The pentagram symbol today is ascribed many meanings and deep significance, though much of this is very recent. However, it has been used throughout history and in many contexts:
The earliest known use of the pentagram dates back to around 3500BC at Ur of the Chaldees in Ancient Mesopotamia where it was symbolic of imperial power.
Amongst 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 (see Hexagram).
In Ancient Greece, it was called the Pentalpha, being geometrically composed of five A’s. Unlike earlier civilisations,
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 (eg Gammadion, Alpha-Omega).
To the Gnostics, the pentagram was the ‘Blazing Star’.
For the Druids, it was a symbol of Godhead.
In Egypt, it was a symbol of the ‘underground womb’.
The Pagan Celts ascribed the pentagram to the underground goddess Morrigan.
Medieval Christians attributed the pentagram to the Five Wounds of Christ.
The Christian Emperor Constantine I used the pentagram, together with the chi-rho symbol in his seal and amulet.
In the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the pentagram was Sir Gawain’s glyph, inscribed in gold on his shield, symbolising the five knightly virtues.
In Medieval times, the ‘Endless Knot’ was a symbol of Truth and was a protection against demons. It was used as personal protection and to guard windows and doors.
The pentagram with one point upwards symbolised summer; with two points upwards, it was a sign for winter.
During the long period of the Inquisition, the pentagram was
seen to symbolise a Goat’s Head. In the purge on witches, the horned god Pan became equated with the Devil (a Christian concept) and the pentagram, for the first time in history became a symbol of ‘evil’ and was called the Witch’s Foot.
In the emergence of Hermeticism, graphical symbolism became very important. The concept of the microcosmic world of Man as analogous to the macrocosm, the greater univese of spirit and elemental matter is a part of traditional occult teaching in both western and eastern philosophies.
“As above, so below”;
The pentagram, the ‘Star of the Microcosm’, symbolised Man within the microscosm, representing in analogy the Macrocosmic universe.
The upright pentagram bears some resemblance to the shape of man with his legs and arms outstretched; indeed an illustration attributed to Agrippa or to Tycho Brae (1582) illustrates the similarity of proportion in this image, showing the five planets and the moon at the centre point – the genitalia.
There are other illustrations of the period by Robert Fludd and
Leonardo da Vinci showing geometrical 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 (or the spirit) to the four traditional elements of matter. – [Quintessence]
In Freemasonry, Man as Microprosopus was associated with the five-pointed Seal of Solomon. 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 womens’ branch of freemasonry uses the five pointed ‘Eastern Star’ as its emblem. Each point commemorates a heroine of biblical lore.
No graphical illustration of any association of the pentagram with evil appears until the nineteenth century. Eliphas Levi illustrates the upright pentagram of microcosmic man beside an inverted pentagram with the goat’s head of Baphomet.
In ritual magick the sign has long been used as a ritual flourish of the athame to symbolise invoking or banishing in respect to elemental associations.
In 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 symbolised third degree initiation.
The pentagram was also inscribed on the altar pentacle, it’s
points symbolising the three aspects of the Goddess plus the two aspects of the God.
It was not until the late 1960’s that the pentagram again became an amuletic symbol to be worn and has since then 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 folk-lore !
Nevertheless, the potency of a symbol has more to do with its associations and its commonality than with its antiquity and the pentagram today is ubiquitous amongst neo-pagans.
Authors Details: from the alt.magic newsgroup archive