If you are a little bit interested in symbolism, you surely know that symbols played a crucial role in paganism and the Wiccan faith. We have delved into both Wiccan and pagan symbols in our previous articles, and now it is time to examine one of those symbols in detail. Here is all you need to know about the pentacle symbol, its meaning, history and origins as well as a ‘pentacle vs. pentagram’ comparison to help you understand the difference between these two symbols.
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The History of the Pentacle Symbol
The origin of the pentacle symbol can be traced to Mesopotamia as far back as 3500 or 3000 BC, when it was used by Babylonians and Sumerians.
The earliest documents that depict the pentacle symbol are the Heptameron and the Key of Solomon.
Heptameron is a French collection of 72 short stories that mention the pentacle in one place. On the other hand, the 15th Century grimoire called the Key of Solomon shows dozen of pentacles throughout the text.
The pentacle symbol has been around since the Stone Age. It is amongst the few ancient symbols that are still highly popular today. Over the course of history, it has been used in religion, art, architecture, fashion, and more. However, the meaning and interpretation of this symbol vary significantly.
Some groups associate it with divinity, whereas others believe that it represents evil spirits and dark forces because it is the symbol of choice for witchcraft and magic. To further add to that confusion, there’s a misunderstanding between the ‘pentacle’ and the ‘pentagram’ symbols, and whether they represent different things or are one and the same instead.
So, before we move on to discuss the meanings and modern uses of the pentacle symbol, let’s try to clear out the confusion first.
Here’s a brief explanation of the pentacle and the pentagram symbols.
Pentacle vs. Pentagram, A Comparison – What is the Difference?
A pentagram is a five-pointed figure that looks pretty much like how a child would draw a star. It is made by extending lines from the corners of a regular pentagon until they intersect each other at five different points.
The pentacle, on the other hand, is a star-shaped figure with a circle drawn around its edges.
Certain semioticians claim that both symbols are exactly the same, except that the pentagram is a 2D figure, whereas the pentacle is a 3D shape. Some say that the main distinguishing factor between the pentacle and the pentagram is that a pentagram points up whereas a pentacle points downwards.
Technically, these definitions are only half correct.
Put simply, the pentacle symbol is basically an encircled pentagram regardless of whether it’s two or three dimensional. You can think of a pentacle as a star enclosed in a ring.
As far as the star pointing upwards or downwards is concerned, it’s quite interesting to note that its orientation has nothing to do with the good or the bad aspects of both the symbols.
The point-up or point-down trait is not exclusive to either of the two symbols. A pentacle and pentagram can both face upwards or downwards at the same time.
In other words, regardless of whether it is surrounded by a circle (pentacle) or not (pentagram), an upward-facing five-edged star corresponds to positivity, whereas a downward-facing star implies negativity.
Meaning of the Pentacle Symbol
The pentacle symbol has been revered by almost all the ancient civilizations, be it the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Babylonians, or even Mayans.
It holds different layers of symbolism. The pentacle symbol is viewed as a sign of love, life, light, unity, enlightenment, and a quest for divine knowledge.
Although it has become associated with magic and witchcraft in modern culture, in the past it was actually used for protection against demons, evil spirits, and similar bad forces.
The five corners of the pentacle symbol are said to represent the five senses.
- Sense of sight
- Sense of sound
- Sense of smell
- Sense of taste
- Sense of touch
In early Christianity, the pentagon at the center of the pentacle symbol was used to denote the five wounds sustained by Jesus during his crucifixion.
In Taoism, or Daoism, a Chinese philosophical approach to life, the five points of the pentacle symbol stand for the five elements of the East. These are:
Some scholars also say that the star-shaped symbol is closely related to ancient astrology. Its five corners are said to denote the five brightest planets that were discovered a very long time ago, as they can be easily seen in the night sky by the naked eye without the aid of telescopes and other modern equipment.
These planets include:
The use of the pentacle symbol in witchcraft was completely unknown until 1855, when a French author referred to the sign in his book about magic. The relationship between the pentacle symbol and evil forces accelerated all the more when the Church of Satan, a religious organization dedicated to Satanism, adopted the inverted pentacle as their official symbol.
Pentacles in the Wiccan Religion
While others might continue debating over whether the pentacle symbol should be displayed on furniture and fashion accessories or not, followers of the Wiccan religion are not hesitant to use it on various everyday items. They are proud to associate themselves with the pentacle symbol and everything that it stands for.
For the Wicca people, the pentacle is a symbol of their faith – pretty much the same way that the Cross represents Christianity, the crescent represents Islam, and the Om symbol represents Hinduism.
In the Wiccan religion, the five-pointed pentacle symbol signifies the five basic elements of life – i.e. water, air, fire, earth, and the spirit. The circle around the star-shaped figure symbolizes the universe, which not only contains but also connects them all together.
Modern Uses of the Pentacle Symbol
The pentacle symbol is of central importance in modern witchcraft and the evocation of spirits. It is highly popularized in horror movies, and widely used on occasions such as Halloween parties and the likes.
However, it is not always used in a negative sense. You will also find fashion lovers and people of different age groups, Wiccan or not, wearing jewelry items such as earrings, necklaces, and bracelets bearing the pentacle symbol in some form or the other.
We hope you liked this post about the pentacle symbol, its meaning and origins. If you would like to read our more about Wiccan and pagan symbols, please visit our symbols and meanings section to check out our comprehensive articles on both.