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THE PENTAGRAM

Subject: THE PENTAGRAM
                              By Mike Nichols
                              August 29, 2000

                               [purplebar.jpg]

     The pentagram, or five-pointed star, may be the most misunderstood
     religious symbol around these days. Being the most common symbol of
     Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, it has nevertheless been denigrated by movie
     and publishing industries which seem 'hell-bent' on connecting it
     with Satanism and other malevolent practices. However, like the
     Roman Cross or Crucifix, it is only when the symbol is INVERTED
     that it alludes to negativity. And even then, there are exceptions,
     as we shall see.

     In its usual upright position (one point uppermost), the pentagram
     is an ancient symbol of protection from evil. Also called 'the
     endless knot' (in its interlaced form), the pentagram was often
     displayed on doors, windows, and hearths of houses throughout
     pre-Christian Europe. It can be traced back to Egyptian and
     Sumerian cultures, and has even been found on Native American
     medicine tools. Sometimes mistakenly confused with the Star of
     David, or hexagram (a six-pointed star emblematic of Judaism), the
     pentagram is sometimes called the Star of Solomon, especially by
     ceremonial magicians.

     To many, the lower four points represent the classical elements of
     earth, air, fire, and water, while the fifth point, surmounting the
     others, represents spirit, the fifth element or quintessence. Thus,
     the pentagram symbolizes the four elements of the material world
     connected with, but ruled by, the spirit. When the pentagram is
     placed within a circle (symbol of unity and wholeness), it stresses
     our connection with the universe as a whole.

     Another interpretation is that there is not one point upward -- but
     three! In numerology, three is the number of harmony, best
     expressed in the classical formula: thesis, antithesis, and
     synthesis. In other words, it is the middle point that harmonizes
     the opposing outer points. The Celtic love of triads (the most
     common form of their 'wisdom literature') has its roots in this
     model. The upper three points are thus placed above the lower two
     points, which represents dualistic opposites that cannot be
     integrated or harmonized (seeing everything in black and white).

     Yet another interpretation of the upright pentagram is that it
     symbolizes the most common view of deity in Witchcraft. The upper
     three points represent the Goddess in her threefold aspect of
     Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The lower two points represent her
     consort God, in his twin aspects of God of Light and God of
     Darkness. However, in all these interpretations, it is important to
     remember that all the points are connected -- each an aspect of the
     other, all part of the same whole.

     But when the pentagram is inverted, so is its meaning. Thus, an
     inverted pentagram may represent the physical world (four material
     elements) in domination of the world of spirit (the fifth element).
     (This may be why Satanists and other 'demonistic' groups use this
     symbol.) With two points uppermost, it may also express a
     Neo-Platonic dualism (the old 'war in heaven', good vs. evil theme)
     -- as opposed to the Pagan monistic view of reality ('the Force')
     seen in the single point upward. The most common exception to this
     rule is that some traditions of Witchcraft (chiefly British) employ
     the inverted pentagram as a POSITIVE symbol of advanced degree. In
     this case, the two points uppermost represent the horns of light,
     symbol of 'the Horned God', consort to the Great Goddess (like the
     Greek god Pan).

     The word 'pentacle', sometimes mistakenly substituted for
     pentagram, really refers to a shallow dish (usually inscribed with
     a pentagram) and used as an altar tool by modern Witches, serving a
     purpose similar to the 'patten' at a Roman Catholic Mass. Common
     variations of this tool include a dish of earth, a disk of copper,
     a dish of silver, or a disk of wax.

     The suit of pentacles (or 'coins') in the Tarot deck, the Stone of
     Fal (coronation stone of kings) in ancient Ireland, the sangreal of
     the Holy Grail processions, and the 'Universal Man' of Leonardo da
     Vinci, are all related to the pentagram, stressing its ties to the
     earth and nature, making it a symbol par excellence of an earth or
     nature religion. The five points also represent the five physical
     senses and allude to approaching the spiritual realm THROUGH the
     sensual -- in fact, the meaning of the Ace of Pentacles in Tarot.
     In numerology, 5 is the number of sexuality, combining the feminine
     2 with the masculine 3. Thus, the pentagram also represents the
     opposite of asceticism.

     But wherever the pentagram is displayed, one message is clear: evil
     has no power there.

                              [purplebar.jpg]

              Document Copyright  1988, 2000 by Mike Nichols
                    HTML coding by: Mike Nichols  2000

     This document can be re-published only as long as no information is
     lost or changed, credit is given to the author, and it is provided
     or used without cost to others.

      Other uses of this document must be approved in writing by Mike
                                  Nichols.

   Revised: Thursday, April 2, 1998 c.e.

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