The terms pentagram and pentacle are sometimes used interchangeably. However, we believe that the most
common precise meanings are:
The word pentagram comes
from the Greek: "pente means 5 (as in Pentagon). "Gram" comes from the Greek verb graphein, "to write".
The same ending is found in such words as telegram. Thus, pentagram refers to a five pointed star, or "any figure of five lines." 8 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. Their overall shape is like the
decoration on the top of many Christmas trees, and the stars on the American flag.
An upright pentagram is a
5 pointed star with one point aligned upwards.
An inverted pentagram is
a 5 pointed star with two points aligned upwards.
An upright pentacle is generally
defined as an upright pentagram surrounded by a circle, as is shown in the following icon. It often takes the form of a pentagram
printed on (or cut into) a flat disk.
Upright pentacles and pentagrams are among the most widely used religious
symbols. They have been used in many eras and by many cultures and religions of the world: by ancient Pagans, ancient Israelites,
Christians, magicians, Wiccans and others. The following pentagram-using groups are listed in chronological order:
This symbol apparently originated as the symbol of a Goddess who was worshiped
over an area which extends from present-day England to Egypt and beyond. Her name was Kore (a.k.a. Car, Cara, Carnac, Ceres,
Core, Kar, Karnak, Kaur, Kauri, Ker, Kerma, Kher, Kore, Q're, etc.). As Carmenta
she was said to have invented the Roman alphabet. From her alternate Roman name Ceres
have evolved many English words: cardiac, carnal, cereal, core, corn, and kernel. The port of Caraalis, (now Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia), was named
Kore's sacred fruit is the apple. When an apple is cut through its equator,
both halves will reveal a near-perfect pentagram shape at the core, with each point on the star containing a seed. Many Wiccans, other Neopagans and Roma (Gypsies) continue to cut apples in this way. The Roma refer to the core as the Star of Knowledge.
In ancient Greece, Pythagoras (586 - 506 BCE) established a school which pursued knowledge in mathematics, music, religion, and other specialties.
Driven underground, his followers used the pentagram as a secret sign to identify themselves to each other. The Masonic Order has traditionally traced its origins back 2,500 years to the Pythagoreans.
Kore was worshiped within the Coptic Gnostic Christian religion in Alexandria, Egypt, during the 4th century CE. Her festival, the Koreion, was held yearly on JAN-6. This was adopted by the Christian church as Feast of Epiphany (a.k.a. Twelfth Night).
4 This date is still celebrated as Jesus' birthday in Armenian churches, and is observed with more pomp than is
Christmas by the Greek Orthodox church. 5
In England, the Koreion became the Kirn - the Feast of Ingathering. The Christian church later adopted it to the Feast
of Our Lady of Mercy. 4
During the times of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the pentacle was
the first and most important of the Seven Seals - an amulet whose seals represented the seven secret names of God. It was
inscribed on King Solomon's ring, which is often called Solomon's Seal in
error. 6 Each point of the pentagram was also interpreted as referring to the five books of the Pentateuch - the
first five books in the Hebrew Scriptures; the Torah.
The Celts believed that the pentacle was the sign of the Goddess of the Underground, who they called Morgan (a.k.a. Morrigan). The concept of five points seems
to have permeated at least one of the Celtic lands. "Ireland had five great roads,
five provinces and five paths of the law. The fairy folk counted by fives, and the mythological figures wore five fold cloaks."
In Christian times:
The five points of the pentagram have been interpreted as representing the
five wounds of Christ (2 wrist, 2 ankle and 1 side).
The Roman Emperor Constantine used the pentagram in his seal and amulet.
It has been referred to as the Star
It was used to symbolize the star which allegedly led three Zoroastrian astrologers
to the baby Jesus; it was called the Three Kings' star.
The English warrior Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur, adopted the pentagram
as his personal symbol and placed it on his shield. 7 It appeared in gold on a red background. The five points
symbolized "the five knightly virtues - generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry
and piety." 14
Tarot cards originally had a suit of coins or discs. These were changed in
the 19th century to pentacles when the Tarot became associated with the Kabbalah. They eventually became the suit
of diamonds in modern playing cards.
It has been widely used by past Christians as a protective amulet.
During the burning times when the Christian church burned alive or hung hundreds
of thousands of innocent people, the meaning of the pentagram changed. It began to symbolize a goat's head or the devil in
the form of Baphomet. "The folk-symbol of security - for the first time in history
- was equated with evil and was called the Witch's Foot." 14
The religion of Wicca is based in part on ancient Celtic deities, symbols,
days of celebration, etc. The pentacle and pentagram are their main symbols.
Many religious and spiritual groups use the pentacle or pentagram today.
Some religious and spiritual groups have used the inverted pentacle.
During the 20th century, Satanists inverted the upright pentacle and adopted
it as their own symbol. However, the symbol is most commonly shown with the head of a goat within the pentagram as shown below.
Sign of Baphomet
The inverted pentacle with a goat's head is called the sign of Baphomet. The
term may have come from two Greek words, baphe and metis, meaning "absorption of knowledge." It has also been
called the Black Goat, Devil's Goat, Goat Head, Goat of Mendes, and Judas Goat. Its first appearance appears to have been
during the vicious interrogation of members of the Knights Templar by the Christian Inquisition. There was little consensus
among different victims' descriptions of the Baphomet. It can probably be safely assumed that their description of the Baphomet
is more a product of the Inquisition's torture methods than of any actual statue that was in use by the Knights.
"In the 20th. century Karl Kellner
and other German occultists formed the secret order of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis or Order of Templars in the East).
They installed the English occultist Aleister Crowley to head their British section. Crowley took Baphomet as his magical
Today, the Baphomet is widely used by religious Satanists. The Church of Satan also uses a second symbol which is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its side). A Roman cross
is placed on top with a second, longer cross piece added beneath the top cross piece.
The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to their users
There is no single consensus on the significance of these symbols. Various
groups use and define them quite differently:
Wiccans have attempted to reconstruct a Pagan religion similar to that of
the ancient Celts. They have adopted the upright pentacle/pentagram, since it was the symbol of Morgan, an ancient Celtic
goddess. Many wear it as jewelry and use it on their altars. The symbol is frequently traced by hand using an athame (a ritual
knife) during Wiccan rituals. It is used to cast and banish their healing circles. Some Wiccans interpret the five points
as representing earth, air, fire, water, and spirit -- the five factors needed to sustain life. Others relate the points to
the four directions and spirit. Some Wiccans and other Neopagans bless themselves and others with the sign of the pentagram.
Their hand passes from their forehead to one hip, up to the opposite shoulder, across to the other shoulder, down to the opposite
hip and back to the forehead. Some of the more highly structured Wiccan traditions have used an inverted pentagram to represent
a second or third degree status. "Many of these groups have since substituted a
triangle form for the same degrees because of the association of the inverted form of the pentacle with Satanism and black
Ceremonial magicians also use the pentagram. Its points can "represent various elemental energies, spirits or deities."
The Order of the Eastern Star is a international humanitarian organization
composed of women who are wives of advanced Masons. They use an inverted pentacle as their symbol. Essentially all Eastern
Star members in North America are Christians.
The Rosicrucian movement consists of groups of Christian mystics. They frequently
use a wand, sword, cup and pentagram as tools during their rituals. The pentagram represents "earth, matter and stability." 13
The Masonic Order associate the five points of the pentagram with "Five Points of Fellowship." However, its "use in Masonry is vestigial
and peripheral." 11 Again, almost all Masons in North America are Christians.
Some heavy metal rock bands occasionally use a pentacle or pentagram as a
band symbol. It is often neither an upright nor an inverted symbol. Often, it is aligned to have a top point which is slightly
off vertical. We are unaware of any band that is actually composed of religious Satanists. All the groups which we have studied
simply use the symbolism and stage theatrics to generate notoriety, popularity and record sales.
Satanism is composed of many diverse groups with no central overall organization.
They number perhaps 20,000 in North America. Some Satanic grottos and temples use the Baphomet.
The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to Christians
Because liberal and conservative Christians interpret the Bible in different ways, they have developed very different belief systems over time, and agree on very few points. This disagreemnt carries over into their understanding of pentacles
Liberal Christians generally view Satan as a principle of evil rather than
as a living entity. Those who are familiar with Wicca and Satanism are aware of the lack of similarity of the two religions:
Wiccans do not recognize the existence of the Christian quasi-deity, Satan.
They have no all-evil deity in their pantheon of gods and goddesses. Satanists recognize Satan (or one of his precursors)
as either a living deity or a principle.
Wiccans are prohibited by their Wiccan Rede from harming, manipulating or
controlling others. Satanists, on the other hand, are free to use magic to harm their enemies.
Wiccans follow an gentle, nature-based, aboriginal religion that is similar
to that of Native American spirituality. Satanists practice indulgence, gratification and vengeance, rather than concern for
all humans and for the environment.
Many religious liberals view the Wiccan upright pentacle or pentagram as an
elegant, spiritual symbol that represents life. They see the Satanic inverted pentacle or Bahomet as primarily representing
a self-centered religion.
Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians generally have an entirely
different view of Wicca, Satanism and other religions. This is influenced by some of their beliefs. In many, but not all cases:
Since they believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they regard as true those passages which state that the gods and goddesses worshiped by
other religions are, in reality, Satan or his demons.
They regard Satan as a living entity, a living, quasi deity who is totally
dedicated to destroying people's lives and ruining their faith. They regard themselves as being in continuous "spiritual warfare"
-- a personal battle with Satan and his demons.
They regard Satanism as having existed as an organized movement, murdering
and performing "black masses" for may centuries. This contrasts with a consensus of modern historians that: "no reliable historical sources indicate that such organizations
existed; the black mass appears only once in the sources before the late nineteenth century."
They do not differentiate between Wicca and Satanism. Because they consider
the Wiccan gods and goddesses to be Satanic or demonic, they regard the two religions as very similar
They commonly believe that Satanists, (and by extension, Wiccans) engage in
Satanic Ritual Abuse and murder. Belief in SRA is gradually diminishing, but remains still at a high level.
Books by conservative Christian authors about Wicca and Satanism are based
primarily on books by other Christian authors, rather than on primary religious sources. Some of the ideas put forth in these
books as truth can be traced back to 15th century Christian propaganda during the Burning Times.
Many conservative Christians do not differentiate between Wicca and Satanism,
or between upright and inverted pentacles/pentagrams. All are viewed as symbols representing evil, violence and lawlessness.
Dispute over pentagrams in Roswell NM public schools
In 1999-SEP-7, The Roswell Independent
School District in New Mexico had a dress code that stated (in part): "...Any attire associated with gothic, satanic, or occult-type activities such as trench coats, knee high boots, all-black clothing, spiked jewelry, upside-down crosses, swastika, tattoos, pentagrams,
etc...are prohibited.." The son of Katherine King, owner of a local Pagan book store in Roswell, discovered the ban
during a school assignment. He asked why such a prohibition was in place, because it was such an obvious violation of the
1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This triggered a study which resulted in a recommendation by the school
staff that the ban on religious symbols be removed - specifically the prohibition on pentagrams. Legal staff from the
city advised that the ban was unconstitutional, as written. At a school district meeting, over 200 people attended.
Many were from the conservative Christian Church On The Move; some were from
other conservative Christian groups. After an emotional 3 hour discussion, the board voted whether to change the dress code.
It was a 2 - 2 tie. This meant that the existing prohibition continued. Kathyrn King, described by the Roswell Daily Record as a "Pagan activist," is reported as
saying that she will ask the American Civil Liberties Union to mount a lawsuit
against the school board. 1,2
On SEP-12, the Roswell Daily Record News published an interview with Steve
Smothermon, pastor of the Church on the Move. He indicated that their goal
was not to deny any students the right to wear their religious symbol. "Our whole
point was, nobody has the right to promote violence in our school system." Referring to Kathryn King, he continued:
"If [the dispute is]...all about a symbol, change her symbol...But she shouldnt
be allowed to promote anything which promotes violence."
Mary Reeves, a member of Smothermon's congregation, said that the pentagram
has been viewed as a Satanic symbol for centuries. "Why would they [the Neopagans]
pick a violent symbol to promote their love? Its been known as being violent from the medieval age on."
State Senator Rod Adair, (R-Roswell) expressed support for the pentagram ban.
He said: "In an era when the term zero tolerance for drugs, guns, knives and violence
is the watchword of the day, it is inconceivable that we would allow symbols which directly promote Satanic worship and the
violence and bloodshed which are part of it." His mention of violence and bloodshed apparently refers to the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax. During the 1990's and early 1990's, many North Americans believed that Satanists ritually abused and
killed tens of thousands of children annually. The belief has largely dissipated due to the complete lack of hard evidence.
However, many conservative Christians are still convinced that it happens; Senator Adair is apparently one.
Smothermon doubts that the wearing of a pentagram is protected by law. "What ruling allows for violence to be promoted in our school system? I want to know what
law that is. If theyre talking about the equal access law, that has no bearing on this issue." (The equal access law is a federal statute which assures that religious clubs and religious expression are guaranteed the same
rights as secular clubs and secular speech). He continued: "They have the right
to worship what they want to worship; that is not in question here."On
1999-SEP-21, the school board again met to discuss the issue. The meeting was attended by about 400 Christians and just over
20 Pagans. The police had an obvious presence. Prayer meetings inside and outside the meeting area were held throughout the
evening. The discussion period involving extensive public input. Speakers threatened to remove students from the school system
if pentagrams were allowed; some called for a religious battle in the courts and offered to help with legal costs; some opposed
the wearing of pentagrams anywhere, not just by students in school. The general consensus of the Christians at the meeting
was that the pentagram is, and always will be, a Satanic symbol to them. One Native American spoke of Christians stripping
his culture of their talking stick and other symbols of his faith. He said that he found the Christian cross offensive because,
to him, it stood for the destruction of his culture. Many Wiccans and other Neopagans spoke, asking for tolerance, understanding
and human rights. The board finally voted to cancel the previous dress code and substitute: "No student on school property or at any school activity shall wear, possess, use, distribute, display or sell any
clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbol, sign or other item that currently evidences or reflects membership in, or affiliation
with, any gang." The vote was 4 to 1. The board decided to allow the wearing of Neopagan religious symbols. Those supporting
the change indicated that they based their decision on constitutional considerations; the one person who was opposed based
their decision on the massive outpouring of public concern. The Church on the Move
threatened legal action to reinstate the ban