( Hey guys! Thanks so much for letting us speak about some factoids of the Pentagram today! Here is posted the entire presentation and a source list for future reference. And a credit to Kevin C. for suggesting to look into the path of Venus as a pentagram. Thanks so much for your help!)
A Brief History of the Pentagram
[Paraphrased from sources]
The Pentagram, at its simplest, means a geometrical figure drawn with five even lines which form five even angles, or points. For different reasons, religious groups and other peoples throughout history have depicted the pentagram – sometimes we see the figure with it’s apex pointing upward, or the inverse – the apex points downward.
A Pentacle is a Pentagram enclosed in a circle.
The pentagram was found on pottery pieces that date back to around 3500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. It has been hypothesized that these fragments and depiction of the figure was meant to represent the four corners of the world and their imperial power.
Later, the Hebrew people adopted the use of the Pentagram to symbolize Truth. The reason for this seems to be that the pentagram also represented the five books of the Pentateuch, which were the first of the Hebrew Scriptures. Their scriptures were a representation of truth. It is sometimes said to be called the seal of Solomon, and pentacles have been found pressed in to jar handles with the Hebrew letters for Jerusalem between the points.
There is evidence that the symbol was used to represent “the underground womb,” from which all are reborn – and had a connection to the pyramid form for the Ancient Egyptians.
In ancient Greece, the symbol was of interest to Pythagoras, who believed that the pentagram was a symbol of perfection. He called it the Pentalpha, because he noted that it was comprised of five geometrically perfect A’s. In his world travels, it was believed that he had influenced other cultures, and the current theory is that Pythagoras is the reason that the Pentagram shows up in Tantric art. In many cases, early Hindu and Buddhist writing shares the same symbolism as what Pythagoras has written.
It is also said that Greek astronomers noted that the path of the planet Venus forms a pentagram as it orbits the sun when observed from earth. Today, it is said that the plotted path of Venus is an imperfect pentagram that occurs every eight years.
The Celtic Druids seemed to believe that the pentagram was a representation of the sacred nature of five. It was common that the pentagram was also a symbol for the underground Goddess, Morrigan. Much of today’s neo-pagan movement was based on remnants of the old Celtic traditions and symbols, which is interesting to note.
In Gnosticism, the pentagram seems to have first been assigned ties with the element of “spirit.” They believed that Pentagram, or “Blazing Star” had the same or similar symbolism as the crescent moon. As their belief system was comprised of pagan, Jewish and early Christian views, the “Blazing Star” symbolized magic and the mysteries of the night sky.
Ancient Christianity used the pentagram, too. It was meant to be symbolic of the five wounds of Christ. It is also said that the Feast of the Epiphany, which was meant to celebrate the Magi bringing Truth the baby Jesus, was symbolically marked with a pentagram.
In Medieval times, the pentagram was known as the “Endless Knot,” and was a symbol of truth and so protected against demons. One would use it for personal protection, or to protect windows and doors. Sometimes, it was meant to represent certain seasons – apex upward meant summer and apex downward meant winter.
In the Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it is written that he bore a golden shield inscribed with a pentagram. This represented the five knightly virtues – generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety.
Gypsies are still said to cut an apple in half to reveal two pentagrams. In each point of the pentagram there is an apple seed. It is called the “Star of Knowledge” and represents the mother Goddess Kore.
During the Crusades, a group of military monks formed. These monks, called The Knights Templar, discovered natural formations of pentagons and pentagrams and incorporated that mysticism into their architecture. They were said to be very connected to the Temple of Solomon. There are still some graves said to be attributed to the Knights Templar that are marked by a pentagram. King Louis the IX in 1303 believed they were working against God and saw them as a threat, and so began the Inquisition.
During this time, the Pentagram began to gain it’s “evil” connotations. It became a symbol of a goat’s head, or the “Baphomet,” which the Knights of Templar were accused of worshiping. It was also during the time of the Inquisition that attention turned from Christian “heretics” to the Pagan Witches who knew herb lore and still followed their Old Religion. Horned gods such as Pan and the pentagram became equated with the Christian Devil. The symbol was widely deemed evil for the first time in history, and was given the label “Witch’s Foot.”
To avoid the prying of the Church, secret groups of craftsmen and scholars formed the occult philosophy of Hermeticism, the proto-science of Alchemy. Geometrical symbols and graphical representations became important as the era of the Renaissance came into being.
Western Occult thoughts began to emphasize the mantra, “as above, so below” which meant to say that man was a small part of the universal spirit. The pentagram could not be quashed for long – here it returned as the “Star of the Microcosm,” symbolizing Man as part of the macrocosmic universe.
In 1582, Tycho Brahe’s work shows a pentagram with the human body imposed and the Hebrew for YHSVH (Jehovah) associated with the elements; another similar image depicts the human body over a pentagram in relationship to the five planets and the moon at the center point. Later, the pentagram came to be symbolic of the relationship of the head to the four limbs compared to the relationship of the pure concentrated essence of the spirit, to the four traditional elements of matter – earth, water, air and fire.
In the Freemasonry order, and interlaced pentagram is the symbol used for the Master of the Lodge. It was known as the “Endless Knot” to these people as well. The geometrical properties were used to represent the Masonic emblem of Virtue and Duty. The women’s branch of freemasonry uses the pentagram as the “Eastern Star” and each point commemorates a biblical heroine. Many of the founding fathers of America were Free Masons – evidence of this exists in our country today from the capital’s layout, to the five-pointed stars on the flag and even to the pyramid on our money. The inverted pentagram’s points spell out Mason from letters in the Latin words surrounding the pyramid.
During the Victorian Era, metaphysical societies were founded based on the Holy Kabbalah. Eliphas Levi was a leader in this movement, which was important because other groups arose from his lead. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – whose member, Aleister Crowley, created the Thoth Tarot Deck – was one such group. One of the things Levi is credited with doing was turning the gypsy fortune-telling method, Tarot, into a powerful set of symbolic images meant for divination. In doing so, he renamed the suit of coins to the suit of Pentacles. During this time, an illustration arose of the old Baphomet symbol from the time of the Inquisition drawn right next to the symbol of an upright pentagram. This was the first time that the inversion of a pentagram was seen as “evil” and the upright pentagram was “good.” Because witchcraft was reemerging, religious fundamentalists related western occultism, the pentagram (more commonly the inverted pentagram) and witchcraft to satanic practices and devil worship.
In the 1940’s Gerald Gardner adopted the inverted pentagram as a second degree initiation symbol for the neo-pagan rituals of the Wiccan witchcraft tradition. The upright pentagram in conjunction with the point up triangle symbolized third degree initiation, and the point down triangle represented first degree initiation. The Gardnerian Pentacle was also inscribed on Wiccan altars. Its points symbolized three aspects of the Goddess and two of the God – and it was also surrounded by seven symbols which represented initiation, the horned God, the moon Goddess and a symbol for mercy and severity, or the kiss and the scourge. Because of the stigma associated with the inverted pentagram, it was the early 1960’s before the neo-pagan movement began growing more widespread and more public.
Anthony LaVey’s Church of Satan originally started as a renewed practice of worshiping the Egyptian deity Set. They adopted the inverted pentagram after the image of Baphomet for its emblem. The reaction of the Christian Church was to condemn Satanism as evil. Any of the neo-pagan movements became lumped together with it as Devil worship. The pentagram still bears this stigma today.
The Earth creates a natural pentacle with its orbit around the sun. The Earth’s orbit is 360 degrees and in those 360 degrees the Earth has 365 revolutions or days within the orbit. The only number that divides both 360 and 365 without a remainder is 5. This gives the ratio 72 degrees per 73 days. (72/73) Each of these points marks 1/5 of the orbit. If you connect the dots it creates a pentacle.