svc.portal.com!shell.portal.com!shell.portal.com!not-for-mail Wed Mar 29 22:42:28 1995
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (tyaginator)
Subject: alt.magicK KfaQ#05: Pentagrams (kreEePing oOze faQ)
Supersedes: Version 9501
Date: 21 Mar 1995 14:57:43 -0800
Organization: Portal Communications (shell)
References: 5 of 14
Summary: This is one of a number of compended posts on magick or topics
associated with it in some way. It is intended as an introductory
file and its content will be questioned and discussed within
Usenet's alt.magick newsgroup.
Xref: bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us alt.magick:942 alt.pagan:12320 news.answers:19452
Posting-Frequency: to alt.magick -- by inquiry and desire;
to news.answers -- once every three months
KreeeePing oooozE FAQ #5: "What is a pentagram? What is its history? (etc.)"
- The earliest recorded use of the pentagram as a mystical symbol was by
the Gnostics, who called it the Blazing Star. It was also considered by
Christians during the middle ages to be a symbol of the Five Wounds of
Christ, and used as a protective glyph, generally as a variation on the
Seal of Solomon (a Star of David within a circle).
- The association of the pentagram with non-Christian belief, and its
modern "elemental" analysis, were evidently introduced during the
revival of occultism in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Masons and
similar groups such as the OTO took it up--for example, A.E. Waite is
the person who introduced the symbol into the Tarot deck, replacing
the traditional suit of Coins.
- The use of the "inverted" pentagram to denote evil is a quite recent
usage, and first appears in the works of Eliphas Levi. He is also the
source of the "goat's head" glyph. Before this, neither orientation
had evil connotations per se.
- The modern pagan movement picked up the pentagram as part of a general
borrowing from earlier "occult" usage, and Wicca in particular has
taken it up as an explicit denotational symbol, similar to the
cross, the Thor's hammer, and so on.
According to my own research so far:
The categorization of the "inverted" (one-point-down) pentagram as
"evil" vs. the "upright" (one-point-up) pentagram as "good"
originates in the writings of Eliphas Levi in the 19th Century, most
notably the works "The History of Magic" and "Doctrine and Ritual of
Transcendental Magic." He is also the originator of the now-infamous
goat's head glyph. Eliphas Levi (actually the pen name of Alphonse
Louis Constant, a French Catholic deacon) was one of a number of
writers who constituted a reaction against 18th century rationalism.
His works have had a lasting effect on French magical traditions, and
were instrumental in the development of the Tarot as a serious tool of
Hermetic magic, despite its humble beginnings in Gypsy fortune-telling.
Levi was the first Hermetic writer to assign an elemental (or perhaps
more accurately, alchemical) meaning to the pentagram, which before
him had been used principally as a protective glyph denoting the five
wounds of Christ (and as such, occurs in both orientations in Gothic
cathedrals and cloisters all across Europe)).
Now, I would be more than interested to hear about evidence that
contradicts the derivation I give above; however, I have yet to come
across any "evil" connotations of the pentagram, or the orientation
thereof, that predate Eliphas Levi (who lived from 1810-1875).
This is not to say that his analysis is nonsense--far otherwise, in
fact. If you apply his elemental attributions to the points of the
figure, the orientation does indeed profoundly affect the resulting
connotations. However, it is a mistake to believe that this
interpretation is any more "traditional" than 150 or so years, or for
that matter particularly pagan. It has, however, been picked up by
modern paganism, and has been (comparitively speaking) neglected by
modern hermeticism, which has focused primarily on the Tarot and the
Amanda Walker (email@example.com) writes:
|Eliphas Levi is the earliest source I have yet found in European
|esotericism which gives the points of the star an elemental attribution
This was probably derived from Tycho Brahe's _Calendarium Naturale
Magicum Perpetuum..._, the ancestor of _Liber 777_ and many other works
of that sort. Although the Calendarium does not show a pentagram
marked with the elements, the row "Quinarius denari ..." shows all
the details: a pentagram with human body imposed, Hebrew for YHSVH,
and the elements associated. That's 1582 e.v. Other, later sources
also have the material. Looking to either the _Picatrix_ or the
writings of Petro de Abano might turn up earlier European usage.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Bill Heidrick)
In the book Symbols of t Prehistoric Mesopotamia by Beatrice Laura Goff , the
pentagram is shown and related to the Uruk (Biblical)Eriech)peeriod of
Mesopotamian civilization (3500 B.C>.E.). This singn is located on potsherds
in the location of Uruk (near the mouth of the Gulf), and is in the company of
signs relating to the beginning of written lagnguage. In the book Symbols of
the Gods o in Mesopotamian Art by E.Douglas Van Buren, we find the Pentagram
belonging to the archaic period UrukIV, and more frequently on Jemdet
Nasr(3100-2900B.C>.E.) and Proto-Elamite tablets (3000-2500B.C.E.). The title
suggested for the sign is revealing, UB , 'explained as "the very sign used in
the royal inscriptions to designate, in a somewhat obscuretitle, a power
extending to the 'four corners of the world''. These points are the four
crorners of the compass.
email@example.com (Frater ABZU)
To say "the pentagram was considered an evil symbol by the Christians" is
a little ... well, general.
I haven't searched the whole corpus of Christian literature, and tallied
up all the mentions of pentagrams-good and pentagrams-bad, but I would
like to point out that (a) the pentagram occurs in "Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight," and not as an evil symbol; (b) the pentagram was often regarded
as emblematic of the Five Wounds of Christ; and (c) the pentagram was
not an evil symbol for Pythagoreans, and there was a strong current
of admiration, in Christian tradition (though not a unanimous one), for
"noble pagans" -- Pythagoras, Plato, various Stoics, Plotinus, and so
on. A good example of the ambivalence in Christian tradition toward
writers and thinkers is Dante's treatment of Virgil.
Can anyone come up with a specific text originating from the first
thousand years of Christianity denouncing the pentagram as an innately
evil symbol? I wouldn't be surprised, myself, if the first occurrence
of such texts was some time within the past two centuries. Or five
The pentagram was used early on by the Xian church (particularly in the
East). Their use was, of course, point-up.
The inverted cross was also used by the Xians. It is known in
traditional mythology as St. Peter's cross. Peter did not believe he was
worthy enough to die in the same way that Jesus had, so he begged to
crucified upside-down. (Or so the legend goes.)
There is, of course, the "standard" pagan reply: the five points
represent the five elements. It is "positive" if it is point-up because
it represents the mastery of mind/spirit over mere matter. It is
"negative" if worn point down because spirit is immersed in or ruled by
the physical rather than mental plane. (CUE: End of standard reply.)
Now for some other possibilities that are somewhat less standard. The
five stages of humanity (or the five stages of life, if you prefer) are
represented. Speaking purely in terms of age, there are: Babyhood,
Adolescence, Adulthood, Middle Age, and Old Age. In terms of life
occurrences, there are: Birth, Initiation, Love, Repose, and Death.
In Egypt the five-pointed star represented the underground womb. To the
pagan Celts, the pentagram was particularly associated with Morrigan, the
To Hermetic magicians (and many others now), the five-pointed star
represented Man in the Microcosm, with his head at the top, hands out to
the sides, and legs below. His genitalia were in the center of the
To Christians (yes, they managed to get ahold of this symbol, too) the
pentagram represented the five wounds of Christ at the crucifixion.
In ancient Greece, the Pythagoreans called this symbol the Pentalpha,
since it is five capital 'A' figures interlaced.
As for the point-down pentagram being "evil", there are a couple of
different answers to that. Yes, modern culture has led to the popular
notion that this is an evil symbol. However, It is also a representative
of the Horned God. Yes, it looks like a goat's head. The Horned God's
most common five forms are represented by the points: human, goat, ram,
stag and bull.
Given the Christian propensity to turn the Horned God into the Devil, is
it any wonder that this seems to be associated with the Christian
I understand that this symbol also has some Qabalistic significance, but
I am pitifully ignorant of the ways of the Qabala. Perhaps someone
else could enlighten you about that part of it.
Another important thing to remember is that the pentagram is a
unicursal figure. That is, it can be drawn without lifting pen/cil from
paper. It also means that each of the five (or more) things that are
represented are *irrevocably* connected to one another, unless the line
is broken. No one thing is any stronger or better than the other - they
are all dependent upon one another.
Jencina May Butler
Here are two books you might enjoy reading, or just looking through:
Rudolf Koch's THE BOOK OF SIGNS, 1930, reprinted by Dover since 1955;
Clarence P. Hornung, HANDBOOK OF DESIGNS AND DEVICES, 1932, reprinted
by Dover since 1946. (Dover Books has many beautiful books on design.)
Koch, re PENTAGRAM: "The pentagram, a five-pointed star drawn with one
stroke of the pen: this sign belongs, as do many others depicted here,
to the most primitive of mankind, and is certainly much older than
written characters. Signs of this kind are quite the most ancient
human documents we possess. The pentagram has had several different
significations at different times in the history of man. The
Pythagoreans called it the pentalpha, and the Celtic priests the
witch's foot. It is also Solomon's seal, known in the Middle Ages
as the goblin's cross. It also represents the five senses; the male
and female principles are also conveyed by the arrangement of the
five points. Amongst the druids it was the sign of Godhead, and to
the Jews it signified the five Mosaic Books. This sign was also
popularly believed to be a protection against demons, and, by analogy,
a symbol of safety. It is believed too to be the emblem of happy
homecoming, whence its employment as an amulet. In ancient times
it was a magic charm amongst the people of Babylon."
Hornung, re PENTAGRAM: "The five-pointed star... As a continuous
interlacement,... it is called the pentacle, or pentagram, and becomes
an important element in the history of magic and witchcraft, with many
mystic interpretations. It is an ingenious development used in ancient
times by the Pythagoreans and others as the pentalpha, an emblem of
perfection. This sign was also regarded as a protective fetish, and
was frequently worn as an amulet."
The pentagram has ment many things to many different people/groups thoughout
history, including strangely enough within the Catholic church itself,
during various parts of the middle ages it was seen as a symbol of truth,
you can find indications of this in some Arthurian legends (i don't recall
the dteails, however one of the knights in one of the accounts was supposed
to have a shield with the symbol).
Gawain, in the medieval verse-tale SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT.
I strongly recommend J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful translation,
which retains much of the Old English alliterative form.
Then they brought him his blazon that was of brilliant gules
with the pentangle depicted in pure hue of gold.
By the baldric he caught it and about his neck cast it:
reight well and worthily it went with that knight.
And why the pentangle is proper to that prince so noble
I intend now to tell you, though it may tarry my story.
It is a sign that Solomon once set on a time
to betoken Troth, as it is entitled to do;
for it is a figure that in it five points holdeth,
and each line overlaps and is linked with another,
and every way it is endless; and the English, I hear,
everywhere name it the Endless Knot.
So it suits well this knight and his unsullied arms;
for ever faithful in five points, and five times under each,
Gawain as good was acknowledged and as gold refine'd,
devoid of every vice and with virtues adorned.
the pentangle painted new
he on shield and coat did wear
as one of word most true
and knight of bearing fair.
First faultless was he found in his five senses,
and next in his five fingers he failed at no time,
and firmly on the Five Wounds all his faith was set
that Christ received on the cross, as the Creed tells us;
and wherever the brave man into battle was come,
on this beyond all things was his earnest thought:
that ever from the Five Joys all his valour he gained
that to Heaven's courteous Queen once came from her Child.
For which cause the knight had in comely wise
on the inner side of his shield her image depainted,
that when he cast his eyes thither his courage never failed.
The fifth five that was used, as I find, by this knight
was free-giving and friendliness first before all,
and chastity and chivalry ever changeless and straight,
and piety surpassing all points: these perfect five
were hasped upon him harder than on any man else.
Now these five series, in sooth, were fastened on this knight,
and each was knit with another and had no ending,
but were fixed at five points that failed not at all,
coincided in no line nor sundered either,
not ending in any angle anywhere, as I discover,
wherever the process was put in play or passed to an end.
Therefore on his shining shield was shaped now this knot,
royally with red gules upon red gold set:
this is the pure pentangle as people of learning
Now Gawain in brave array
his lance at last hath caught.
He gave them all good day
for evermore as he thought.
-- Raven (JSingle@Music.Lib.MATC.Edu). [All standard disclaimers apply]
...in Great Britain, the inverted pentagram is the sign of a second level
Wiccan Student in the Gardnerian Tradition. Because of the fear frenzy of
the Fundamentalists, in this country another symbol is used. And the
symbols may be very different in different parts of the world as to how
to identify either a Satanist or a second level Gardnerian Student.
...the symbol is a reminder to face the evil/dark and nastiness within or
it will rise up and control you.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Susan Profit)
Well, according to my tradition, four of the points represent the
elements of Earth, Air, Fire & Water. The fifth point represents the
spirtual. Now, reference to up or down...Up is representative of the
higher spiritual plane, down is representative of inner spirituality.
...the pentagram as a symbol for Satanism was a figment of some
fundies' collective imaginations then adopted by Satanists. To lend
further credence, it was pointed out that a point-down pentagram looked
a little like a goat's head, said to be a Satanic creature. Actually,
this reference first showed up centuries ago when the Roman Catholic
Church attempted to slander Pan and His followers.
email@example.com (DREAM WEAVER)
Joseph of Aramathia came to the Isle of angels after the crusifiction of
Christ. There are those who believe that Jesus himself came to Britain and
was taught by the Druids during his early adulthood.
Regardless the people of Britian saw remarkable religious simililarities
between their own beliefs and those of the EARLY christians. There is proof
that the British practiced both religions side by side.
Later when the Roman church was in ascendancy they started to subvert other
religious practices. For some reason, whether to show displeasure of Rome,
or whether the Church itself initiated the practice, those who where against
the church inverted their crosses and since the Pentagram was worn with it it
also was inverted.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Allan M Rennie)
There are a lot of pagans out here that use an inverted pentagram as a
banishing/grounding pentagram that aren't involved in satanism at all.
Both the upright and inverted pentagram are tools and nothing more. They
are symbols of a way that ritual and magick and energy are moved. How
each person or group of people chooses to *use* such symbols is the key
issue. If you use an inverted pentagram for "Black Magic" (Ghod how I
hate that term. Esecially since Black Magick for me designates only
those workings done in the dark phase of the moon.) then it is the energy
that you focus and the direction that *you* choose that makes them "evil"
The pentagram itself is an extremely ancient symbol, with various forms
and significances in different cultures -- much like the cross.
The magical pentagram as used in a ritual which projects it to the four
quarters is a relatively recent innovation, apparently no older than
the Golden Dawn (or possibly Eliphas Levi.) The ritual authors derived
the symbol from older sources, probably including the Pythagoreans, and
built the ritual from it and other materials, such as a Jewish night
prayer. This is the form in which the pentagram is used by modern
paganism, which employs numerous variations on the Golden Dawn
pentagram ritual as the basic framework for circle work.
email@example.com (Tim Maroney)
=================================================== END OF OOZING FAQ #05
This document is Copyright (c) 1994, authors cited.
All rights reserved. Permission to distribute the collection is
hereby granted providing that distribution is electronic, no money
is involved, reasonable attempts are made to use the latest version
and all credits and this copyright notice are maintained.
Other requests for distribution should be directed to the individual
authors of the particular articles.
This is from a series of continually-updated posts responding to recurrent
questions in this newsgroup. Please debate anything in here which seems
extreme and add your own response to these questions after the post. I'll
integrate what I like. Thanks.