Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pentagrams Throughout History

Hey everyone!

I am SO excited! I just got a new piece of jewelry, every girl's wet dream :). This is even more special because it is Pentacle of the Goddess and this is my first pentagram.

I have been leery of wearing the pentacle in public due to the negative connotations surrounding the pentagram and its associations with Satanism and black magick. However I found this necklace and it is just so beautiful (and I am sick and tired of succumbing to the expectations and ideals of the masses) that I had to get it.

I love the knot-work feel to both the pentagram and the flower design, it gives it a Celtic aspect almost. My favorite thing about the necklace is the fact that it takes a symbol of faith and divinity for so many and adds to it femininity, strength, and nature in a gorgeous display.

For those of ya'll who don't know, the pentagram is a big aspect of pagan culture, especially Wiccan. But it is also important in other religions and cultures, including Ancient Christianity. I can see the "Holy Crap" faces now, but it is true. The Ancient Christians believed that the five points of the pentagram were directly associated with the five wounds that Christ received while on the cross and that it warded off demons and other evil spirits.

The oldest evidence of the pentagram was around 3000 BC in Mesopotamia.  At the time, the pentagram was a hieroglyphic for the word "UB" which meant angle, cavity, or pitfall. Pythagoreans named it after the Greek goddess of health, Hygieia and associated it with mathematical perfection. The number five has always been seen as magical and human. We have five finger and toes on each limb. We have five senses. We experience five stage of life: birth, adolescence, puberty, parenthood, and death. The number five is also prime. It is the smallest number with which we can draw a star. The symbol of the star is important for the fact that every man and every woman is a star, explained in the picture below.

Human beings in microcosm, symbolizing our place in the Macrocosm and the concept of As Above, So Below

In Chinese, it is called the Wu Xing and is traditionally used in medicine, Feng Shui, and Taoism. The points of the pentagram represent the five Chinese elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), and the pentacle diagrams the cycles of control, generation, and destruction.

Controlling cycle
wood breaks earth, earth absorbs water, water douses fire, fire melts metal, metal splits wood.
Generative cycle
wood feeds fire, fire makes earth, earth bears metal, metal collects water, water nourishes wood.
Destructive cycle
wood absorbs water, water rusts metal, metal breaks earth, earth smothers fire, fire burns wood.
The pentagram is also employed by the Order of the Eastern Star, an organization associated with Freemasonry that accepts members of both genders. The reversed pentagram with each point colored in with a different color and symbol, was the original symbol of this organization. After a time, the organization rotated the central pentagon 36 degrees meaning that the symbol is no longer a true pentagram.

The pentagram was used heavily in Arthurian myth, especially when associated with Sir Gawain. In the myths, the five points of the pentagram had five meanings: the five senses, the five fingers, the five wounds of Christ, the five joys that Mary had of Jesus, and the five virtues of knighthood. The five joys were the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Assumption. The five virtues are noble generosity, fellowship, purity, courtesy, and compassion.

Today the points of the pentagram are generally viewed as representing the four classical elements (Fire, Earth, Air, and Water) plus the fifth element, Spirit.  The topmost point corresponds with Spirit, the perfect element and the one that presides of the other four. Going clockwise, or deosil, from there you have Water, then Fire, Earth, and finally Air.

An interesting aspect about the pentagram that I have noticed is the combination of male and female symbolism. Each point is created with a phallic symbol while the central pentagon resembles a cup or a womb. So in this one symbol we have the duality of the masculine and feminine. No wonder the pentagram has become the leading symbol of paganism.

A big distinction today is the orientation with which the pentagram is drawn. The "upright", with one point facing up and two facing down, is the orientation used by most pagans and earth-based views. The "reversed" or "inverted" pentagram, with two points up and one down, is generally considered a sing of evil and Satanism. While the symbol is used commonly in Satanism today, this form of orienting the pentagram is not inherently connected with evil or darkness. It actually is the original form of drawing the pentagram and was employed by the Mesopotamians and Pythagoreans. This form of the pentagram was blasphemed through history by the inverted pentagram being combined with the head of a goat, a symbol of black magic.

The concept of Spirit being at the crest of the star only added to the wrongness of the inverted pentagram. The reversed orientation became associated with the idea that the proper order has been overturned and that, instead of spirit ruling the material, the material (basal, secular, profane) now rules the spirit and this break in order allows evil to enter.

An ironic aspect of modern society is the fact that the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest medal of valor in combat that can be received by a member of the armed forces, is actually an inverted pentacle (I wonder if they've ever noticed that?).

The pentacle, a pentagram encased within a circle, is a very popular symbol in Paganism. Including the circle represents protection and unity as well as eternity, infinity, the cycles of life, and nature. The circle touches all five points showing that the five elements are all connected. It is also a display of containment, showing the common practice of most pagans to keep their paths personal and secret and their adherence to paganism non-proselytizing traits.

I hope ya'll liked this post about the different aspects of the pentagram. There is WAY more information out there, more than I could ever include in a single post. So ya'll go out and do a little research and find some more interesting facts about the pentagram. Well, I am done today, but I'll be back!

As always, a heartfelt
Blessed Be!!

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