This is the second post in a three-post series about the meaning of the pentagram.
A pentagram is a five-pointed star, while a pentacle is the same star enclosed in a circle. Often the two terms are used interchangeably, though many also treat them as distinct.
PART TWO: MEDIEVAL/RENAISSANCE TIMES AND CHRISTIANITY
Just as the pentagram is at its most basic meaning that of a star, it has sometimes been called the Star of Bethlehem, referring to the star that led the wise men to the baby Jesus.
In the 1400s, Agrippa of Nettesheim created a pentagram aligned with the shape of a man inside of a circle. Here the pentagram represented the Universe, and the five points aligned with the figure of the man represented jointly the parts of the body and the planets. Unlike previous ancient lore from Sumer, the planets changed alignment on the pentagram: Mars was at the head and top point, Venus to the left, Jupiter to the right, and Mercury and Saturn at the bottom.
The circle commonly represented infinity, the universe, and sometimes heaven or the spiritual world. In the Renaissance, humanists attributed the circle to the perfection of God.
With the single point upward, the pentacle came at this time to symbolize the universal human, with the points aligning with the head, legs, and arms. Due largely to Agrippa and da Vinci, the pentacle represented not only the human aspect but the creative spirit that lifts people away from the physical world to the spiritual world.
Also during this broad period, the pentagram became a symbol for the five senses in Christianity, though it isn’t unreasonable to think other cultures and religions would have come up with this association as well.
Although most Christians would probably not admit to this piece of lore today for fear of being associated with paganism, the pentagram used to be considered by Christians as representative of the five wounds of Christ and an amulet of sorts that protected against witches and demons. In early medieval England—a time when Christianity and old Christian values were very popular and at their height—the pentagram was a symbol of the five knightly virtues and adorned the shield of Sir Gawain, who was a great hero in stories and an exemplar of knighthood. Today, however, many Christians remember only the associations that cropped up during the Dark Ages and the burning times: the goat’s head and the devil.
Agrippa was also one of the first recorded authors to include the inverted pentagram as a negative symbol. By the 1800s this negative connotation was more obvious via the very influential occult writer Eliphas Levi. In his writings, he often named the inverted pentagram as a symbol of Baphomet, a sign of Black Magic, a symbol of evil, and an attractor of sinister forces because this inverted sign is a symbol of the disruption of the natural order and a triumph of matter over spirit rather than the other way around.
Part One: Ancient Times
Part Three: Current Times COMING SOON!