Major Religions & Spiritual Beliefs
MEANING OF THE PENTAGRAM
PENTAGRAMS: Meaning, History, Associations, Origins
A pentagram (sometimes known as a pentalpha or pentangle or, more formally, as a star pentagon) is the shape of a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes. The word pentagram comes from the Greek word pentagrammon a noun form of pentagrammos, a word meaning roughly "five-lined" or "five lines".
Pentagrams were used symbolically in ancient Greece and Babylonia, and are used today as a symbol of faith by many Wiccans, akin to the use of the cross by Christians and the Star of David by Jews. The pentagram has magical associations, and many people who practice Neopagan faiths wear jewelry incorporating the symbol. Christians once more commonly used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus, and it also has associations within Freemasonry.
The pentagram has long been associated with the planet Venus, and the worship of the goddess Venus, or her equivalent. It is also associated with the Roman word lucifer, which was a term used for Venus as the Morning Star, associated with the bringer of light and knowledge. It is most likely to have originated from the observations of prehistoric astronomers. When viewed from Earth, successive inferior conjunctions of Venus plot a nearly perfect pentagram shape around the zodiac every eight years.
The word "pentacle" is sometimes used synonymously with "pentagram", and this usage is borne out by the Oxford English Dictionary, although that work specifies that a circumscription makes the shape more particularly a pentacle. Wiccans and Neo-pagans often make use of this more specific definition for a pentagram enclosed in a circle.
Religious symbolism of the Pentagram
Christianity and the Pentagram
The pentagram is used as a Christian symbol for the five senses, and if the letters S, A, L, V, and S are inscribed in the points, it can be taken as a symbol of health (from Latin salus).
Medieval Christians believed it to symbolise the five wounds of Christ. The pentagram was believed to protect against witches and demons.
The pentagram figured in a heavily symbolic Arthurian romance: it appears on the shield of Sir Gawain in the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As the poet explains, the five points of the star each have five meanings: they represent the five senses, the five fingers, the five wounds of Christ, the five joys that Mary had of Jesus (the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Assumption), and the five virtues of knighthood which Gawain hopes to embody: noble generosity, fellowship, purity, courtesy, and compassion.
Most Christians, probably due to their misinterpretation of symbols used by ceremonial magicians, came to associate it with Satanism and subsequently rejected the symbol sometime in the twentieth century.
Mormonism and the Pentagram
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used pentagrams and five-pointed stars in Temple architecture, specifically the Nauvoo Illinois Temple and the Salt Lake Temple. These symbols derived from traditional morning star pentagrams that are no longer commonly used in mainstream Christianity.
Judaism and the Pentagram
The pentagram was the official seal of the city of Jerusalem for a time. Due to the similarity of the star shapes, it is occasionally confused with the Star of David by those unfamiliar with the symbols. See Judaism
Neopaganism and the Pentagram
Many Neopagans, especially Wiccans, use the pentagram as a symbol of faith similar to the Christian cross or the Jewish Star of David. It is not, however, a universal symbol for Neopaganism, and is rarely used by Reconstructionists. Its religious symbolism is commonly explained by reference to the neo-Pythagorean understanding that the five vertices of the pentagram represent the four elements with the addition of Spirit as the uppermost point. As a representation of the elements, the pentagram is involved in the Wiccan practice of summoning the elemental spirits of the four directions at the beginning of a ritual.
The outer circle of the circumscribed pentagram is sometimes interpreted as binding the elements together or bringing them into harmony with each other. The Neopagan pentagram is generally displayed with one point up, partly because of the "inverted" goat's head pentagram's association with Satanism; however, within traditional forms of Wicca a pentagram with two points up is associated with the Second Degree Initiation and in this context has no relation to Satanism.
Because of a perceived association with Satanism and also because of negative societal attitudes towards Neopagan religions and the "occult", many United States schools have sought to prevent students from displaying the pentagram on clothing or jewelry. In public schools, such actions by administrators have been determined to be in violation of students' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
Wicca and the Pentagram
Various different symbols are used by Wiccans, similar to the use of the crucifix by Christians or the Star of David by Jews. The most notable of these is the pentagram, which has five points, each representing one of the five classical elements in Wicca (earth, air, fire, water and spirit) and also the idea that the human, with its five appendages, is a microcosm of the universe. Other symbols that are used include the triquetra and the triple Moon symbol of the Triple Goddess.
Bahá'í Faith and the Pentagram
Main article: Bahá'í symbols
The pentagram is the official symbol of the Bahá'í Faith. In the Bahá'í Faith, the pentagram is known as the Haykal (Arabic: "temple"), and it was initiated and established by the Báb. Both Báb and Bahá'u'lláh wrote various works in the form of a pentagram.
Taoism and the Pentagram
Taoism conceived of a five element system which governed the natural world which they called the Wu Xing. Unlike the Greek system of four elements being Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, the Chinese system involved Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. This five element system was normally depicted as a pentagram ringed by a circle. The circle was used to describe the generative cycle where wood feeds fire, fire creates earth (ash), earth bears metal, metal carries water, and water nourishes wood. The pentagram describes the destructive or overcoming system where Wood parts Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water quenches Fire, Fire melts Metal, Metal chops Wood, or the alternative destructive system: Wood absorbs Water, Water rusts Metal, Metal breaks up Earth, Earth smothers Fire, Fire burns Wood. This system informs traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) even today. As the Wu Xing is of great antiquity and the silk road had been open to Europe since before the Roman Empire it is quite likely that this medical system was imported to Europe as a misunderstood and exotic practice involving spirits.
Thelema and the Pentagram
Aleister Crowley also made use of the pentagram and in his Thelemic system of magick: an adverse or inverted pentagram represents the descent of spirit into matter, according to the interpretation of Lon Milo DuQuette. Crowley contradicted his old comrades in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who following Levi considered this orientation of the symbol evil and associated it with the triumph of matter over spirit.
Satanism and the Pentagram
Satanists use a pentagram with two points up, often inscribed in a double circle, with the head of a goat inside the pentagram. This is referred to as the Sigil of Baphomet. They use it much the same way as the Pythagoreans, as Tartaros literally translates from Greek as a "Pit" or "Void" in Christian terminology (the word is used as such in the Bible, referring to the place where the fallen angels are fettered). The Pythagorean Greek letters are most often replaced by the Hebrew letters ÜÕÙêß forming the name Leviathan. Less esoteric LaVeyan Satanists use it as a sign of rebellion or religious identification, the three downward points symbolising rejection of the holy Trinity.
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