From Academic Kids

(This article is about the geometric design. For other meanings, see Pentagram (disambiguation))
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A pentagram, pentacle, pentalpha, or pentangle

A pentagram is a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes. In fact, the word pentagram comes from the Greek word πεντάγραμμον (pentagrammon), a noun form of πεντάγραμμος (pentagrammos) or πεντέγραμμος (pentegrammos), a word meaning roughly "five-lined" or "five lines".

The name indicates that a pentagram is not simply a five-pointed star: the symbol must be composed of five lines. That is, it must include the interior pentagon.

It is also known as a pentacle, pentalpha (as it can be formed by five Α's) or pentangle. Purists assert that pentacle denotes the five-line star inscribed within a circle; but, confusingly, pentagram is used for that symbol too.

Some writers refer to the pentagram as the endless knot and sometimes as the seal of Solomon (although that is more commonly depicted as a six-pointed star).

Pentagrams were used symbolically in ancient Greece and Babylonia. The Pentagram has magickal associations, and many people who practice pagan faiths wear them. Christians once commonly used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus, but nowadays some Christians associate the symbol with Satanism. However, most who use it are not Satanists.

A perfect pentagram is most easily drawn by drawing a perfect pentagon, joining the corners with lines and erasing the original pentagon. (This construction indicates that the pentagram is the {5/2} star polygon.) You may also extend the sides of the pentagon until they meet, obtaining a bigger pentagram.



Pentagram image from 's  illustrating the golden symmetry of the human body. The signs on the perimeter are  .
Pentagram image from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's Libri tres de occulta philosophia illustrating the golden symmetry of the human body. The signs on the perimeter are astrological.

The first uses of the pentagram we know of are found in Mesopotamian writings dating to about 3000 B.C. The Sumerian pentagrams served as pictograms for the word "UB," meaning "corner, angle, nook; a small room, cavity, hole; pitfall," suggesting something very similar to the pentemychos (see below on the Pythagorean use for what pentemychos means). In the Labat (dictionary of Sumerian hieroglyphs/pictograms) it is the number 306, and it is shown as being two points up. 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) above.


Pythagorean use

A pentagram illustrating the golden mean hidden in it.
A pentagram illustrating the golden mean hidden in it.

The Pythagoreans called the pentagram ύγιεια Hygieia ("health" also the Greek goddess of health, Hygieia), and saw in the pentagram a mathematical perfection. Among other things, the pentagram hides the golden mean, φ = (1+√5)/2 = 1.618…. When drawn with perfect angles each line is divided into several smaller segments, and if you divide the length of the longer segment with the shorter segment of any pair of segments you will get φ.

<math>\varphi = \frac{\mathrm{red}}{\mathrm{blue}} = \frac{\mathrm{blue}}{\mathrm{green}} = \frac{\mathrm{green}}{\mathrm{purple}}<math>

The five vertices were also used by the medieval neo-pythagoreans (whom one could argue were not pythagoreans at all) to represent the five Classical elements:

The vertices were labeled in the letters of υ-γ-ι-ει-α though the ordering (clockwise or counter-clockwise) used, and starting vertex, could vary.

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Another pentagram from Agrippa's book; this one has the Pythagorean letters inscribed around the circle.

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and others, recognized the letters as being the five beginning letters of the words: udor (water, often transliterated as hydor), ge (earth, Agrippa used gaia), idea (idea as in The Platonic Idea), eile (sometimes written as heile, heat, it meant that in the Greek known to Agrippa), and aer (air). However, note that even if one uses the "elemental" scheme that Agrippa used, it's a definite stretch because it uses heat (heile), which is not an element but a quality OF the element fire. Had Agrippa used the Attic Greek, which is the language Pythagoreans back then actually spoke and wrote, he could have used (phonetic) "empreesis" for fire or conflagration.

The ancient, and one could argue real, Pythagorean pentagram was two points up and represented the doctrine of Pentemychos. Pentemychos was the title of a work written by Pythagoras' teacher and friend Pherecydes of Syros. Pentemychos means five "recesses" or "chambers" also known as the pentagonas - the five-angle. (This is actually a lost book whose contents are preserved in Damascius de principiis (quoted in Kirk and Raven, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1956, page 55). It was also the "place" where the first pre-cosmic offspring had to be put in order for the ordered cosmos to appear. The pentemychos is in Tartaros.

In very early Greek thought, Tartaros was the first existing Darkness from which the cosmos is born. While it was locked away after the emergence and ordering of the cosmos, it still continued to have an influence. In fact, it was known as "the subduer of both gods and men" (Homer), and it was from this that the world got its "psyche" (soul) and its "daimon". The Boundless Darkness held influence through Mychos or Krater. Apart from being the gateway from "there" to "here" it was also a way in the opposite direction, from "here" to "there", as is evident in the many tales about how Greek heroes, philosophers and mystics descended through Krater to Tartaros/Hades (the distinction between the two was very optional back then) in quest for Wisdom. The Underworld as the source of wisdom was the rule.

Tartaros was also later seen as the "chthonic realm" where all the enemies of the cosmic order were locked away, also called the "prison-house" of Zeus. It was said to lay outside of the aither over which Zeus had lordship; what we today would call space, back then called "Zeus' defense-wall," yet it was also beneath the earth. Plato (in Cratylus) said that the aither had a penetrating power that permeates the whole world, and he found it both inside and outside of our bodies. The pentemychos is outside, or in-side, of the aither.

In the play Medea by Euripides, the sorceress Medea calls upon Hecate with the words, "By that dread queen whom I revere before all others and have chosen to share my task, by Hecate who dwells within my inmost chamber, not one of them shall wound my heart and rue it not." Note that she speaks of the Heart. The inmost chamber is the Mychos. Normally, Hecate and Persephone are portrayed as just being the rulers of the Underworld, however, Hecate is called the Lady of Tartaros, Phulada (Guardian), Propulaia (Before the Gates), Kleidophoros (Key-bearer) and Kleidoukhos (Key-holder, Priestess) - but this Underworld of the Greeks and Pythagoreans is also the "inmost chamber" and the Core of Inner Being.

In the image above of the two points up pentagram from Agrippa's book, the notion of Health that is within and inside a living being, is "bounded between the rings". According to myth, Tartaros was locked away by iron (fashioned by Zeus) and bronze (fashioned by Zeus' brother Poseidon. The iron of Zeus is the aither spoken of earlier ("space") and the bronze is demiurgos, or the waterforce which binds things into matter (Poseidon was often referred to as "he who shakens the earth" and the god Proteus, who carries the seals of Poseidon has ever since Antiquity been seen as a representation of matter.) To sum it up; even if seen as the medieval elements, Living Things are the things traveling the Wheel of Life, and not directly connected to or part of the Pythagorean pentagram itself, which is at their core in the center, a Core of Inner Being (the "soul" of "the stuff"). When one had Health, they were considered Zos and in their hearts there was Eros (the word did not mean "erotic" in the sense we mean it today at all). To not have Health was to be Thanatos - a word that does not exactly mean dead as in "dead and buried," but means dead inside but alive, like a shell.

This is an esoteric connection, but note that the Core is the Greek Goddess Kore (another name for Persephone, alongside Hecate queen of the underworld), whose symbol was the apple. If you cut an apple transversally through its core, it reveals a pentagram. The apple is also still, despite Christian ideas over the years, a symbol of health. (An apple a day keeps the doctor away.)

Christian use

Christian Pentagram or
Christian Pentagram or Morning Star

According to Heather Child's Christian Symbols, Ancient and Modern (ISBN 0713519606), the pentagram is a symbol of the five senses. Also, when the letters S, A, L, V, and S are inscribed in the points, the pentagram is a symbol of health (Latin salūs). The symbol may also represent the five wounds of Christ. See also morning star.

Satanic use

Satanists use the Pythagorean pentagram (one point down) inscribed in a double circle, with the head of Baphomet inside the pentagram. They use it much the same way as the Pythagorenas - after all, Tartaros does mean Hell in Christian terminology (the word is used as such in the Bible, referring to the place where the fallen angels are fettered). The pythagorean Greek letters are most often replaced by the Hebrew letters לויתן forming the name Leviathan. Less esoteric Satanists (LaVeyan types; the ones that exist in abundance) use it as a sign of rebellion or religious identification.

Neo-Pagan Use

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A Neo-Pagan Pentagram: a symbol used in many pagan traditions to represent the four elements of nature being: earth, air, fire and water, plus the fifth binding element of quintessence or spirit. Due to its connection to nature many pagans use the pentacle as the symbol of their religion.

"Modern Pagans" or Neo-pagans often use the pentacle to symbolise the five elements; Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. The symbol is used in a similar way to the Tai Chi or Yin Yang symbol in oriental philosophy.

The elements are all connected by the "eternal" line which forms the pentagram denoting that the elements are all completely interconnected and ideally should work "in balance" with each of the other elements.

Modern pagans believe that it is by finding and using this balance correctly that harmony in life and harmony with their environment as well as physical, social and psychological well being is achieved.

By finding this balance many neo-pagans also believe that the power of those five elements can be drawn together in a variety of ways in order to best utilise the power of those elements and possibly directly affect their surroundings thereby manipulating events. This proposal is generally now described as "witchcraft".

However; not all neo-pagans consider that their chosen path is directly associated with or must utilise "witchcraft". Many only seek to find the balance of the elements represented by the pentagram.


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The pentagram appears on the flags (and coats of arms) of:

According to Ivan Sache [1] (, on the Moroccan flags, the pentagram represents the link between God and the nation.

In literature

In the medieval romance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it was on Gawain's shield along with a Madonna. The pentagram was said to be part of a theme of fives throughout the story, standing for his five virtues.

In Goethe's Faust the pentagram hinders Mephistopheles to leave a room.
I must confess, my stepping o'er
Thy threshold a slight hindrance doth impede;
The wizard-foot doth me retain.

The pentagram thy peace doth mar?
To me, thou son of hell, explain,
How earnest thou in, if this thine exit bar?
Could such a spirit aught ensnare?

In H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos stories, the version of The Elder Sign ( devised by August Derleth is a warped pentagram with a flaming eye or pillar of flame in the center. It was first described in Derleth's novel, The Lurker at the Threshold. (This was, however, different from the symbol that Lovecraft himself had envisaged.)

See also


External links

de:Pentagramm fr:Pentacle it:Pentagramma (geometria) nl:Pentagram pl:Pentagram ru:Пифагорейский пентакл sv:Pentagram fi:Pentagrammi zh:五角星


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