This is the first post in a three-post series about the meaning of the pentagram.
PART ONE: ANCIENT TIMES
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.
Since very ancient times, the most basic meaning of a pentagram was that of a star. This meaning continues today, and has permeated much of culture throughout history. Even today when people draw a star they draw a pentagram, with little to no thought for any religious connotations.
Although the following meanings of the pentagram have largely been lost in popular lore, the ancient meanings are still applicable in some situations. I also believe that knowing the history and previous lore of an object can never be harmful, and can only help further the understanding of an object’s meaning. Ancient connotations can even be added to modern meanings to supplement the current meanings or add historical value.
In ancient Sumer, the pentagram was religious as well as mundane. The symbol once was a word meaning a nook or corner. In the Babylonian region, astrological meanings of five planets were assigned to the points of the star: Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Venus (which was the top point and represented the goddess Ishtar).
Ancient Greeks, and specifically Pythagoreans, called the pentagram “hugieia”, or “health”, and thus it was technically assigned to the goddess Hygieia, the goddess of health. To them, the pentagram represented mathematical perfection.
ReligiousTolerance.org goes on at length to say that the pentagram is representative of Kore, yet they have their deities wrong when they list the goddesses associated with the name. “Kore” is an ancient Greek word meaning “young girl” or “girl”, and referred to the goddess Persephone as one of her epithets. Yet ReligiousTolerance assigns the name Kore to harvest goddesses such as Ceres, so I hesitate to add this representation of the pentagram to the list. They also say that Kore’s sacred fruit was the apple, but I am not sure of that either. I thought Persephone/Kore’s sacred fruit was the pomegranate, though I could be missing the information about her association with the apple. Still, while I mention this disparity, I hesitate to add this information definitively to the lore of the pentagram.
In old Judaism, the pentagram at times referred to the five books of the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch.
Part Two: Medieval/Renaissance Times and Christianity
Part Three: Current Times COMING SOON!
- Signs and Symbols by DK Publishing
- Religious Tolerance: http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_pent.htm
- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagram
- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentacle