A pentagram is a five-pointed star—“pente” is Greek for five, and “gram” means to write. Many uninformed people mistakenly claim that the pentagram is a sign of evil, or that a reversed pentagram is a mark of the devil. It may be true that Satanists choose to wear inverted or reversed religious emblems, including the inverse pentagram and the upside-down Christian cross to gain notoriety. But the pentagram itself is anything but evil. You may have also heard the term “pentacle,” which further adds to the confusion and uncertainty of this object. Similarly, a pentacle is simply a five-pointed star, facing upright, enclosed within a circle.
Five pointed stars are common among several faiths and cultures. The earliest pentagrams have been located in archeological findings which date back to 4000 B.C. in the region of Palestine. Findings in Mesopotamia have been discovered dating back to 3500 B.C., and in Sumeria from 2700 B.C. Discovered in these diggings were pottery and stones which revealed the carvings of various pentacles. There is much speculation as to what this symbolism represented during these eras. Was it a cosmic symbol, representing the five planets visible to the naked eye? An emblem of health? A symbol of power, or protection?
By 400 B.C., the followers of the philosopher Pythagoras began using the pentagram as a signature, a way of identifying themselves. Their explanation of the pentagram was that it represented the human microcosm. You may recall the well-known image of man, with his arms stretched out to a surrounding circle with a pentagram in the background. Made famous by Leonardo Da Vinci, this image illustrated man’s relationship to the universe, representing the infinite power and abilities of mankind.
As humanity evolved, so did this sacred symbol. With flourishing international travel and commerce, the sacred pentagram was shared with other cultures. Pentagrams appeared over doorways for protection in the Norse regions. In Israel, the pentacle was adopted as one of the Seven Seals, inscribed in King Solomon’s seal, representing the five books of the Torah. In Christianity, the pentagram identified Christ’s five wounds. Upon the discovery of America, the pentagram was found to be in existence among Native American tribes. As America was founded, the pentagram was frequently incorporated in the symbolism of the United States government. The pentagram appears in our U.S. flag, on the Great Seal, and also in the currency. It is widely accepted that several founders involved with the establishing of America were Freemasons. Among these secret societies, the pentagram was used to assist in the study and practice of alchemy, and was incorporated into ceremonial magic and rituals.
Fast forward to today, and the significant impact Hollywood has had on our culture. Horror movies, murder mysteries and those centered around the occult have erroneously used the pentagram, perpetrating the misunderstandings. In the neo-pagan belief systems that are reviving today, including Wicca, the pentagram is often used as a tool for protection, invocations, and banishings. The five points represent the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit.
The next time you see a pentagram, instead of fearing evil, I encourage you to think of the power of the human spirit. Call upon the energies of the five elements and let the stars be your guide!