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Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
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GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
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How Do You Draw Your Pentagram?
Article ID: 13577
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Brunhilde [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: October 4th. 2009
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If you’d like to initiate a lively discussion among Wiccans, just ask us how we draw our pentagram and why we draw it that way. Our answers and explanations will fly fast and furious. First of all, what is our orientation of the star—one point up or two? For Wiccans the single point up orientation is the standard position. There is a short time when we feature the pentagram in its two points upward orientation; when an initiate into a coven enters their Second Degree of training. But for most purposes, the orientation of our pentagram displays one point up. But beyond that general preference, how do we draw it? And why do we draw it that way?
Different Strokes for Different Folks
An investigation of past practices by different authors reveals a wide variety of drawing choices and explanations. Most agree that the five points of the star can represent Spirit, earth, air, fire and water, with the top point designating Spirit. However, they differ on their placement of the four elements. They also differ in the manner of drawing the pentagram. While many begin the pattern by starting at the top (Spirit) , some do not.
Wherever you position each element around your pentagram will influence your drawing of it, especially if you are aligning your star to invoke a particular element for magickal work. Vivianne Crowley, author of Wicca (2000) , outlines a ceremony for consecrating ritual objects. She starts at the top (Spirit) , with her first stroke moving down and to the right—the point she designates for fire. She is drawing the “invoking pentagram” of the element fire. Her second stroke is drawn diagonally up and across to the upper left for air, then horizontally across to the upper right for water, then diagonally down to the lower left for earth, then back up to the top. She finishes by drawing an additional “sealing stroke, ” from the top down to the lower right point again.
Raven Grimassi (b. 1951) , author of Italian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe (2005) , outlines a rite of dedication for those pagans who wish to become practitioners of Stregheria, the Italian word for the religion of witches. As part of their initiation ritual, Grimassi instructs the seekers to anoint themselves in the manner of the pentagram. His sequence is the same as Crowley’s: forehead—right breast—left shoulder—right shoulder—left breast—forehead.
Raymond Buckland (b. 1934) , author of Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (2004) , details a different manner of drawing the pentagram. Instead of drawing the first stroke down to the lower right, he moves down to the lower left, then diagonally across to the upper right, straight across to the left, down to the lower right, and back up to the top.
In his book Witchcraft From the Inside (1995) he features the classical pentagram image taken from old books of magick, with the figure of a man standing with arms raised sideways and legs spread apart, with a five-pointed star superimposed on top of the figure. The various points of the pentagram display the astrological symbols for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, not directions or elements. He states that this pentagram is a symbol of the life force, a very positive symbol.
Janet Farrar (b. 1950) and Stewart Farrar (1916-2000) , authors of A Witches’ Bible: A Complete Witches’ Handbook (1996) describe their version of diagramming the pentagram for use in sabbats. Their sequence of strokes is the same as Buckland’s. In their discussion of an opening ritual, they describe two methods of drawing the pentagram. The first method comes at the beginning of the ceremony. It is called the “Invoking Pentagram of Earth.”
The element of earth is placed at the lower left point of the star. It is delineated by the Priestess as she (1) starts at the top and (2) draws a diagonal line down to her lower left to earth, (3) then up and across to her right, (4) then horizontally to her left, (5) then diagonally down to her lower right, and (6) up again to the top. She finishes by adding a final sealing stroke; drawing down again from the top center to her lower left point.
Their second method of drawing of the pentagram occurs towards the end of the ceremony, when the Priestess draws the “Banishing Pentagram of Earth.” It is a reversal of the invoking pentagram. She begins (1) at the bottom left of the star, (2) then draws the line up to the top center, (3) then diagonally down to her lower right, (4) then across to her upper left and (5) horizontally across to her upper right, (6) then diagonally down to her left, where she started. Again, she finishes the act by retracing the line from the lower left to the top center, the sealing stroke. The Farrars state in a footnote to their text that they are basing their pentagram strokes on the practice followed by the members of the Golden Dawn.
Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) , author of Witchcraft for Tomorrow (1993) , uses the same method as that described by the Farrars and Buckland. She provides additional information by detailing the reasons behind the sequence of her strokes. Valiente states that the topmost point of the pentagram is regarded as representing Deity, the divine Source of life.
The first stroke starts from the top and proceeds down to the lower left, representing life descending from its divine source into the lowest and simplest forms of living matter. The second stroke ascends up and across to the right, representing the ascent of life from primitive forms, by the process of evolution. The third stroke moves across to the upper left, representing man’s earthly progress, his accomplishments on the physical plane. The fourth stroke moves diagonally down to the right point, signifying the fall of man, as his focus and his pride in his material achievements leads him into danger. The final stroke rises back up to the topmost point, indicating that because mankind descends from a divine source, he will always strive upwards to reunite with that source.
Starhawk (b. 1951) author of The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1979) also teaches an invoking and a banishing pentagram design. Her sequence of strokes is akin to that of Buckland, the Farrars, and Valiente. Further, she advocates using the pentagram in a variety of ways as an aid to visualization and meditation exercises. Depending on the exercise, each one of the five points of the star can be assigned to different ideas. For example, in an exercise she calls the “Pentagram of the Pearl” she designates the top point of the star as the concept of Love, the upper right point becomes Wisdom, the lower right point is Knowledge, the lower left point is Law and the upper left point is Power.
The seeker is told to meditate on these concepts, as they move clockwise around the pentagram, to think of the meaning of each word and how it interacts with the words adjacent to it. She also encourages the seeker to lie down in the pentagram position, with their head as the upper single point, to feel the points as part of their being. She states that during meditation in this fashion, one may also become aware of imbalances in their personal well-being, in relation to these concepts.
Silver Ravenwolf (b. 1956) , author of Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation (2003) discusses the various historical origins of the pentagram. She states, “If you draw the design from the top down, you are saying that Spirit comes down to matter, and if you draw from the bottom to the top, you are symbolizing matter in its highest form. The horizontal line across represents our development of intellect and the connection of force and form.”
She designates the element of air at the upper left, water at upper right, earth at lower left and fire at lower right. She also details several methods of drawing the pentagram to invoke/banish different elements.
The Case for Consistency
Many Wiccans trace the design of their pentagram in the same manner every time they draw it. What might change would be the orientation of their top point (Spirit) towards a specific direction—north, south, east or west—if they wish to invoke the spirits of a particular element during their ritual. This attention to a particular element can sometimes be found in lunar ceremonies, esbats. The zodiac sign occupied by the moon on the night of the ritual influences Esbats. And each of the twelve zodiac signs corresponds to one of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water.
For example, if their ritual is celebrated during a Full Moon in the sign of Scorpio, they may focus on the element of water. The goal of the esbat could be to ritually charge water for use in future ceremonies. The Priestess could cast the circle, and then stand in the quarter of the circle that is assigned to water—west. She might face west and draw a pentagram by orienting the top point of the star towards the west, paying homage to the moon in Scorpio and the energies of water.
Also, pentagrams created to invoke and then banish specific elements don’t have to begin at the top point. For example, if you are employing an invoking pentagram of air, you might begin at the point across from air on your star and make your first stroke travel towards the point of air. At the end of the ritual, you will banish that same pentagram by beginning at the point designated by air and make your first stroke move away from there.
Reflector on the Roof
For me, like many Wiccans, the pentagram is a symbol of the feminine divine and a sigil for the planet Venus. Since grade school, my hobby has been astronomy. As a child, I spent many nights on the roof of my home, with my little 3-inch reflector telescope, mesmerized by my view of the heavens. (My mom would make my dad put me on the roof because she was afraid some wild animal would bite me.) Venus quickly became one of my favorite subjects for observation. Sometimes she was close and large. Other times she was far away and faint. I could discern all of that, even with the limited capabilities of my little telescope. Sometimes she rose in the morning just before the sun. Other times she appeared at dusk just as the sun had set. She even changed shape, exhibiting phases like the moon. I was hooked!
Although my pentagram traces the path of the planet Venus, I do not use the shape we can see her outline from standing on our planet. That view is rather distorted. It does not have the shape of a symmetrical five-pointed star, because we are viewing it from within the same orbital plane as Venus; we are moving parallel to her motion. An analogy would be to imagine that we were standing on the ice of a skating rink with stadium seating. We are watching a skater move around the rink.
From our perspective standing on the surface of the ice in the same flat plane as the skater, they would only seem to be moving towards us or moving away from us. However, if we are seated high up in the arena, we can look down on the skater and see that they are tracing a pattern on the ice.
In similar fashion, I draw my pentagram from the viewpoint of hovering high above our solar system. That way, my pentagram has the more classic symmetrical shape.
Points in Space
Try to imagine yourself hanging suspended a few millions miles above the north pole of the sun, floating effortlessly in space. From your perspective, you can see the counter-clockwise spin of the sun. You also see the counterclockwise orbital motions of most of the planets and their moons, sweeping around in a celestial ballet. Now focus in on Venus and Earth. Watch their pas de deux.
It takes the Earth about 365 days to swing completely around the sun. Venus, being closer to the sun, manages the same feat in a shorter amount of time. And periodically, Venus is positioned precisely between the Sun and Earth. This alignment is called an “inferior conjunction.” Whenever she lines up on the other side of the sun, with the sun positioned precisely between us, she is creating a “superior conjunction.”
Because Venus and Earth take different times to complete one orbit around the Sun, 8 years must pass before the two planets are finally lined up back at the same point. In those 8 years Venus has completed 10 orbits around the sun as compared to 8 Earth orbits. And within her 10 orbits, Venus has achieved 5 inferior conjunctions and 5 superior conjunctions.
Connecting the Dots
I use the same sequence as Crowley and Grimassi, but my reasons relate to astronomy and conjunctions. My five pentagram points can use either the five inferior or the five superior conjunctions of Venus, in a row. Pick at random one of the two systems and start there. On paper, make a dot and label it the sun. Draw a large circle around the sun to represent the orbit of Venus. Put a point anywhere on that circle. That point will be your first conjunction spot and become the top point of your pentagram. Label it No. 1.
Next, put four more dots on the circle, so that all five dots (conjunction points) are equally distant from each other. Now you will draw your sequence of pentagram strokes. In doing so, you will mimic the orbit of Venus.
In order to draw the lines to your dots in the sequence that the conjunctions actually occur you must move from your first dot at the top down to the lower right point (2) , then up and across to the upper left point (3) , then straight across to the upper right (4) , then down and across to the lower left point (5) , then back up to the starting point at the top, where Venus returns to her original position in her orbit after 8 years. That sequence of strokes is my pattern; how I draw my pentagram.
So, why do I bother to trace my pentagram in keeping with the orbital motion of the planet? Because it resonates with me. It reflects my personal experience of life. It reminds me of why I took the Pagan path, because of Paganism’s devotion to the sky and the natural world. It recalls my early fascination with the heavens, a fascination that steered me ultimately to Wicca. Every time I draw my pentagram I can recall my youthful excitement under the starry skies and I feel the embrace of the heavens. At that moment my pentagram becomes more than a star; it becomes an energized, charged sigil.
Where, O Where Do the Elements Go?
Where do I assign my four elements: earth, air, fire and water? That decision is also a personal preference. I was born in the sign of Taurus, an earth sign. I like to connect my first line from Spirit down to my personal element, earth. Since the first actual Venus conjunction spot is down to the lower right, I designated that point to be earth for me. I also like to trace my strokes in the sequence of the chant: earth, air, fire, water. I wanted to be able to trace out the conjunctions and say the chant as I make my strokes.
So, air is placed at my third conjunction point on the upper left, fire is placed at my fourth conjunction point in the upper right, and water is placed at my fifth conjunction point in the lower left. Then I make one last stroke from water back up to Spirit at the top, which completes the sequence for Venus conjunctions and brings her back to where she started in space and in my pentagram.
Venus Makes Her Point
When is the next conjunction for lovely Venus? An inferior conjunction, when Venus is placed directly between us and the sun, occurred in March of 2009. The next two conjunction events will occur in 2010. The first one will be a superior conjunction, when Venus is lined up on the far side of the sun from us, in January. Then the next event, an inferior conjunction, will occur around the end of October, just is time for Samhain—a Wiccan sabbat and the beginning of the new year in the old Celtic religions—very auspicious!
Let Your Path Be Your Guide
If you have been initiated into an established circle, then you will draw it the way you were instructed. It is part of the tradition of your Wiccan community. But all those teeming multitudes of solitaries out there, like me, what do we do? Well you can purchase books from reputable authors. I have mentioned several in this article. You can certainly browse the Internet. There are several sites devoted to the pentagram.
But before you follow someone else’s example, think about what the symbol means to you. What do you want it to represent? How does the symbol resonate with you? Which of the four elements do you wish to assign to which points and why? Do you want it to focus on the element of your birth sign? How has your life experience influenced your ideas about the pentagram? What thoughts do you ponder as you move through your sequence of strokes?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter HOW you draw it as long as your method incorporates meaning. Formulate your own approach to the pentagram, so that every time you draw it you are creating a symbol of power, blessing and protection. It will become for you a useful tool in your journey to achieving altered states of awareness. If your sequence resonates with you, then it is the correct way for you to draw it.
SOURCES FOR FURTHER READING:
Buckland, RaymondBuckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. Llewellyn Publications, 2004.
Crowley, VivianneWicca. Thorsons First Directions, 2000.
Farrar, Janet and StewartA Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook. Phoenix Publishing, Inc., 1996.
Grimassi, RavenItalian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe. Llewellyn Publications, 2005.
Ravenwolf, SilverSolitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation. Llewellyn Publications, 2004.
StarhawkThe Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 1979.
Valiente, DoreenWitchcraft for Tomorrow. Robert Hale, Ltd., 1993.
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