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Author Topic: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?  (Read 4044 times)

Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« on: August 20, 2013, 04:12:52 am »
A small silver pentagram charm recently entered my life under the sort of circumstances that always means (to me) "this is important -- pay attention!"  It's very simple, about the size of a U.S. dime, and seems to be made of one piece of silver wire fashioned so that the "woven" aspect of the pent is present, and surrounded by a silver wire circle.

I'm not sure why this is standing out to me as significant.  I've never felt much of a connection to the symbol before and never worn a pentagram.  I'm not Wiccan, nor do I practice witchcraft of any type.

So, I'm curious about other meanings people see in the pentagram (the pentagram specifically -- not other five-pointed star designs). I've often seen it used as a symbol specifically of Wicca and sometimes of paganism in general, and I've seen it interpreted as representing the four classical elements (earth, fire, water, air) plus spirit.  Anything else?  

Do you know of any other interpretations, whether modern or ancient?  Does anyone use it in a unique way to represent something spiritual or religious, other than Wicca or the elements?  Does it have specific meaning in other cultures?

I do have an idea of what it might be telling me, but I'd really love to get some outside input on the possible symbolism.

Thanks!
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Tana

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2013, 04:19:33 am »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119369
Do you know of any other interpretations, whether modern or ancient?  Does anyone use it in a unique way to represent something spiritual or religious, other than Wicca or the elements?  Does it have specific meaning in other cultures?

Oh, but absolutely yes.
It's an old protection symbol for the Gaulish people. Which makes ist also a Celtic symbol. Does that help? ;)

In the times past, a Gaulish bishop who was raised in the 'old ways' still would carry a pentagram in his bishop ring. Also has a church in France, dedicated to him, pentagrams in the windows. (Nice story on the side of this: when bad storms where blowing and put down a lot of trees around the building, none of them fell on the church. ;))
« Last Edit: August 20, 2013, 04:20:37 am by Tana »
\'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation.
That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance.
You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long.
All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.\'
Terry Pratchett \'Lords and Ladies\'

Confuzzled and proud. :p

Jenett

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2013, 07:53:33 am »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119369

So, I'm curious about other meanings people see in the pentagram (the pentagram specifically -- not other five-pointed star designs). I've often seen it used as a symbol specifically of Wicca and sometimes of paganism in general, and I've seen it interpreted as representing the four classical elements (earth, fire, water, air) plus spirit.  Anything else?  

 
It's actually got a fairly long history - I just poked at Wikipedia to refresh my memory, and that mentions Mesopotamia, Pythagorean use, and use in various Chinese applications.

However, it also had extensive use in Christianity, and it turns up in a bunch of places in the later (c. 14th century) Arthurian legends as a representation of the five wounds of Christ or the five joys of Mary (Gawain has a pentagram on his shield)
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Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2013, 04:20:54 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;119390
It's actually got a fairly long history - I just poked at Wikipedia to refresh my memory, and that mentions Mesopotamia, Pythagorean use, and use in various Chinese applications.

However, it also had extensive use in Christianity, and it turns up in a bunch of places in the later (c. 14th century) Arthurian legends as a representation of the five wounds of Christ or the five joys of Mary (Gawain has a pentagram on his shield)

Yes, after I posted, I remembered the Christian uses.  I've read quite a bit about that in Arthurian legend over the years.  And I knew -- but didn't think of -- the Pythagorean connection.

Didn't know about Mesopotamia or China, though.  Thanks!

(Also, good to know Wikipedia is ok for this topic. Sometimes it's hard to tell when it can be trusted.)

Does anyone have any idea if the pentagram appears in Thai culture? And, if so, what it means?

Also -- Jenett, you'll probably know this -- how did it become associated with witchcraft and Wicca?
"The status is not quo."  ~ Dr. Horrible

Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2013, 04:22:06 pm »
Quote from: Tana;119372
Oh, but absolutely yes.
It's an old protection symbol for the Gaulish people. Which makes ist also a Celtic symbol. Does that help? ;)

In the times past, a Gaulish bishop who was raised in the 'old ways' still would carry a pentagram in his bishop ring. Also has a church in France, dedicated to him, pentagrams in the windows. (Nice story on the side of this: when bad storms where blowing and put down a lot of trees around the building, none of them fell on the church. ;))

Definitely helps! Thanks!

Do you happen to have any sources for the Gaulish connection?
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Tana

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2013, 04:35:35 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119460
Definitely helps! Thanks!

Do you happen to have any sources for the Gaulish connection?


None I can forward to you, I am afraid. :(

My source was the local historian guy. A collector of local legends and the owner of a little museum with exhibitions about everyday life, or superstitions, children toys and so on. He told me about the pentagram and the bishop, when I met him on a history market and he saw my pentagram ring. :)

He also mentioned that folk magical practices regarding the pentagram were alive and well till the first half of the last century. One could find old cribs, decorated with the pentagram for protection, as late as the 70s, when people tossed them out for the garbage truck.
\'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation.
That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance.
You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long.
All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.\'
Terry Pratchett \'Lords and Ladies\'

Confuzzled and proud. :p

Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2013, 04:55:01 pm »
Quote from: Tana;119463
My source was the local historian guy.

Very interesting!  Thanks for passing on those tidbits.
"The status is not quo."  ~ Dr. Horrible

Jenett

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2013, 06:09:45 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119459

Also -- Jenett, you'll probably know this -- how did it become associated with witchcraft and Wicca?


I'm pretty sure the progression was via ceremonial magic and the medieval grimoires, but I'd have to do some digging to be sure of that. (Which, well. not going to happen tonight.)

On wikipedia: not trusting absolutely is generally sensible, but as a 'refresh my memory' thing, or a 'look at their sources' thing, it's generally much more reliable than many other quick references.

I have a feeling that Rosemary Guiley's encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft has an extended article on it (actually, I'm sure it does: I once helped a student with a question re: the Gawain symbology from there.) but I don't have a copy handy at the moment.
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Breeze

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2013, 06:15:20 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119369
A small silver pentagram charm recently entered my life under the sort of circumstances that always means (to me) "this is important -- pay attention!"  It's very simple, about the size of a U.S. dime, and seems to be made of one piece of silver wire fashioned so that the "woven" aspect of the pent is present, and surrounded by a silver wire circle.

I'm not sure why this is standing out to me as significant.  I've never felt much of a connection to the symbol before and never worn a pentagram.  I'm not Wiccan, nor do I practice witchcraft of any type.

So, I'm curious about other meanings people see in the pentagram (the pentagram specifically -- not other five-pointed star designs). I've often seen it used as a symbol specifically of Wicca and sometimes of paganism in general, and I've seen it interpreted as representing the four classical elements (earth, fire, water, air) plus spirit.  Anything else?  

Do you know of any other interpretations, whether modern or ancient?  Does anyone use it in a unique way to represent something spiritual or religious, other than Wicca or the elements?  Does it have specific meaning in other cultures?

I do have an idea of what it might be telling me, but I'd really love to get some outside input on the possible symbolism.

Thanks!


I believe I've read that it's been called the Morning and Evening Star because Venus traces this pattern in the sky.  Not sure if that would pertain to any one culture, but I've taken it into consideration in love work.
 
Quote from: Jenett;119472
I'm pretty sure the progression was via ceremonial magic and the medieval grimoires, but I'd have to do some digging to be sure of that. (Which, well. not going to happen tonight.)

On wikipedia: not trusting absolutely is generally sensible, but as a 'refresh my memory' thing, or a 'look at their sources' thing, it's generally much more reliable than many other quick references.

I have a feeling that Rosemary Guiley's encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft has an extended article on it (actually, I'm sure it does: I once helped a student with a question re: the Gawain symbology from there.) but I don't have a copy handy at the moment.


I've got a copy of this book on hand.  Is it ok to quote the entry, or does that violate the copyright rule?

Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2013, 06:19:09 pm »
Quote from: Breeze;119473

I've got a copy of this book on hand.  Is it ok to quote the entry, or does that violate the copyright rule?

Quoting is allowed as long as it's a small proportion of the overall work (a couple of longish paragraphs from a book-length work is fine, f'ex) and accurately cited. Paraphrasing is also ok, as long as it's properly cited.
Thanks!  I'd be very interested in the info.
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Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2013, 06:21:38 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;119472
I'm pretty sure the progression was via ceremonial magic and the medieval grimoires, but I'd have to do some digging to be sure of that. (Which, well. not going to happen tonight.)

[snip]

I have a feeling that Rosemary Guiley's encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft has an extended article on it (actually, I'm sure it does: I once helped a student with a question re: the Gawain symbology from there.) but I don't have a copy handy at the moment.

I suspect you're right about the progression. Please don't go out of your way to look up info just for me!  

Thanks for the pointer to Guiley's book. That's not one I've ever read.
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Breeze

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2013, 09:28:48 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119474
Quoting is allowed as long as it's a small proportion of the overall work (a couple of longish paragraphs from a book-length work is fine, f'ex) and accurately cited. Paraphrasing is also ok, as long as it's properly cited.
Thanks!  I'd be very interested in the info.


No problem, it is a bit longer of a post than I had intended :whis:
 
Quote

Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, & Wicca, Third Ed.

[...]In ritual, pentagrams are drawn in the air with the sword or athame.  The methods of drawing a pentagram are precise and vary according to purpose.  Pentagrams to invoke are drawn differently than pentagrams to banish.  In magic, the pentagram is the Witch's symbol of protection and positive power and is used to control the elemental forces.  Pentagrams also are used in Craft meditation exercises, in which each point of the star is associated with a specific quality, attribute, concept emotion, or the name of a Pagan deity. [...]


The entries for 'pentagram' and 'pentacle' are two-in-one in this book and unfortunately, that's all Guiley says about the pentagram.  But- I dug through my little library and found a much better entry in Doreen Valiente's An ABC of Witchcraft.

Quote

Doreen Valiente An ABC of Witchcraft, Second Ed. (1986)

Pentagram, The
   The pentagram, or five-pointed star, is a favourite symbol of witches and magicians.  It has been so widely used throughout the centuries that the word 'pentacle', also originally meaning a five-pointed star, has come to designate any disc or plate of metal or wood, engraved with magical symbols, and used in magical rites.
   The origin of the magical five-pointed star is lost in the mists of time.  Early examples occur in the rites of Babylon.  The Christians regarded it as representing the five wounds of Christ, and hence it is sometimes found in church architecture.  There is a very beautiful form of pentagram found in one of the windows of Exeter Cathedral.
   The sign also occurs among the symbols of Freemasonry.  Some regard it as being the Seal of Solomon; though this designation is more often given to the six-pointed star, formed by two interlaced triangles which is the sign of the Jewish faith.  However, the pentagram is certainly a Qabalistic sign, known to those occult fraternities which claim to derive from the Rosicrucians.
   The followers of Pythagoras called the pentagram the pentalpha, regaring it as being formed of five letter A's.  In medieval Europe it was known as 'The Druid's Foot, or 'Wizard's Foot'; and sometimes as 'The Goblin's Cross'.  In the old romance of Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, it is the device which Gawaine bears on his shield.
   It also occurs in the old song 'Green Grow the Rushes-O'.  This curious old chant of questions and responses contains hints of hidden meanings; and one of its lines is "Five is the symbol at your door" meaning the pentagram, which was inscribed on doors and windows to keep out evil.
   Some old Celtic coins show the figure of a pentagram upon them.  Something very like the five-pointed star occurs naturally upon some fossil, and these objects have always been prized by witches for this reason, as being highly magical.  One kind of fossil with a five-pointed upon it is the so-called shepherd's crown, a fossil sea urchin.  But an even more potent magical object than this is the true star stone, a fossil which occurs in the perfect shape of a five-pointed star.  It is actually part of the fossilized stem of a Crinoid or sea lily.
   The reason why the pentagram is regarded as the symbol of magic is because its five points represent the Four Elements of Life, plus Spirit, the Unseen, the Beyond, the source of occult power.  For this reason, the pentagram should be drawn with one point upwards, the point of Spirit residing over the other four.  It is Mind ruling over the World of Matter.  
   The other way up, the pentagram is often regarded as a more sinister symbol.  According to Madame Blavatsky, in her Secret Doctrine (Theosophical Publishing Co., London, 1888), the reversed pentagram is the symbol of Kali Yuga, the Dark Age in which we live, an age of materialism, sensuality and violence.  Other occultists have regarded the reversed pentagram as the face of the Goat of Mendes, with the two upward points representing the goat's horns.  In this sense, it is the face of the Horned God.  It has sometimes been called a symbol of black magic; but what it really represents is the light of the Spirit hidden in Matter.  
   The pentagram with one point upwards is used by occultists to control elementals, because of its inner meaning.  Worn as a lamen upon the breast, it is a protection in magical rites, against hostile or undesirable influences.
   It is sometimes called the Star of the Microcosm, because it has the shape of a human being with arms and legs outstretched.  The old occult philosophers regarded man as a microcosm, or little world in himself, containing in potentiality all that was in the cosmos without him.  The pentagram also represents the five senses of man, the gateways by which impressions of the outer world reach him.
   Yet another name for the pentagram is the Endless Knot, because it can be drawn without lifting the pen from the paper, though it requires concentration and care to draw a symmetrical figure in this way; qualities which were necessary for the successful making of a magical sign.


Sorry if I quoted too much :o.  Once I compared the entries side-by-side Valiente's seemed to be much more relevant and had more information that hadn't already been mentioned.

Aster Breo

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Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2013, 09:48:47 pm »
Quote from: Breeze;119491

Sorry if I quoted too much :o.  Once I compared the entries side-by-side Valiente's seemed to be much more relevant and had more information that hadn't already been mentioned.

Thank you!  This is very interesting. I appreciate your taking the time.

Assuming the quoted section comes from a book-length work, that size quote seems to me likely to be perfectly acceptable under the Fair Use exception of the (U.S.) copyright law.  IOW, I think it's fine, but Randall is the final arbiter.  ;-)
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Breeze

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2013, 10:00:52 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;119493
Thank you!  This is very interesting. I appreciate your taking the time.

Assuming the quoted section comes from a book-length work, that size quote seems to me likely to be perfectly acceptable under the Fair Use exception of the (U.S.) copyright law.  IOW, I think it's fine, but Randall is the final arbiter.  ;-)


No problem.  Even though Guiley's entry wasn't all too helpful in this instance I do love the book and reference it and Valiente's quite a bit and recommend both if you're interested in odd bits and bobs of occult history and what not.

Zlote Jablko

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Re: Alternative Symbolism of the Pentagram?
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2018, 09:22:43 am »

 
It's actually got a fairly long history - I just poked at Wikipedia to refresh my memory, and that mentions Mesopotamia, Pythagorean use, and use in various Chinese applications.

However, it also had extensive use in Christianity, and it turns up in a bunch of places in the later (c. 14th century) Arthurian legends as a representation of the five wounds of Christ or the five joys of Mary (Gawain has a pentagram on his shield)

Yeah, it looks like it’s significance in western esotericism starts with Pythagoreanism. In that context, if I recall, it was referred to as the “Hygeia” and represented the unified elements. ( Something of great relevance to Greek philosophy since pre-Socratic times)

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