Sacred, satanic or no meaning at all, the Pentagram or five-pointed star has been a recognizable symbol for as long as recorded memory. Whether it is a symbol of virtue and self-restraint, vice and self indulgence or a more complex representation for a deeper belief system, the pentagram is probably the most misunderstood symbol in modern culture.
Ancient astronomers first noted the symbol in the visual path of the planet Venus. The planet, was mistakenly viewed as two separate “stars” - the Morning star (Mars, the god of War) and the Evening star (Venus the goddess of Love). Venus is the only planet in our solar system that can be identified with a simple graphic structure derived from a plotting of its astronomical movements in space.
"It was only the planet Venus that possessed the five-pointed star sign. Not one of the innumerable stars above us can by its orbit form this sign. If one knows the ecliptic and can pinpoint the present position of the planets in relation to the constellations of fixed stars in the zodiac, it is possible to mark the exact place in the 360 degrees of the zodiac where Venus as the Morning star first appears shortly before sunrise after a period of invisibility. If we do this, wait for the Morning star to appear again 584 days later (the synodic orbital time of Venus mark its position in the zodiac, and then repeat this process until we note Venus back on point one again (six notations on five different positions in the zodiac) as the Morning star, we will find that exactly eight years have passed. If we then draw a line from the first point marked to the second point marked, then to the third, and so on, we end up with a regular pentacle or pentagram."
So, an argument can be made that one of the earliest interpretations of the symbol was to honor Venus, the Evening Star, the Goddess of Love and/or Mars, the Morning star, the God of War. And thus the ambiguity begins. Is it a symbol of benevolence or violence?
Since both “stars” were in fact only one planet, Venus, we could say that it is a symbol of Love alone. But then die-hard Mythologists will remind us that there was a time (before the homogenization of goddesses to nothing more than beauty queens) when goddesses were also representatives of war, justice, death and rebirth.
To further the warlike interpretation, we must note that the astronomical points in the sky also make the sign of a pentagon. Which at one time may have been the symbol of the dark characteristics of Mars/Venus warrior aspect. The pentagon continues to be used as a warlike symbol in the American architecture of the United States central military headquarters. Yet, the warlike symbols blur again when a filled version of the pentagram with a small circle in the center is painted on military vehicles and planes. Then again, stars decorate the shoulders of our highest-ranking military leaders.
Still, the five pointed symbol marks elementary school work that is well done, it decorates the ends of Faery godmother’s magick wands and leads wise men to the birthplaces of prophets.
Neo-pagan interpretations of the pentagram are wide and progressive. Most Wiccans and Wiccan sympathizers see it as a symbol of the union of Spirit to the elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. “White” witches see it as a symbol of their adherence to the Wiccan Rede: As it hurts done, do what thou wilt. For New Age believers who think that the gods came from the stars, it is a symbol of a covenant with these to guard the ancient portals. To earth-based philosophers the single point up is a symbol of both the eternal Mother Earth and the endless Father Sky. Then again, some pentagram lovers simply see it as a pretty talisman of protection.
To add more confusion to the symbol’s definitions, some Wiccans and neo-pagans, distinguish the inverted pentagram a symbol to honor their Horned God of the forest, the provider of winter food and plenty. This Indo-European God of the Wildwood was represented as a stag or as a man with stag horns, goat horns or bull horns, and could include the satyr image of a man with goat legs as well. As this image is pre-Christian, neo-pagans do not believe it represents Lucifer as it precedes that of the Judeo/Christianity belief system. However “purist” Christians who demonized anything non-Christian in one breath as “Satanic” do not see this distinction. They use words like Satanic and Christian with absolute authority as if they alone have the right to lay sole claim to them. And for the record “purist” pagans will do the same as if their definition is the one true meaning of the symbol.
The biggest misunderstanding comes from our culture’s recognition of the pentagram as a Modern Satanic symbol, which it is. However, neither did they invent or adopt the symbol first, they just got more press on the subject. Even to Satanists, the pentagram as symbol of their god has room for interpretation as being nothing more than a metaphor for self-indulgence, to having the image and qualities supplied by both the pagan forest god and the Satanized version of the same from the bible (which humorously, sort of makes them Protestants - protesting Catholicism).
For the seventy percent of the world’s population that is not Christian, as with all ancient symbols there are diverse and deeply revered distinctions for the pentagram, including no meaning at all. PadawanPagan,one of my witchly clan introduced me to Morrocan coins issued under the French Protectorate with some of the most beautiful pentagrams.
My daughter, Dru, was wearing an Ankh when attending a Christian middle school and was challenged in the hall by a teacher. The teacher flipped the Ankh in her face asking, “And-what-do-you-call-THIS?” Drue could have explain to the teacher that the denotation of the symbol in the Egyptian language meant sandal strap or that the connotation of the symbol was that of eternal life. Instead, she held the Ankh up, so the teacher could clearly see it, looked right in the teacher’s eyes and said…“I call this a neck-lace!” (Dru is not pagan, but agnostic, and was only fourteen at the time - and taught me one of the most brilliant lessons of my life. Sometimes, the obvious is the best defense to a challenge.)
So, to those who have read only one book, spoken only one language, visited only one country or simply have no interest in literature, history, science or philosophy, one should first ask the bearer of the pentagram what it means to the wearer, before condemning one for wearing it. For neither Christian, Pagan, Wiccan or Satanist owns the symbol or its “true” meaning.
As for your scribe, most often she says it represents love. But she also likes the idea of the symbol representing the planet Venus, my childhood wishing “star” and the astronomical journey it takes as the Morning Star and Evening Star. I choose to see the magick and meaning as a reminder of Balance (between two extremes within myself - Lover and Warrior).
And if nothing else, it makes a pretty necklace.
© 2002 Ardriana Cahill