Pentagrams

The pentagram, or five-pointed star, has been in existence for thousands of years. Over that time, it has had many meanings, uses, and depictions associated with it.

The five-pointed star, also commonly called a pentagram, has been in use for thousands of years by a variety of cultures. Most uses of the pentagram in Western society today descend from Western occult traditions.

Occultists have long associated the pentagram with several beliefs including:

  • Humanity or the human body, representing two outstretched arms, two legs, and the head
  • The five physical senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste
  • The five elements: spirit, fire, air, water, and earth
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Orientation of The Pentagram

Nineteenth-century occult groups such as the Golden Dawn held that the point-up pentagram represented the rulership of Spirit over the physical elements, while a point-down pentagram represented the descent of Spirit into matter or matter subsuming Spirit. It is largely this interpretation that led the religion of Wicca to adopt the point-up pentagram and Satanism the point-down version as their representative symbols.

It is initiation or profanation; it is Lucifer or Vesper, the star of morning or evening. It is Mary or Lilith, victory or death, day or night. The Pentagram with two points in the ascendant represents Satan as the goat of the Sabbath; when one point is in the ascendant, it is the sign of the Saviour. By placing it in such a manner that two of its points are in the ascendant and one is below, we may see the horns, ears and beard of the hierarchic Goat of Mendes, when it becomes the sign of infernal evocations. (Eliphas Levi, Transcendental Magic)

The Union of Opposites

The pentagram sometimes represents the union of opposites, generally expressed as male and female, in order to generate a greater whole. For example, Wiccans sometimes see the pentagram as representing the Triple Goddess (as three of the points) and the Horned God (with the remaining two points representing either his two horns or his dual light and dark natures). Cornelius Agrippa speaks of the number five generally representing the union of male and female as the sum of two and three, with two representing the Mother and three representing the Father.

Protection and Exorcism

The pentagram is commonly accepted as a symbol of protection and exorcism, driving away evil and other unwanted energies and entities.

Depictions in Non-Occult Belief Systems

The five-pointed star is the official symbol of the Baha'i Faith.

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Baphomet Pentagram

baphomet pentagram
Official Symbol of the Church of Satan. Church of Satan, used with permission

The Baphomet Pentagram is the official, copyrighted symbol of the Church of Satan. While similar images existed previous to the Church, which didn't form until 1966, this precise image is of relatively new construction. It is featured here with the Church's permission.

The Pentagram

The pentagram has long been associated with various magical and occult beliefs. Moreover, the pentagram has frequently represented mankind and the microcosm. Satanism, which reveres the accomplishments of humanity and encourages believers to embrace physical wants and desires. Satanists also equate the pentagram to "intellectual omnipotence and autocracy," as described by 19th-century occultist Eliphas Levi.

Read more:Background Information on Pentagrams

Orientation of Pentagram

The Church of Satan decided on a point-down orientation. This allows them to place the goat-head within the figure. In addition, according to writers such as Levi, this was the "infernal" orientation, and thus seemed the appropriate orientation for Satanism. Finally, the point-down figure represents spirit subsumed by the four physical elements, rejecting the notion that the physical world is dirty and taboo and that the spirit should rise about it.

The Goat Face

The placing of a goat-face within the pentagram also dates to the 19th century. The figure is not specifically Satan (and, indeed, a goat-faced Satan is but one of many historical depictions of him), although it generally is described in terms such as "the foul Goat threatening Heaven" and was first depicted alongside the names Samael and Lilith, both of which can have demonic connotations.

The Church of Satan specifically associates it with the Goat of Mendes, which they also call Baphomet. For them, it represents "the hidden one, he who abides in all things, the soul of all phenomena."

The Hebrew Letters

The five Hebrew letters along the outside of the symbol spell out Leviathan, a monstrous biblical sea creature viewed by Satanists as a symbol of the Abyss and hidden truth.

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Eliphas Levi's Pentagram

Eliphas Levi Pentagram
The Tetragrammaton Pentagram. Eliphas Levi, 19th century

19th-century occultist Eliphas Levi constructed this pentagram. It is commonly interpreted as a symbol of mankind, as many pentagrams are. However, it is a symbol of many things that unite in the existence of mankind, as is evidenced by the variety of additional symbols involved.

Union of Opposites

There are several symbols representing the union of opposites, including:

  • The conjoined symbols of Venus and Mercury in the center of the image
  • The sun and moon symbols to the right and left of the Venus/Mercury symbol
  • The alpha and omega symbols above and below the Venus/Mercury symbol
  • The caduceus, which is below the Venus/Mercury symbol and partially within the omega

The Elements

The four physical elements are represented here by a cup, wand, sword, and disk. These associations were common in 19th-century occultism both through tarot cards (which use such symbols as suits) and ritual tools.

The eyes at the top might represent spirit. While all elements were commonly assigned a point on the pentagram, the position of spirit was of particular significance. Levi himself believed point-up pentagrams (such as this one) to be good, with spirit ruling over matter.

Alternatively, it's been suggested that the absence of a symbol in the upper left (with the first syllable of Tetragrammaton) might represent spirit.

Astrological Signs

The idea of macrocosm and microcosm is that mankind, the microcosm, is a miniature reflection of the universe, the macrocosm. Thus, all of the elements can be found within mankind, and so can influences of the astrological planets. Each here is represented by an astrological symbol:

  • Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus in the center, as already described.
  • Mars on the upper left point
  • Venus (again) on the upper right point
  • Saturn on both lower points
  • Jupiter on the upper point

The Tetragrammaton

The Tetragrammaton is normally a four letter name of God written in Hebrew.

The Hebrew Letters

The Hebrew letters are difficult to read and have led to some confusion. They possibly create two pairs: Adam/Eve and (more questionable) Shining/Hiding.

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Samael Lilith Pentagram

Samael Lilith Pentagram
Stanislas de Guaita, 1897

Stanislas de Guaita first published this pentagram in La Clef de la Magie Noire in 1897. It is the first known appearance of the pentagram and goat-head combination and is the primary influence on the Baphomet Pentagram, the official symbol of the modern Church of Satan.

Samael

Samael is a fallen angel in Judeo-Christian lore, often associated with the tempting serpent in Eden as well as with Satan. Samael also has more noble roles within the literature, but the darker, more Satanic connections are probably what was of import here.

Lilith

In Judeo-Christian lore, Lilith is Adam's first wife who rebelled against his authority and became a mother of demons. According to the Alphabet of Ben-Sira, Lilith takes Samael as a lover after her rebellion from Eden.

Hebrew Lettering

The letters around the circle spell out Leviathan in Hebrew, a monstrous sea creature. Leviathan is considered the connection between Lilith and Samael in some Kabbalistic texts.

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Agrippa's Pentagram

Agrippa's Pentagram
Henry Cornelius Agrippa, 16th century

Henry Cornelius Agrippa produced this pentagram in his 16th century Three Books of Occult Philosophy. It displays humanity as a microcosm, reflecting the influences of the wider macrocosm as indicated by the seven planetary symbols.

The Planets Within the Circle

Starting at the lower left and moving clockwise, the five planets are placed in order of their orbits: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Sun and Moon

The Sun and the Moon are common symbols of polarity in occultism. Here the moon is associated with generative function and sexuality. It is placed at the genitals, which is the center of this illustration of a man. The sun generally represents higher functions such as intelligence and spirituality, and it sits here at the solar plexus.

Source

The image is one of several in chapter 27, titles "On the Proportion, Measure, and Harmony of Man's Body." It reflects the idea of man being a perfected work of God and thus "the Measures of all the members are proportionate, and consonant both to the parts of the world, and measures of the Archetype, and so agreeing, that there is no member in man which hath not correspondence with some sign, star, intelligence, divine name, sometime in God himself the Archetype."

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Pythagorean Pentagram

Pythagorean Pentagram
Henry Cornelius Agrippa, 16th century

Henry Cornelius Agrippa depicts this pentagram as an example of a divinely revealed symbol, as revealed to Antiochus Soteris. The Pythagoreans used this symbol to represent themselves, and it was used as an amulet of health. The Greek letters around the outside (starting at the top and rotating clockwise) here are U-G-I-EI-A, which is Greek for health, soundness, or diving blessing. Later, similar amulets would be created with the letters S-A-L-U-S, which is Latin for health.

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Lightning Bolt Pentagram

Lightning Bolt Pentagram
Catherine Beyer/About.com

In the church of Satan, this pentagram is called the Anton LaVey sigil, because for a while he was using it as a personal symbol. It was also used for a time to denote rank within the church, although this is no longer being used. The bolt represents the flash of inspiration that drives people to greatness and which is necessary for Church leadership.

The lightning bolt is based on the lightning bolt used in the logo for RKO Radio Pictures. That connection has no inherent meaning in it beyond LaVey's aesthetic appreciation for the graphic. It is not, as some have suggested, a Germanic sig rune, which the Nazis adopted for their SS logo.

Some theistic Satanists also use the lightning bolt pentagram. It represents power and life-force descending from Satan into matter.

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Pentagram as Wounds of Christ

Pentagram as Wounds of Christ
Valeriano Balzani, 1556

The pentagram is commonly associated with the human form. However, it sometimes is associated specifically with the five wounds of Christ: his punctured hands and feet, plus the puncture in his side by the soldier's spear. This concept is reflected in a 16th-century image created by Valeriano Balzani in his Hieroglyphica.

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Haykal

Haykal - Baha'i pentagram
The Bab, 19th century

The pentagram is known to the Baha'i as the haykal, which is an Arabic word meaning "temple" or "body." While the nine-pointed star is the symbol most commonly associated with the Baha'i today, it is the haykal that Shoghi Effendi declared as the official symbol.

In particular, the haykal represents the body of the Manifestations of God, of which Baha'ullah is the most recent.

The Bab, under whom Baha'ullah studied, used the haykal as a graphical template for numerous writings, such as the one depicted here. The lines are composed of Arabic writing arranged in the shape of a pentagram.

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Gardnerian Pentacle

Gardnerian Pentacle
Catherine Beyer/About.com

The Gardnerian pentacle is a circular disk bearing seven symbols. The point-down triangle on the left represents the 1st degree of initiation/elevation within Wicca. The point-down pentagram on the right represents the 2nd degree, and the point-up triangle at the top, in conjunction with the central point-up pentagram, represents the 3rd degree.

In the lower half, the figure on the left is the Horned God, while the back-to-back crescents are the Moon Goddess.

The S$ symbol at ​the bottom represents the dichotomy of mercy and severity, or the kiss and the scourge.

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3rd Degree Wiccan Pentagram

3rd Degree Wiccan Pentagram
Catherine Beyer/About.com

This pentagram is used exclusively by Traditional Wiccans using a 3-degree system of elevations. This symbol represents elevation to the 3rd degree, which is the highest rank attainable. 3rd degree Wiccans are generally highly experienced within their own coven and are prepared to act as High Priests and High Priestesses.

The 2nd degree is designated with the point-down pentagram. The 1st degree is represented by a point-down triangle.

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Beyer, Catherine. "Pentagrams." ThoughtCo, Oct. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/pentagrams-4123031. Beyer, Catherine. (2017, October 24). Pentagrams. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pentagrams-4123031 Beyer, Catherine. "Pentagrams." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/pentagrams-4123031 (accessed December 14, 2017).