Symbols of Wicca, other Neopagan traditions, Satanism, etc.
Frequently confused symbols: The
pentagram, & the Sigil of Baphomet
The terms pentagram and pentacle are sometimes used interchangeably.
However, we believe that the most common precise meanings are:
|The word pentagram comes from the Greek: "pente means 5
(as in Pentagon). "Gram" comes from the Greek verb graphein,
"to write". The same ending is found in such words as telegram. Thus, pentagram refers to a five pointed star,
or "any figure of five lines." 1 It is
most often used to refer to a symmetrical, five pointed star, with equal
sides, drawn either with a single line or with two closely spaced parallel
lines. Their overall shape is like the decoration on the top of many Christmas
trees, and the stars on the American flag.
|An upright pentagram is a 5 pointed star with one point aligned upwards.
|An inverted pentagram is a 5 pointed star with two points aligned
||An upright pentacle is generally defined as an upright pentagram surrounded by a circle, as is shown in the
following icon. It often takes the form of a pentagram printed, engraved, or cut
into a flat disk.|
Upright pentacles and pentagrams are among the most widely used religious symbols. They have been used in many eras and
by many cultures and religions of the world: by ancient Pagans, ancient Israelites,
Christians, magicians, Wiccans and others. The following pentagram-using
groups are listed in chronological order:
|This symbol apparently originated as the symbol of a Goddess who was worshiped over an
area which extends from present-day England to Egypt and beyond. Her name was Kore
(a.k.a. Car, Cara, Carnac, Ceres, Core, Kar, Karnak, Kaur, Kauri, Ker, Kerma,
Kher, Kore, Q're, etc.). As Carmenta she was said to have invented the Roman
alphabet. From her alternative Roman name Ceres have evolved many English words: cardiac,
carnal, cereal, core, corn, and kernel. The port of Caraalis, (now Cagliari,
the capital of Sardinia), was named after her. |
Kore's sacred fruit is the apple. When an apple is cut through its equator,
both halves will reveal a near-perfect pentagram shape at the core, with each
point on the star containing a seed. Many Wiccans,
other Neopagans and Roma
(a.k.a. Gypsies) continue to cut apples in this way. The Roma refer to the core as the Star of
|In ancient Greece, Pythagoras (586 - 506 BCE)
established a school which pursued knowledge in mathematics, music, religion,
and other specialties. Driven underground, his followers used the pentagram as a
secret sign to identify themselves to each other. The Masonic Order has
traditionally traced its origins back 2,500 years to the Pythagoreans.|
|Kore was worshiped within the Coptic Gnostic Christian
religion in Alexandria, Egypt, during the
4th century CE. Her festival, the Koreion, was held yearly on JAN-6. This was
adopted by the Christian church as Feast of Epiphany (a.k.a. Twelfth
Night). 2 This date is still celebrated as Jesus'
birthday in Armenian churches, and is observed with more pomp than is Christmas
by the Greek Orthodox church. 3|
|In England, the Koreion became
the Kirn - the Feast of Ingathering. The Christian church later adopted
it to the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. 2|
||During the times of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the pentacle was
the first and most important of the Seven Seals - an amulet whose seals
represented the seven secret names of God. It was inscribed on King Solomon's
ring, which is often called Solomon's Seal in error. 4 Each
point of the pentagram was also interpreted as referring to the five books of
the Pentateuch - the first five books in the Hebrew Scriptures; a.k.a. the Torah.|
||The Celts believed that the pentacle was the sign of the Goddess of the Underground, who they called
Morgan (a.k.a. Morrigan). The concept of five points seems to have
permeated at least one of the Celtic lands. "Ireland had five great
roads, five provinces and five paths of the law. The fairy folk counted by
fives, and the mythological figures wore five-fold cloaks." 5|
|In Christian times:|
|The five points of the pentagram have been interpreted as representing the five
wounds of Christ (2 wrist, 2 ankle and 1 side).|
|The Roman Emperor Constantine used the pentagram in his seal and
||It has been referred to as the Star of Bethlehem.|
||It was used to symbolize the star which allegedly led three Zoroastrian astrologers
(a.k.a. the three wise men) to the baby
Jesus; it was called the Three Kings' star.
|The English warrior Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur, adopted the
pentagram as his personal symbol and placed it on his shield. 7
It appeared in gold on a red background. The five points symbolized "the
five knightly virtues - generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety."
|Tarot cards originally had a suit of coins or discs. These were changed
in the 19th century to pentacles when the Tarot became associated
with the Kabbalah. They eventually became the suit of
diamonds in modern playing cards.|
|It has been widely used by past Christians as a protective amulet.
||During the three centuries long burning times, the Christian church burned alive or
of thousands of innocent people accused of Witchcraft, Satan worship or other heresy. The meaning of the pentagram changed. It
began to symbolize a goat's head or the devil in the form of Baphomet.
"The folk-symbol of security - for the first time in history - was
equated with evil and was called the Witch's Foot." 6
|| The pentacle and pentagram are the main symbols used by Wiccans and many other neo-Pagans. The religion of Wicca is based in part on ancient Celtic deities, symbols, days of celebration, etc. They are an Earth-centered religion whose days of celebration follow the phases of the moon and the seasons.Their total membership in the U.S. is on the order of 750,000. That would make Wicca about the 5th largest organized religion in the United States, behind Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. |
||Many religious and spiritual groups use the pentacle or pentagram today in a secondary role.
| The National
flag of Morocco consists of a green interwoven star on a red background. The
color red has "considerable historic significance in Morocco. ... during the
reign of Mulay Yusuf, the green Seal of Solomon was added to the national
flag." 8 |
Some religious and spiritual groups have used the inverted pentacle.
During the 20th century, Satanists inverted the upright pentacle and adopted
it as their own symbol. However, the symbol is most commonly shown with the head
of a goat within the pentagram as shown below.
The Medal of Honor is also a pentacle.It is the nation's highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. It sometimes is referred to as the "Congressional Medal of Honor" because the president awards it on behalf of the Congress.
Sigil of Baphomet
The inverted pentacle with a goat's head is called the Sigil (or Sigl) of Baphomet. The
second word may have come from two Greek words, baphe and metis,
meaning "absorption of knowledge." It has also been
called the Black Goat, Devil's Goat, Goat Head, Goat of Mendes, and Judas Goat.
Its first appearance appears to have been during the vicious interrogation of members of the Knights
Templar by the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisition. There was little consensus
among different victims' descriptions of the Baphomet. It can probably be safely
assumed that their description of the Baphomet is more a product of the Inquisition's torture methods
than of any actual statue that was in use by the Knights.
According to the Mystica web site:
"In the 20th. century Karl Kellner and other German occultists formed
the secret order of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis or Order of Templars in the
East). They installed the English occultist Aleister Crowley to head their
British section. Crowley took Baphomet as his magical name." 9
Today, the Baphomet is widely used by religious Satanists. The Church of
Satan also uses a second symbol which is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its
side). A Roman cross is placed on top with a second, longer cross piece added
beneath the top cross piece.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Webster's New World Dictionary: 3rd college edition"
- Barbara G Walker, "The woman's encyclopedia of myths and secrets,"
Harper & Row, (1983), Page 514-515.
- Barbara G Walker, op. cit., Page 166-167.
- Barbara G Walker, op. cit., Page 782 to 783.
- "Pentagram History" at: http://www.concentric.net/
- Sharynne NicMacha, "The star of life," at The Witches'
Voice web site. See: http://www.witchvox.com/
- J.C. Cooper, "An illustrated encyclopaedia of traditional
symbols," Thames and Hudson (1992), Page 128.
- "Flag of Morocco," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Baphomet," at the Mystica web site at: http://www.themystica.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update and review: 2010-NOV-27
Author: B.A. Robinson