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Definition: pentagram from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1833) : a figure of a 5-pointed star usu. made with alternate points connected by a continuous line and used as a magic or occult symbol; also : a similar 6-pointed star (as a Solomon's seal)

Summary Article: pentagram
from Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained

A five-pointed star drawn with five straight lines whose intersection forms a pentagon; a powerful symbol in neopaganism, Wicca and ceremonial magic.

The pentagram, also known as the pentangle, pentalpha and pentacle, is probably the most widely revered of all esoteric symbols. This five-pointed star, drawn with five straight lines whose intersections form a pentagon, has been a magical sign for thousands of years, and is first found in Mesopotamian writings of around 3000 bc. It has been seen as a sacred symbol of Isis, and is thought by many to represent the Triple Goddess. In ancient times, it symbolized life or health, and was used symbolically in ancient Greece and Babylonia. At one time Christians commonly used it to represent the five wounds of Christ; however, in more recent times it has come to be associated with magic, neopaganism and satanism. It is much used by Wiccans and ceremonial magicians, and by extension, it has become part of the symbolism of neopaganism in general.

In the Western magical tradition, wicca and neopaganism, its five points are thought to represent the five elements – earth, air, fire, water and spirit or quintessence; the elements’ points are all connected by the unbroken ‘eternal’ line which runs between them, and traditionally, the pentagram is drawn with a single point at the top, representing spirit, the most important element. The next two points down represent air on the left and water on the right, and the bottom two points represent earth on the left and fire on the right; the pentagram thus symbolizes the elements in ideal balance, and the perfected human being in whom the qualities of the elements are similarly balanced. Some writers refer to it as the endless knot, others as the Seal of Solomon, although the latter term is more commonly used of the hexagram.

The pentagram, as a figure which can be drawn with a single unbroken line, is believed to be a powerfully protective magical symbol, and depending on the starting point and the direction in which the lines are drawn, can be used as either an invoking or a banishing symbol. Satanists use the symbol of the pentacle inverted so that it has two points at the top, like horns, drawn inside a double circle, with a goat’s head – the head of baphomet – depicted inside the pentagram.

A physical representation of the pentagram, called a pentacle, is one of the ritual tools used in neopaganism, Wicca and ceremonial magic. A flat disk with a pentagram drawn or engraved inside a circle, the pentacle is seen as a female tool symbolizing the element of earth, and all that this element signifies – stability, practicality, abundance, structure and humility. It is usually placed in the north of the altar during rituals, the north being the direction associated with the element of earth. A dish with a pentacle on it is sometimes also used to hold the cakes which are shared by the participants after a magical ritual. The pentacle’s importance as a magical symbol is demonstrated by the fact that one of the suits of the tarot is the suit of pentacles (see pentacles, suit of). See also magic, ceremonial.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2007

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