Symbols of Wicca, other Neopagan traditions, Satanism, etc.
The meaning of Pentacle & Pentagram symbols
their users. Dress code conflicts in schools.
The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to their users:
There is no single consensus on the significance of these symbols. Various
groups use and define them quite differently:
|Wiccans have attempted to reconstruct a Pagan religion similar to
that of the ancient Celts. They have
adopted the upright pentacle/pentagram, since it was the symbol of Morgan, an
ancient Celtic goddess. Many wear it as jewelry and use it on their altars. The symbol
is frequently traced by hand using an athame (a ritual knife) during Wiccan
rituals. It is used to cast and banish their ritual circles. Some Wiccans
interpret the five
points as representing earth, air, fire, water, and spirit -- the five factors
needed to sustain human life. Others relate the points to the four directions and
spirit. Some Wiccans and other Neopagans bless themselves
and others with the sign of the pentagram. Their hand passes from their
forehead to one hip, up to the opposite shoulder, across to the other
shoulder, down to the opposite hip and back to the forehead. Some of the
more highly structured Wiccan traditions have used an inverted pentagram to
represent a second or third degree status. "Many of these groups
have since substituted a triangle form for the same degrees because of the
association of the inverted form of the pentacle with Satanism and black
|Ceremonial magicians also use the pentagram. Its points can "represent
various elemental energies, spirits or deities." 1
|The Order of the Eastern Star is a international humanitarian
organization composed of women who are wives of advanced Masons. They use an
inverted pentacle as their symbol. Essentially all Eastern Star members in
North America are Christians.
|The Rosicrucian movement consists of groups of Christian mystics.
They frequently use a wand, sword, cup and pentagram as tools during their
rituals. The pentagram represents "earth, matter and stability."
|The Masonic Order associate the five points of the pentagram with
"Five Points of Fellowship." However, its "use in
Masonry is vestigial and peripheral." 3 Again,
almost all Masons in North America are Christians.
|Some heavy metal rock bands occasionally use a pentacle or
pentagram as a band symbol. It is often neither an upright nor an inverted
symbol. Curiously, it is often, it is aligned to have a top point which is slightly off
vertical. Most of these groups simply use the symbolism and
stage theatrics to generate notoriety, popularity and record sales. However,
a few bands -- particularly in the Black Metal scene -- have been
founded by Satanists. Some are: "Morbid Angel" in the U.S., "Emperor"
in Norway, "Dark Funeral" in Sweden, and "Rotting Christ"
|Satanism is composed of many diverse groups with no central overall
organization. They number perhaps 20,000 in North America. Some Satanic
grottos and temples use the Baphomet symbol.|
The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to Christians:
Because liberal and conservative Christians interpret
the Bible in different ways, they have developed very
different belief systems over time, and agree on very few points. This
disagreement carries over into their understanding of
pentacles and pentagrams.
|Liberal Christians generally view Satan as a principle of
evil rather than as a living entity. Those who are familiar with Wicca and Satanism are
aware of the lack of similarity of the two religions:|
Many religious liberals view the Wiccan upright pentacle or pentagram as
an elegant, spiritual symbol that represents life. They see the Satanic
inverted pentacle or Sigil of Baphomet as primarily representing a self-centered religion.
|Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians generally have an
entirely different view of Wicca, Satanism and other religions. This is
influenced by some of their beliefs. In many, but not all cases:|
|Since they believe in the inerrancy of the
Bible, they regard as true those passages which state that the gods and
goddesses worshiped by other religions are, in reality, Satan or his
|They regard Satan as a living entity, a living, quasi deity who is
totally dedicated to destroying people's lives and ruining their faith.
They regard themselves as being in continuous "spiritual
warfare" -- a personal battle with Satan and his demons.
|They regard Satanism as having existed as an organized movement,
murdering and performing "black masses" for may centuries.
This contrasts with a consensus of modern
historians that: "no reliable historical sources indicate
that such organizations existed; the black mass appears only once in the
sources before the late nineteenth century."
||They do not differentiate between Wicca and Satanism. Because they
consider the Wiccan gods and goddesses to be Satanic or demonic, they
regard the two religions as very similar .|
|They commonly believe that Satanists, (and by extension, Wiccans) engage in Satanic
Ritual Abuse (SRA) and murder. Belief in SRA was widespread during the 1980s
and early 1990s. However it rapidly declined during the late 1990s due to a
complete lack of physical evidence.|
|Many books during the 1980s and early 1990s by conservative Christian authors about Wicca and Satanism
based primarily on books by other conservative Christian authors, rather than on
primary religious sources. Some of the ideas put forth in these books as truth can
be traced back to 15th century Christian propaganda during the Burning
Many conservative Christians do not differentiate between
Wicca and Satanism, or between upright and inverted pentacles/pentagrams. All
are viewed as symbols representing evil, violence and lawlessness.
Dispute over pentagrams in Roswell NM public schools:
Confusion over pentagram and pentacle symbols often extends into public schools. One fascinating example ocurred during 1999-SEP. The Roswell Independent School District in New Mexico
had a dress code that stated (in part):
"...Any attire associated with
gothic, satanic, or occult-type activities such as trench coats, knee high
boots, all-black clothing, spiked jewelry, upside-down crosses, swastika,
tattoos, pentagrams, etc...are prohibited.."
The son of Katherine King,
owner of a local Pagan book store in Roswell, discovered the ban during a school
assignment. He asked why such a prohibition was in place, because it was such an
obvious violation of the 1st Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution. That amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This triggered a study which resulted in a recommendation by
the school staff that the ban on religious symbols be removed -- specifically the prohibition on
pentagrams. Legal staff from the city advised that the ban was
unconstitutional, as written. At a school district meeting, over 200 people attended.
Many were from the conservative Christian "Church On The Move;" some were
from other conservative Christian groups. After an
emotional 3 hour
discussion, the board voted whether to change the dress code. It was a 2 - 2 tie.
This meant that no action was taken and the existing prohibition continued. Kathyrn King, described by the Roswell Daily Record as a "Pagan activist,"
is reported as saying that she will ask the American Civil Liberties Union
to mount a lawsuit against the school board. 4,5
On SEP-12, the Roswell Daily Record News published an interview with Steve
Smothermon, pastor of the Church on the Move. He indicated that their goal was
not to deny any students the right to wear their religious symbol. "Our
whole point was, nobody has the right to promote violence in our school system."
Referring to Kathryn King, he continued: "If [the dispute is]...all
about a symbol, change her symbol...But she shouldn't be allowed to promote
anything which promotes violence."
Mary Reeves, a member of Smothermon's congregation, said that the pentagram
has been viewed as a Satanic symbol for centuries. "Why would they [the
Neopagans] pick a violent symbol to promote their love? It's been known as
being violent from the medieval age on."
State Senator Rod Adair, (R-Roswell) expressed support for the pentagram ban.
"In an era when the term 'zero tolerance' for drugs, guns,
knives and violence is the watchword of the day, it is inconceivable that we
would allow symbols which directly promote Satanic worship and the violence and
bloodshed which are part of it."
Both Reeves and Adair seem to have not recognized the violence associated with the Christian cross symbol. To Protestants, who often wear a plain cross consisting of an upright and horizontal post, the cross represents a torture/execution device. Many Roman Catholics wear a crucifix, which is a plain cross on which is hanging the image of a nearly naked man being tortured to death. There would appear to be considerable violence associated with both symbols. The cross brings to mind the famous quotation by Lenny Bruce: "If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago,
Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs
around their necks instead of crosses." He allegedly was arrested at least once for that statement.
Reeves' and Adair's association of the pentacle with violence and bloodshed
apparently refers to the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax. During
the 1990's and early 1990's, many North Americans believed that Satanists
ritually abused and killed tens of thousands of children annually. The belief has largely dissipated due to
the complete lack of hard evidence. However, many conservative Christians were
still convinced at the end of the 20th century that such abuse actually happens.
Smothermon doubts that the wearing of a pentagram is protected by law. "What
ruling allows for violence to be promoted in our school system? I want to know
what law that is. If they're talking about the equal access law, that has no
bearing on this issue." (The equal access law
is a federal statute which assures that religious clubs and religious expression
are guaranteed the same rights as secular clubs and secular speech). He
continued: "They have the right to worship what they want to worship;
that is not in question here."
On 1999-SEP-21, the school board again met to discuss the issue. The meeting was
attended by about 400 Christians and just over 20 Pagans. The police had an
obvious presence. Prayer meetings inside and outside the meeting area were held
throughout the evening. The discussion
period involving extensive public input. Speakers threatened to remove students
from the school system if pentagrams were allowed; some called for a religious
battle in the courts and offered to help with legal costs; some opposed the
wearing of pentagrams anywhere, not just by students in school. The general
consensus of the Christians at the meeting was that the pentagram is, and always
will be, a Satanic symbol to them. One Native American spoke of Christians
stripping his culture of their talking stick and other symbols of his faith. He
said that he found the Christian cross offensive because, to him, it stood for
the destruction of his culture. Many Wiccans and other Neopagans spoke, asking
for tolerance, understanding and human rights. The board finally voted to cancel
the previous dress code and substitute:
"No student on school property
or at any school activity shall wear, possess, use, distribute, display or sell
any clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbol, sign or other item that currently
evidences or reflects membership in, or affiliation with, any gang."
The vote was 4
to 1 in favor of the new dress code which allows the wearing of Neopagan religious symbols.
Those supporting the change indicated that they based their decision on
constitutional considerations; the one person who was opposed based their
decision on the massive outpouring of public concern. The Church
on the Move threatened legal action to reinstate the ban.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Anon, "The elemental pentacle," at The Witches' Voice web
site. See: http://www.witchvox.com/
- Anders Sandberg, "Rosicrucians," at: http://www.student.nada.kth.se
- T.W. McKeown, "Anti-Masonry Frequently Asked Questions," http://users.uniserve.com/
- News release from the "Alternative Religions Educational Network
(AREN). [Formerly called Witches Anti-Discrimination League or WADL], 1999-SEP-9.
- Various news reports from the Roswell Daily Record at: http://www.roswell-record.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update and review: 2010-NOV-27
Author: B.A. Robinson