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The pentagram is one of the most widely used religious symbols in the world and has been used by Wiccans, Pagans, Israelites, Christians, magicians amongst others. But what is its origin?
A pentagram is a five-pointed star with one point aligned upwards (when surrounded by a circle, it's known as a 'pentacle') and its name derives from the Greek words "penta", meaning five and the word "gamma", meaning letter.
The pentagram was originally a symbol of the goddess, Kore, who was worshipped in many countries as widespread as England and Egypt thousands of years ago, but under many different names (i.e. Cara, Ceres, Carnak, Core, Car, Karnak, etc). Kore's sacred fruit was the apple. When cut through its equator, the apple has a near perfect pentagram shape inside, with each point containing a seed. Many Wiccans, Pagans and Roma (Gypsies) still cut apples in this way and the Roma refer to apple cores as Stars of Knowledge.
During the time of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the pentacle was the first and most important of the Seven Seals- an amulet whose seven seals represented the seven secret names of God. And each point of the pentagram represents the five books of the Pentateuch- the first books of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Celts believed the pentacle was the sign of the Goddess of the Underground, Morgan (a.k.a Morrigan) and the concept of five points is still symbolic in Ireland; "Ireland had five great roads, five provinces and five paths of the law. The fairy folk count in fives and the mythological creatures wear five fold cloaks."
The religion of Wicca is loosely based on that of the Celts and, even today, the pentagram and pentacle are its main symbols. Wiccans use the pentagram symbol to cast and banish their healing circles, to bless themselves and others by tracing the shape on their bodies and often wear the pentacle or pentagram on pieces of jewellery. Some Wiccans interpret the five points as the five elements- earth, air, water, fire and spirit, while others interpret them as the four directions and the spirit.
The Rosicrucian movement consists of a group of Christian mystics who use a cup, wand and pentagram during rituals. For them, the pentagram represents earth, matter and stability.
Christians traditionally interpreted the pentagram as the five crucifixion wounds of Christ (two on the hands, two on the feet and one on the side) and it was used to represent the star that led the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus. However, in later Christianity, this folk symbol of security became associated with evil for the first time. Christians believed the pentagram represented a goat's head or the devil and called it "Witch's foot."
In later years, Satanists inverted the pentagram and used it as their religious symbol, but it more frequently appears with a goat's head inside it, which forms the symbol of Baphomet.
The Order of the Eastern Star is a humanitarian organisation made of up Christian women who are the wives of Masons. They use an inverted pentagram as their symbol.
Pewter pentacle pendant, available at the Spiral Online Shop