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Pentagrams and Pentacles, What is the difference?

Pentacle right side up or Inverted Pentacle 


The terms pentagram and pentacle are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the most common precise meanings are: 

  • The word pentagram comes from the Greek: “Pente means 5 (as in Pentagon). Gamma means a letter. Thus, pentagram refers to a five-pointed star, or “any figure of five lines.” It is most often used to refer to a symmetrical, five pointed star, with equal sides, drawn either with a single line or with two closely spaced parallel lines. Their overall shape is like the decoration on the top of many Christmas trees, and the stars on the American flag.
  • An upright pentagram is a 5 pointed star with one point aligned upwards.
  • An inverted pentagram is a 5 pointed star with two points aligned upwards.
  • An upright pentacle is generally defined as an upright pentagram surrounded by a circle, as is shown in the following icon. It often takes the form of a pentagram printed on (or cut into) a flat disk.

    Upright Pentacle/Pentagram

Upright pentacles and pentagrams are among the most widely used religious symbols. They have been used in many eras and by many cultures and religions of the world: by ancient Pagans, ancient Israelites, Christians, magicians, Wiccans and others. The following pentagram-using groups are listed in chronological order: 

This symbol apparently originated as the symbol of a Goddess who was worshiped over an area, which extends from present-day England to Egypt and beyond. Her name was Kore (a.k.a. Car, Cara, Carnac, Ceres, Core, Kar, Karnak, Kaur, Kauri, Ker, Kerma, Kher, Kore, Q’re, etc.). As Carmenta she was said to have invented the Roman alphabet. From her alternate Roman name Ceres have evolved many English words: cardiac, carnal, cereal, core, corn, and kernel. The port of Caraalis, (now Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia), was named after her. 

Kore’s sacred fruit is the apple. When an apple is cut through its equator, both halves will reveal a near-perfect pentagram shape at the core, with each point on the star containing a seed. Many Wiccans, other Neopagans and Roma (Gypsies) continue to cut apples in this way. The Roma refer to the core as the Star of Knowledge. 

In ancient Greece, Pythagoras (586 – 506 BCE) established a school, which pursued knowledge in mathematics, music, religion, and other specialties. Driven underground, his followers used the pentagram as a secret sign to identify themselves to each other. The Masonic Order has traditionally traced its origins back 2,500 years to the Pythagoreans. 

Kore was worshiped within the Coptic Gnostic Christian religion in Alexandria, Egypt, during the 4th century CE. Her festival, the Koreion, was held yearly on JAN-6. This was adopted by the Christian church as Feast of Epiphany (a.k.a. Twelfth Night). This date is still celebrated as Jesus’ birthday in Armenian churches, and is observed with more pomp than is Christmas by the Greek Orthodox Church. 

In England, the Koreion became the Kirn – the Feast of Ingathering. The Christian church later adopted it to the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy.  

During the times of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the pentacle was the first and most important of the Seven Seals – an amulet whose seals represented the seven secret names of God. It was inscribed on King Solomon’s ring, which is often called Solomon’s Seal in error. Each point of the pentagram was also interpreted as referring to the five books of the Pentateuch – the first five books in the Hebrew Scriptures; the Torah. 

The Celts believed that the pentacle was the sign of the Goddess of the Underground, who they called Morgan (a.k.a. Morrigan). The concept of five points seems to have permeated at least one of the Celtic lands. “Ireland had five great roads, five provinces and five paths of the law. The fairy folk counted by five’s, and the mythological figures wore five fold cloaks.” 

In Christian times: 

  • The five points of the pentagram have been interpreted as representing the five wounds of Christ (2 wrist, 2 ankle and 1 side).
  • The Roman Emperor Constantine used the pentagram in his seal and amulet.
  • It has been referred to as the Star of Bethlehem
  • It was used to symbolize the star, which allegedly led three Zoroastrian astrologers to the baby Jesus; it was called the Three Kings’ star.
  • The English warrior Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur, adopted the pentagram as his personal symbol and placed it on his shield. It appeared in gold on a red background. The five points symbolized “the five knightly virtues – generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety.
  • Tarot cards originally had a suit of coins or discs. These were changed in the 19th century to pentacles when the Tarot became associated with the Kabbalah. They eventually became the suit of diamonds in modern playing cards.
  • It has been widely used by past Christians as a protective amulet.
  • During the burning times when the Christian church burned alive or hung hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the meaning of the pentagram changed. It began to symbolize a goat’s head or the devil in the form of Baphomet. “The folk-symbol of security – for the first time in history – was equated with evil and was called the Witch’s Foot.”The religion of Wicca is based in part on ancient Celtic deities, symbols, days of celebration, etc. The pentacle and pentagram are their main symbols.Many religious and spiritual groups use the pentacle or pentagram today. “In the 20th. Century Karl Kellner and other German occultists formed the secret order of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis or Order of Templars in the East). They installed the English occultist Aleister Crowley to head their British section. Crowley took Baphomet as his magical name.” Today, the Baphomet is widely used by religious Satanists. The Church of Satan also uses a second symbol, which is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its side). A Roman cross is placed on top with a second, longer crosspiece added beneath the top crosspiece. 


The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to their users

There is no single consensus on the significance of these symbols. Various groups use and define them quite differently: 

· Wiccans have attempted to reconstruct a Pagan religion similar to that of the ancient Celts. They have adopted the upright pentacle/pentagram, since it was the symbol of Morgan, an ancient Celtic goddess. Many wear it as jewelry and use it on their altars. The symbol is frequently traced by hand using an athame (a ritual knife) during Wiccan rituals. It is used to cast and banish their healing circles. 

Some Wiccans interpret the five points as representing earth, air, fire, water, and spirit — the five factors needed to sustain life. Others relate the points to the four directions and spirit. Some Wiccans and other Neopagans bless themselves and others with the sign of the pentagram. Their hand passes from their forehead to one hip, up to the opposite shoulder, across to the other shoulder, down to the opposite hip and back to the forehead. 

Some of the more highly structured Wiccan traditions have used an inverted pentagram to represent a second or third degree status. “Many of these groups have since substituted a triangle form for the same degrees because of the association of the inverted form of the pentacle with Satanism and black magic.” 

· Ceremonial magicians also use the pentagram. Its points can “represent various elemental energies, spirits or deities.” 

· The Order of the Eastern Star is an international humanitarian organization composed of women who are wives of advanced Masons. They use an inverted pentacle as their symbol. Essentially all Eastern Star members in North America are Christians. 

· The Rosicrucian movement consists of groups of Christian mystics. They frequently use a wand, sword, cup and pentagram as tools during their rituals. The pentagram represents “earth, matter and stability.” 

· The Masonic Order associates the five points of the pentagram with “Five Points of Fellowship.” However, its “use in Masonry is vestigial and peripheral.” Again, almost all Masons in North America are Christians. 

· Some heavy metal rock bands occasionally use a pentacle or pentagram as a band symbol. It is often neither an upright nor an inverted symbol. Often, it is aligned to have a top point, which is slightly off vertical. We are unaware of any band that is actually composed of religious Satanists. All the groups, which we have studied, simply use the symbolism and stage theatrics to generate notoriety, popularity and record sales. 

· Satanism is composed of many diverse groups with no central overall organization. They number perhaps 20,000 in North America. Some Satanic grottos and temples use the Baphomet. 

The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to Christians

Because liberal and conservative Christians interpret the Bible in different ways, they have developed very different belief systems over time, and agree on very few points. This disagreement carries over into their understanding of pentacles and pentagrams. 

  • Liberal Christians generally view Satan as a principle of evil rather than as a living entity. Those who are familiar with Wicca and Satanism are aware of the lack of similarity of the two religions:
  • Wiccans do not recognize the existence of the Christian quasi-deity, Satan. They have no all-evil deity in their pantheon of gods and goddesses. Satanists recognize Satan (or one of his precursors) as either a living deity or a principle.
  • Wiccans are prohibited by their Wiccan Rede from harming, manipulating or controlling others. Satanists, on the other hand, are free to use magic to harm their enemies.
  • Wiccans follow a gentle, nature-based, aboriginal religion that is similar to that of Native American spirituality. Satanists practice indulgence, gratification and vengeance, rather than concern for all humans and for the environment.
  • Many religious liberals view the Wiccan upright pentacle or pentagram as an elegant, spiritual symbol that represents life. They see the Satanic inverted pentacle or Baphomet as primarily representing a self-centered religion.

Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians generally have an entirely different view of Wicca, Satanism and other religions. This is influenced by some of their beliefs. In many, but not all cases:  

  • Since they believe in the innerrantcy of the Bible, they regard as true those passages, which state that the gods and goddesses worshiped by other religions are, in reality, Satan or his demons.
  • They regard Satan as a living entity, a living, quasi deity who is totally dedicated to destroying people’s lives and ruining their faith. They regard themselves as being in continuous “spiritual warfare” — a personal battle with Satan and his demons.
  • They regard Satanism as having existed as an organized movement; murdering and performing “black masses” for may centuries. This contrasts with a consensus of modern historians that: “no reliable historical sources indicate that such organizations existed; the black mass appears only once in the sources before the late nineteenth century.”
  • They do not differentiate between Wicca and Satanism. Because they consider the Wiccan gods and goddesses to be Satanic or demonic, they regard the two religions as very similar
  • They commonly believe that Satanists, (and by extension, Wiccans) engage in Satanic Ritual Abuse and murder. Belief in SRA is gradually diminishing, but remains still at a high level.
  • Books by conservative Christian authors about Wicca and Satanism are based primarily on books by other Christian authors, rather than on primary religious sources. Some of the ideas put forth in these books as truth can be traced back to 15th century Christian propaganda during the Burning Times.
  • Many conservative Christians do not differentiate between Wicca and Satanism, or between upright and inverted pentacles/pentagrams. All are viewed as symbols representing evil, violence and lawlessness.


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