What Does A Pentacle Look Like?
The pentacle resembles a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle. It is derived from the Latin word pentaculum, which means “five” (penta-) and “instrumentality” (-culum).
This enclosed star has also been linked to the French word pentacol (which was used in the 1320s), which means “talisman”.
It’s a star is drawn how you imagine a kid would draw a star, with all the lines and corners connected and intersecting.
Pentacle Versus Pentagram
Where the pentacle is a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, the pentagram is the same star without the circle.
Some semioticians (people who study signs and symbols) claim that a pentacle and a pentagram are the same symbol, with the pentacle being a 3D representation of the 2D pentagram.
Others claim a pentagram is an upwards-facing star, while a pentacle faces downwards.
But, whichever way the star points doesn’t really matter.
So, the only real difference between the main symbols of the pentacle and the pentagram is that the pentacle is surrounded by a circle.
This circle is said to symbolise unity and wholeness of a sacred space. But more on the meaning of the symbol below.
The History Of The Pentacle
The pentacle has been around for thousands of years. It has been traced back to Mesopotamia in 3500 BC, where this symbol was used by the Sumerians and Babylonians. However, those who study symbols believe that pentacles and pentagrams go as far back as the Stone Age!
However, in text, the first instance of the pentacle appears in the grimoire (a set of text on demonic names and how to summon them) called Heptameron in the 1500s. There is only one pentacle in this text. Interestingly, the symbol in Heptameron was actually a hexagram!
In the same century, it also appeared in the grimoire The Key of Solomon. Here, there are over a dozen different pentacles. Only two of the pentacles in this text were pentagrams, the rest had various designs, including hexagrams.
By the 1900s, pentacles were almost always pentagrams.
Over the course of history, the symbol has been connected to different religions and has been used in art, fashion and architecture. The meaning of the symbol has also changed as time passed.
Some groups use it for witchcraft or magical evocation (to communicate with spirits). Others believe it is connected to divinity and that the five-pointed star reflects the five knightly virtues of chastity, piety, generosity, courtesy and brotherly love. Others believe the five points represent the five elements (Earth, water, fire, air and space or spirit).
Significance And Uses
Generally, a pentacle is said to represent white magic as a symbol of love, light, life, enlightenment, divinity and unity.
It has been revered by many ancient civilisations – the Greeks, Mayans, Babylonians, Sumerians, Chinese, Indians and Egyptians.
Despite its modern-day association with all things magical and witchcraft, it was historically used as a shield against evil spirits and demons.
Meanings of the five-pointed star
Each culture believes the five points have different meanings.
It is said that each point represents a human sense:
Before the rise of the cross as the symbol of Christianity, the pentacle was used by Christians to represent the five wounds of Jesus (the four nail wounds on his hands and feet, as well as the wound to his torso).
The Chinese philosophy of Taoism believes that the points each represent an Eastern element:
Scholars and astrologers say that the symbol is linked to ancient astrology. And that the five corners represent the five brightest planets discovered in ancient times. These planets could be seen without the use of telescopes. They are:
Until 1855, there was no connection between the pentacle and witches. In that year, a French writer mentioned the symbol in his book about magic, and so the relationship was created.
More recently, the pentagram and pentacle are also connected to the Church of Satan – they have adopted an upside-down pentacle as their emblem.
The Meaning of the pentacle in the Wicca religion
Those who practice the Wiccan religion do not perceive the symbol in any negative light.
For them, the symbol is a sigil of their faith – just like how the crucifix represents Christianity or the crescent is the sign of Islam.
To Wiccans, the pentacle star represents the elements of life:
The circle that encloses the star represents the unity of the universe, which contains each element and connects them.
Pentacle talismans can be made from various materials:
- Wood: Linked to the natural world.
- Gold: Enhances energy and improves mental clarity; linked to improved wisdom.
- Silver: A direct connection to the moon, heightening your psychic abilities.
In the Wicca religion, the symbol can focus energies and protect you, keeping negative energies at bay. It is especially powerful during spell casting and rituals, as the casters are the most vulnerable in these moments.
Pentacles are found on the Minor Arcana cards of conventional tarot decks. The pentacles themselves are connected to the “suite of coins”, also called the “suit of pentacles“, one of the four suits of a tarot deck.
Pentacles are connected to finances, work, health and creativity – essentially they represent all material aspects of one’s life.
Modern uses of the pentacle
Both the pentagram and pentacle have today become important symbols of witchcraft and evocation.
Hollywood has sadly popularised the connection of the symbol with demonic activities.
But, it is important to remember the positive energies historically connected to these symbols and their origins. Many people, whether Wiccan or not, have embraced the symbol in their fashion choices. From T-shirt prints to jewellery, and so the symbol will live on.
Why are pentacles sometimes associated with evil?
This is thanks to French author and ritualist Eliphas Levi. He popularised the upside-down pentacle with two points pointing upwards. And he combined with Hebrew letters and the four elements of Earth – to be a symbol of the sinister.
This evil connotation was exacerbated by the Church of Satan, who took the inverted pentacle inscribed with a goat’s head as their symbol, called the Sigil of Baphomet.
What is the connection of the pentacle to the Knights of the Round Table?
Sir Gawain was the nephew of the legendary King Arthur. It is said that he adorned his shield with the pentacle, as it represented the five knightly virtues. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight it is written: “On shield and coat in view/ He bore that emblem bright”.
The pentacle – derived from the pentagram enclosed in a circle – has had many interpretations over the years. It has also been adopted by various religions and cultures.
Despite its modern-day ties with witchcraft and Satanic rituals, the symbol actually has a positive connection. It can be used to protect a sacred space and keep certain energies away. And it is also a symbol of divinity and unity.