Every religion possesses a symbol that brings to mind the focal point of the belief system. For Christians, the cross or crucifix stands for the ultimate sacrifice and victory of Christ; Jews possess the Star of David; Taoist ideas revolve around the symbol of the Tao; and witches use the pentagram. The pentagram represents the order of the cosmos and appears as either a pentacle, or five-pointed star, or as a pentacle enclosed in a circle. Generally one point faces upward in Wiccan symbology; however, some British traditions use an upside-down pentagram to denote the higher degrees that a witch may obtain through training.
Typically, in the United States, the upside-down pentagram has been used by Satanists, representing the goat and often appearing as the head of the Goat of Mendes inside the five-pointed star. Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, claimed that the two upward points represented the horns of the goat and the three downward points the trinity turned on its head. In The Secret Doctrine, Madame Helena Blavatsky wrote that the reversed pentagram symbolized the Kali Yuga, the current dark age of materialism, sensuality, and violence. The pentagram is much older than contemporary Wicca and was known as a Qabalistic sign to the Freemasons and occult fraternities arising from the Rosicrucians. The pentagram's origins probably lie much earlier that this, with the earliest known examples appearing in Babylonian relics. Its earlier usage in Qabalistic magic shows through its meaning as a symbol of the four elements, elements that also play a major role in the tarot, astrology, and other occult forms of knowledge.
The pentagram functions as a magical symbol through its representation of cosmic order. Its five points represent the other elements of life, plus spirit, the source of magical power. Earth, air, fire, water, and spirit bound the life of a witch and are believed to enable witches to perform magic. Witches believe that meditation on the characteristics of each element allows them to visualize the order of the cosmos. For them, earth stands for stability, air controls the intellect, fire the passions, and water acts alternately as a purifying source and as the womb of all life. Spirit presides over these four elements and represents an immanent, sacred realm, the abode of the gods and goddesses.
Pentagrams used in magical rites are thought in some sense to control the elements they represent. Witches utilize the pentagram in invoking and banishing. In casting a circle, or in creating a sacred space in which to perform rituals, witches draw invoking pentagrams at each of the four quarters, inviting the element of that quarter to come and participate. After the ritual, a banishing pentagram at each quarter dissolves this link between the witch and the element represented. In most Wiccan cosmologies east is the direction of air, south of fire, west of water, and north represents earth. The element of spirit is said to dwell at the center of the circle. Through meditation on the pentagram and the order it represents, a witch aims to connect with all life and the power underlying the cosmos.
Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. TheWitches'BibleCompleat. 1984; repr., 1991.
Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of WitchcraftPastand Present. 1973.
In the Middle Ages, pentagrams were sometimes inscribed in clothing or hung in doors and windows to keep away evil spirits and the effects of witchcraft. The pentagram is now used as a symbol of Wicca and other neo-pagan movements, the five points often being taken to represent earth, water, air, fire, and spirit.
pen·ta·gram / ˈpentəˌgram/ • n. a five-pointed star that is formed by drawing a continuous line in five straight segments, often used as a mystic and magical symbol.