The Beautiful, But Controversial Pentagram

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The five pointed star is used in many ways. Now, it largely brings to mind a job well done. Perhaps some of us have received a star as a mark of completing a task well. For those of us who love a good scare and, or hold some paranormal interests, it may conjure up associations with darker connotations such as evil spells, demons, possession and the like. Symbols are meant to be a jump start to our brains, making connections based on what we’ve learned a symbol to mean. The five pointed star is a symbol with a plethora of meaning imbibed into it.
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A pentagram, or pentacle, is a five pointed star with each point connected. It was and still is used in a number of religions and groups and has made its way onto flags and family crests. It was first studied by the Pythagoreans who considered it a perfect emblem. The five pointed star is a mathematical interest to many, including Ancient Egyptians and Druidic Celts, Freemasons, and the Kabbalah.

One group was especially attached to its symbology. Interestingly, the pentagram was a very popular symbol for Christianity before the Christian Cross established its dominance. The five points were meant to represent the five wounds of Jesus and the ability to draw it with one continuous line was likened to the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Its Christian popularity withered when the Church adopted the cross over the pentagram as its main religious image, but for a long time this symbol was one of truth and protection for many Christians.

In the 1800s an occultist and magician deeply influenced by the Renaissance-era occultism named Eliphas Levi deepened the tie of magic to the pentagram. He believed the pentagram a powerful magical symbol which represented the five neoplatonic elements to the five points; air, fire, water, earth and the spirit. This lead him to believe it was a powerful protective symbol meant to protect against evil spirits and from harm. Many who practice witchcraft today follow a similar belief. Most will differ when it comes to Levi’s assertion of an upside-down pentagram as evil and dangerous in nature, however. In fact, Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca and instrumental to the rise of modern witchcraft, used the upside-down pentacle as a symbol of initiation into the Wiccan religion, with zero emphasis on doing harm or calling upon evil of any sort.

The main proponents for the negative connotation could be traced back in some sense to the witch trials, where many innocent people were accused of practicing witchcraft and the pentagram was sometimes used as a weapon against those accused, especially the Knights Templar. Mostly, however, the shock value of the pentagram can be attributed to a group founded by Anton Szandor LaVey in 1966, The Church of Satan. They adopted Levi’s inverted pentagram and really ran with it. This, in combination with pop culture, TV and other media where the pentagram was used to shock and horrify is how the pentagram became associated with the dark arts, devils, and the like.

The pentagram is a beautiful symbol with so much depth and history, having been adopted by many different groups to represent numerous things. I tried to keep this short and concise but honestly it wasn’t easy, there is a lot to discover. Ultimately, this star is beautiful and its modern day intention is one of peace and protection and certainly nothing of which to be afraid. We use it happily to beautify our homes, our trees and even ourselves. Some use it as religious reminders, others as protection for themselves and their families, and most of us just think stars are pretty. All very valid and powerful reasons to enjoy the shining stars surrounding us this holiday season.

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