Article ID: 14317
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Disciple of Oghma
Posted: February 13th. 2011
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The pentagram is the shape of a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes. Forming an inverted pentagon crowned by five acute triangles with an internal angle of 36 degrees. Pentagrams were used symbolically in ancient Greece and Babylonia, and are used today as a symbol of faith by many Wiccans. The pentagram has magical associations, and many people who practice Neopagan faiths wear jewelry incorporating the symbol. Medieval Christians once more commonly used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus. The pentagram is also utilized by a number of other belief systems.
The first known uses of the pentagram are found in Mesopotamian writings dating to about 3000 BC. In the Babylonian context, the edges of the pentagram were probably orientations: forward, backward, left, right, and "above”. These directions also had an astrological meaning, representing the five planets Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn, and Venus as the "Queen of Heaven" (Ishtar) .
The planet Venus orbits just over thirteen times for every eight orbits of the Earth, creating a pentagrammic pattern of smaller conjunctions. Each successive smaller conjunction occurs after about 1.6 Earth years and it shifts about 144 degrees in the direction opposite the Earth's orbital motion. After each cycle of eight Earth years, the pentagram recesses about 1.5 degrees in the direction of Earth's orbital motion, reflecting the fact that the Earth to Venus orbital ratio is an approximate ('near') rather than a perfect orbital resonance. The produced "sky script" is in complete harmony with the geometric laws of Phi (or the Golden ratio) .
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 that the "pent alpha" symbolizes the five wounds of Christ. The pentagram was believed to protect against witches and demons. This belief, a striking contrast to the more prosaic belief held by the early church that the pagans were benign lunatics. This belief was most likely a by-product of the movement in the 14th century that spawned the malius malefacarum (a Gregorian manual that instructed One on the methods of identifying and cleansing witches) , which heralded the start of the "Burning Times".
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.
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 Re-constructionists. 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 Neopagan pentagram is generally displayed with one point up, partly because of the "inverted" goat's head pentagram's association with Satanism. The goat headed Satan was a myth created by the Catholic church's College of Propaganda to demonize the exoneration of the goat headed god bathometry by the Knights Templar. This condemnation was used by the pope to eradicate them from the pages of history in 1309. Prior to that Satan had always appeared as an angel of light and had not had a goat-like form.
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.
The circle around a pentagram (transforming it in to a pentacle) is a symbol of "unity, wholeness, infinity, the goddess, and protection. " The circle is interpreted as binding the elements together or bringing them into harmony with each other. When pointing up, the pentagram can represent spirituality's dominance over the material (pentagram) bound inside the laws of the cosmos (circle) . The upside-down facing pentagram, meanwhile, represents the physical world ruling over the spiritual. Other sources point to its origin in Chinese five-element philosophy (feng shui and Tao) , as the natural balance between fire, water, earth, wood, and metal. This theory states that the direction it is pointing has nothing to do with good or evil, but rather the upside-down facing circle is for banishing. The circle is again for the concept the power within is bound by, this time for the circle of life.
Man's fascination with this symbol has echoed through the ages. Whether one looks as far from home as the stars or no further than the horizontal cross section of an apple. This symbol of knowledge, peace, and harmony is everywhere in the world around us. Our fascination is best voiced by the 16th century German legend of Faust: "... Ah, how do all my senses leap at this sight! I feel the young and sacred pleasure of life quivering in my nerves and veins. Was it a God who traced this sign, which stills the vertigo of my soul, fills my poor heart with joy, and, in a mysterious rapture, unveils the forces of Nature around me? Am I myself a God? All is so clear to me: I behold in these simple lines the revelation of active Nature to my soul. I realize for the first time the truth of the wise man's words: The world of spirits is not closed! Thy sense is obtuse: thy heart is dead! Arise! Bathe, O adept of science, thy breast, still enveloped by an unearthly veil, in the splendors of the dawning day!" (Faust; Part I. Scene I) .
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