The Wiccan Pentagram: Common Misconceptions

Everyone, or nearly everyone, knows what a pentagram is. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, the more common “star” may help clarify.

A simple pentagram.

It’s common practice for people to draw this when they want to seem “evil” or “satanic.” We’ve all been to Hot Topic, so, and we’ve all seen the rings, necklaces, earrings, shirts, pants, wallets, watches, and everything else printed with this symbol. But what is it really?

Well, it’s not the symbol of evil that many people seem to think it is. The general symbol, though inverted and added to, was adopted by Anton Szandor LaVey when he founded modern Satanism, but there are noticeable differences between his Symbol of Baphomet and the common Pentagram.

There are a few differences between this and the Pentagram shown above. This is a lot spookier.

 At its base, the Pentagram is a symbol of protection. All unicursal (drawn with one line) symbols are, actually. Geometric figures, such as stars like this, when drawn without lifting the pencil, are symbols of protection, not evil. I hope you kept that receipt to Hot Topic.

As far as its other meanings and origins, they are fairly simple. The Pentagram has five points. Five is the result of adding Two, a feminine number (magically speaking), and 3, a masculine number (again, magically speaking). This means that it is a symbol of unity, harmony, marriage, and the like.

According to Pythagoras, the guy who really made the Pentagram a popular thing (though it had been around long before him), each point also represents an element. These elements are the basic divisions of body and soul (5, according to Pythagoras, was the number of Man, not as a gender, but as a being). The elements earth, air, fire, water, and ether (or psych, depending on your interpretation) were assigned to the points of the Pentagram. It was thought that with these elements in harmony and unity, as on the Pentagram, the body and soul would be in perfect health. The Pentagram was a symbol for good health.

Pythagoras actually used the symbol of a Pentagram like modern Christians use the Cross, making one with his hand as a greeting. It meant good health, and was a symbol of Hygiea, the goddess of healing. If you want to try it, it’s very simple:

  1. Start with your hand at your left breast.
  2. Bring your hand to your forehead.
  3. Now down to your right breast.
  4. Then to your left shoulder.
  5. Then the right shoulder.
  6. Now back to the start (left breast).

So, to summarize, drawing a Pentagram on your arm in pen does not make you Satanic or hardcore. In fact, if you believe in it, it’s a sign of good health and protection. That’s why I wear mine around my neck, and on my finger.

Source: Nozedar, Adele. The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols: The Ultimate A-Z Guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac. London: HarperElement, 2008. Print.

3 thoughts on “The Wiccan Pentagram: Common Misconceptions

  1. I think that this was an interesting blog post firstly from the perspective of clearing up misconceptions about the pentagram and secondly by raising the general issue of whether context or origin is more important.
    The information about the unbroken line being a symbol of protection was interesting and new to me, especially when you mentioned that the reason the pentagram has 5 points is because the 5 points represent man + woman. This makes for a tidy explanation of why the pentagram is an appropriate symbol for Wicca, a religion with a strong focus on the duality of male and female forces.
    However, what I found most interesting about the post is the general concept of the “abuse” of religious symbols. As you clearly stated, the pentagram began life as a symbol of protection, humanity, religion, etc. It has now been misappropriated by people who believe it is a satanic symbol (which, to be fair, it partially is – as you pointed out – but not in its original form). Therefore, culturally contextualized to the modern day and age, the pentagram may be as much a symbol of “witchcraft” and “evil” as it is of the Wiccan religion. I don’t really like to bring up this point, but the story of the pentagram reminded me a bit of the story of the swastika. The swastika, supposedly at least, began life as a Sanskrit word whose symbol was a Buddhist and Jain symbol ( I think the rest of the swastika’s history is well enough known that I don’t need to go into it. Supposedly the symbol that the Nazis used was taken from a Nordic runes source (hoping this site is at least reasonably accurate). All of this is a bit reminiscent of the noble origins of the pentagram, the alternative use of it, and then the more recent negative connotation (although people actually LIKE the “negative” connotation of the pentagram…). Hopefully my post made some kind of sense.
    In summary: the misappropriation of the pentagram reminded me of the supposed misappropriation of the swastika, although fortunately the pentagram has been misused in a far less terrible way, and is still within reach of “rescue” and its original connotation becoming common again, whereas I think it would be commonly agreed that the swastika’s cultural connotations will forever remain the stronger message conveyed by that particular symbol.

  2. NB: When I said the “supposed” misappropriation of the swastika, I only meant that it is not clear where Nazi Germany found the symbol…not that they didn’t use it in terrible ways.

    • Yeah, I don’t think anyone is going to argue about the Nazis doing terrible things under the sign of the Swastika.

      There are actually several similarities between the two, though, as you said, it isn’t nearly as dramatic as it was with the Swastika. Still, though, if a teen comes home with a Pentagram around his/her neck, the knee-jerk reaction of most parents is to scream “Satanist!” Very rarely is this the case, and even rarer is the case in which that is actually a bad thing. LaVey Satanism, the kind that perverted the Pentagram, is by no means evil. It’s more about embracing human nature, reclaiming the “sins” as the natural acts that they are. I was actually really surprised to find that the library here has LaVey’s Satanic Bible, though, unfortunately, it’s in fairly poor quality. Still a pretty good read for anyone interested.

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