The History and Symbolism of the Pentagram

With Halloween slowly creeping around the corner, I wanted to share with you a new post that focuses on one of the most popular symbols used in witchcraft--the Pentagram.

If you don't feel like reading, you can see my video of it on my new YouTube channel, LightnDarkChat! This channel is separate from Dual Crossroads, and is my personal channel where I talk about things I enjoy (like special effects makeup, history, ghost-things, horror movies, philosophy, or whatever else I want to talk about!)

The History of the Pentagram

The pentagram is five-pointed star made of lines that intersect with each other in a continuous motion. When encased within a circle, it is called a Pentacle. An easy way to remember the difference between a pentagram and pentacle is that a pentaCle is surrounded by a Circle.

The pentagram is deeply rooted in history, going as far back as 3000 BCE. It has been found on artifacts from Mesopotamia, was the subject of fascination in Ancient Greece, and was used for religious practice by ancient Babylonians. It was also present in early Christianity for over 500 years, where the five points represented the five wounds of Christ, as well as the Beginning and the End ( or the Alpha and the Omega) since it could be drawn in one continuous stroke. In Judaism, the pentagram was the official seal of Jerusalem at around 300-150 BCE.

So now we know the pentagram has been around for thousands of years, but what does it represent? In the Jewish kabbalistic tradition, the pentagram represents justice, mercy, wisdom, understanding, and transcendent splendor. For the Sumerians, it represented the “vault of Heaven”, which was Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus. According to the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, the pentagram represents the elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, with Spirit placed on the top. His followers, the Pythagoreans, saw it as mathematical perfection, which would later come to be known as the Golden ratio.

Today, the pentagram is used mostly in witchcraft for ritual practice, and for protection. Pythagoras’ attribution to Nature’s elements and the Spirit is still accepted, and shows them working together in harmony.

Right-Side Up Pentagram Vs Upside-Down Pentagram

When drawing the pentagram, people usually depict it with a singular point projecting upwards. There is a split in beliefs on what the pentagram represents when it is inverted to an upside down position, with the single point facing downward.

In Wiccan traditions, it signifies the wearer as entering into the 2nd degree of learning. This basically means that they have “graduated” to a higher level of learning in the craft. For others, an inverted pentagram has been changed into a symbol of evil.

The association of the pentagram with evil is sprinkled at various parts of history, though its starting point may be likely be at the start of the Inquisitions of the Catholic Church in its attempt to remove heresy from the masses.

Heresy is any belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious doctrine (especially Christian), and the first Inquisition against it started in 1184 by Pope Lucius III. The second was the Medieval Inquisition of 1231 by Pope Gregory, which was eventually followed by the most famous one of all: the Spanish Inquisition.

Established in 1478 by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the Spanish Inquisition was made to spread “true” Catholicism, and purge all heretical practices. While the Inquisition mostly focused on the growing Jewish population, pagans weren’t exempt from judgement, and anything resembling paganism was removed from the Church. The Inquisition halted in 1807 when Napoleon defeated Spain, and it wasn’t disbanded until 1834.

It was in 1855 where the pentagram was solidified with evil connotations.

Former Roman Catholic priest and occult writer Alphonse Louis Constant, pennamed Eliphas Levi, wrote Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, which was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite (co creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck) as Transcendental Magic.

In his book, Alphonse wrote that, “a reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces…” This was the first time it was documented that the pentagram was connected with evil forces.