled in many arts drink from both the well and the streams.” To many Pagan Celts it was assigned to the underground goddess Morrigan. If we look at the in numerous Celtic connections of fiveness we’ll also find that:
- Ireland had five great roads, five provinces and five paths of the law.
- The fairy folk counted by fives,
- Mythological figures wore five fold cloaks.
It was a symbol of the ‘underground womb’ and bore a symbolic relationship to the concept of the pyramid form to the Egyptians. 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 it was a form that implied Truth, religious mysticism and the work of The Creator. The Emperor Constantine I, used the pentagram, together with the chi-rho symbol (a symbolic form of the 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. The early Christian Church subsequently came to power and assumed supreme power over the Roman Empire, using a forged document – ‘The Donation of Constantine’. 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 it’s symbol the pentagram. Over time the Church drooped the circle and altered the pentagram to a simple five-pointed star, presumably in reaction to the neo-pagan use of the pentagram with the circle intact. 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 upward, it was a sign for winter. In the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the pentagram was used as his signature glyph and was inscribed in gold on his shield. The legend tells us that Gawain used the symbol for the five knightly virtues – generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety. The military monks of the Knights Templar formed during the Crusades. The order of the Templar found in Rennes du Chatres in France is an almost perfect natural pentagon of mountains spanning several miles around it. The creation of other exact geometric alignments and pentagrams can be found in the area as well. It is clear from remaining traces of Templar architecture that architects and masons were well aware of the geometry of the pentagon and incorporated that mysticism into their designs. The religious-fanatic Louis IX of France in 1303 saw the Knights Templar as a strong and powerful force to reckon with. Wither he felt threatened politically by their wealth and power, or if he truly believed they were working against God is up for great debate. But under his guidance, the black times of the Inquisition fell upon the land. Unimaginable torture and murder began, slowly spreading across Europe.centuries.
The Impact Of The InquisitionDuring the Inquisition, The Church lapsed into a long period of torture and conducted itself in the most heinous fashion. More people were killed for being label pagan or witch that died during the Holocaust. During this time the pentagram was seen a Goat’s Head or the Devil in the form of Baphomet. It was Baphomet whom the Inquisition accused the Templars of worshiping. And their order was disbanded. Many Knights of the order refused to give up their beliefs, opting to meet in secret and hide their knowledge from the public. A custom that is still practiced today. Around this time, poisoning as a means of murder came into prominence. Potent herbs and drugs brought back from the East during the Crusades had entered the cabinets of the healers, the wise and 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. In the purge on witches, other horned gods such as Pan became equated with the Christian concept of the Devil and the pentagram, for the first time in history, was equated with ‘evil’ and was label as the “Witch’s Foot”. Like the Knights Templar these early pagans were forced underground, hiding and meeting in secret, doing their best to avoid the Dominican guards and the burning trials. Under the prying eyes of the Church and it’s attempt to enforce control over the people, secret hidden groups of craftsmen, and societies of scholars began the development of Alchemy. Hermeticism, the proto-science of alchemy developed along with its occult philosophy and symbolism. Graphical and geometric symbolism became very important and the period of the Renaissance emerged. Western occult teachings began to emphasize the philosophies of Man being the small part of the larger and grater universal spirit. “As above, so below” soon became a common mantra. And the symbology of the pentagram returned as the ‘Star of the Microcosm’, symbolizing Man within the macrocosm or showing the relation of man in the Macrocosmic universe. In 1582, Tycho Brahe’s Calendarium Naturale magicum Perpetuum shows a pentagram with the 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 also 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, such as or the spirit, to the four traditional elements of matter – earth, water, air and fire. “Spirit is The Quintessence”.
The Pentagram Comes To The New WorldIn the Freemasonry order, Man as the smaller aspect of the universe was and is associated with the five-pointed Pentagon. 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 womens branch of freemasonry uses the five pointed ‘Eastern Star’ as its emblem. Each point commemorates a heroine of biblical lore.More than half of America’s Found Fathers were Freemasons or practioners of Deism. And we can see how they strived greatly to institute a society that separated church and state in order to eliminate yet another occurrence of the Inquisition. They were very meticulous in their attempts to create a secular government. But they also incorporated elements of the pentagram symbology into American symbols. Possibly because they understood how wide spread the use of this symbol was within all religions. We see it in the 5 pointed stars on the flag, the eye/pyramid on money, and even the layout of the nations capital was designed to reflect Freemasonry symbology. In 1791, Pierre Charles L’Enfante(the designer, who was a Freemason), laid out Governmental Center of Washington, D.C., he planned more than just streets, roads, and buildings. Through his designs, he incorporated certain occult magikal symbols in the layout of U.S. Governmental Center. And of course, many fundamental Christians see this symbol as satanic. In actuality, it’s merely just the top portion of the alchemical formula.
Victorian MysticismThe 19th century brought a new mysticism into polite society. Metaphysical Societies sprang up around the modern world. Many of them based on the ancient Holy Kabbalah. The Kabbalah comes from oral Judaism and relate the nature of God, the divine universe, morality and occult truths to Man. The Kabbalah is not a religion unto itself, but rather a system of understanding based upon symbolism, mathematical and alphabetical interrelationships of words and concepts. Eliphas Levi was a leader in this new movement and was instrumental in opening the rise of the Victorian lodges of western mystery traditions such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Order Temporale Orientalis (O.T.O.), the Rosicrucian’s or the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, the Theosophical Society, and several other mystical organizations. Even the modern lodges and traditions of speculative Freemasonry had some connection to this renaissance of mysticism. Levi was also instrumental in taking the tarot from being a gypsy fortune-telling device to a powerful set of symbolic images for divination. Levi is credited with establishing the design upon the pentagram. Such associative inscriptions as in the Pentacle of the Tetragrammaton and renaming the suit of ‘coins’ as ‘pentacles’. Many believe these orders were the ones who instituted the workings of ritual magik with the symbolism of the pentagram and it’s elemental attributes, along with those of the hexagram. There is little evidence to support this view. And more evidence to link these symbols with ancient Pagan practices. Making the magik and pentagram connection much older. The Golden Dawn did much to advance and disseminate the roots of modern hermetic Kabbalah around the world during it’s height of popularity from 1888 to around the start of the First World War. Through writings and teachings of many of it’s members, such as Aleister Crowley, have come some of the most important ideas of today’s Kabbalist philosophy and magik. Aleister Crowley also had association with the old pre-Reformation ‘hereditary’ witches, through his association with Old George Pickingill and Gerald Gardner. Gerald Gardner, an initiate of Dorothy Clutterbuck, is the founder of the tradition of Wicca. During this time, we also see the first modern association of the pentagram with ‘evil’. Eliphaz Levi Zahed (Alphonse Louis Constant, a defrocked French Catholic abbé) who illustrated the upright pentagram beside an inverted pentagram with the goat’s head of Baphomet. It is this illustration and opposite positions that has led to the concept of different orientations of the pentagram being ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Which gave ammunition to the fundamentalists for relating these Victorian mystic practices and the emerging modern rebirth of Witchcraft as evil and relating to the devil.
The Modern PentagramIn 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 the Wiccan tradition of Witchcraft. 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. The pentagram was also inscribed on the altar with 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 Gardner and his associate Doreen Valiente, brought the long-withered stem of Witchcraft, the Old Religion out into the world again, back from the hidden secret societies of the Victorian age and the attempts of the Inquisition to destroy all who practiced these ancient beliefs.The Christian morality still kept the pentagram in the minds of modern society as a negative symbol. So it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the pentagram again became a symbol to be worn in public. With the rise of Witchcraft and Wicca and the publication of many books, there was a reaction to the Church view as well. The Church of Satan – by Anton LaVey was part of this reaction. This organization started out as a renewed practice of the following of Set, an Egyptian deity. For it’s emblem, this group adopted the inverted pentagram after the Baphomet image of Eliphas Levi. The reaction of the Christian church was to condemn Satanism as ‘evil’ and lumping all the re-emerging societies together as Devil worship. The stigma of Witchcraft and it’s use of the pentagram has continued through to today. The distinction between the upright and inverted pentagram has now been brought into the practices of Witchcraft. As a means to differentiate the positive practices of Witchcraft, especially Wicca and it’s incorporation of the Wiccan Rede “An in it harm none”, and perceived negative actions of Satanists. So despite the use and the different meaning of the inverted pentagram as a symbol of Gardnerian initiation, modern Witchcraft traditions, notably those in the USA, strongly separate themselves from the inverted symbol. The upright pentagram or pentacle however has firmly established itself as a common neo-pagan and Witchcraft symbol. Again being used in it’s original symbolic form from ancient lore and text. The history of the pentagram can be tracked, traced and documented through out time. Like many spiritual symbols, it has evolved, grown and gone through it’s various associations, rightly or wrongly, with good and evil. Today, Witchcraft is the fastest growing religion in the USA. consequently it’s symbology and beliefs are moving into modern society through literature, TV, Movies and a new sense of courage by it’s practioners. The concepts of positive practices are fighting hard against the stereotypical evils of the Inquisition and fundamental Christians. But there’s still a long way to go. Unfortunately many people are still labeled as evil for wearing a pentagram. Many children have been expelled from school for simply wearing the pentagram as a pendant. Teachers who are also pagan are afraid to wear their spiritual jewelry to work, for fear of retribution by other teachers or the PTA. As society becomes more informed and misconceptions become corrected, all pagans hope these old stereotypes will fall by the wayside and acceptance will be granted to everyone regardless of their beliefs