Witches may embroider pentagrams on their robes.
Witches may embroider pentagrams on their robes.

A pentagram is a five-pointed star with a single point that faces upward and two points that face downward. An inverted pentagram is a five-pointed star that is upside down, with two points facing upward and one point facing downward. In modern magical traditions, there are important differences between the upright and the inverted pentagrams. While the upright pentagram has positive connotations and is a prominent symbol of modern witchcraft, the inverted pentagram typically has nothing to do with witchcraft and has negative or evil connotations.

Upright Pentagram History

The pentagram has a long history that spans various cultures and peoples. Cross-culturally, people have used the pentagram for protection, magic, banishing and good luck. Mesopotamian clay pots from the fourth millennium B.C.E. feature pentagrams on them. In ancient Greece, the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras made the pentagram a symbol of physical and mental harmony. During the Middle Ages, Christians incorporated the pentagram into their symbolism and associated it with protection, humankind, God and the five wounds of Christ. In the Renaissance and the Early Modern periods, magicians featured the pentagram in their magical writings. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the magical tradition of the Golden Dawn gave the pentagram high-status as a major ritual tool. 20th-century Wiccan and Neopagan groups adopted it as a symbol of their faith.

Inverted Pentagram History

Although the upright pentagram has a long and complex history, it was not until the 19th century that the inverted pentagram took on a greater significance in the occult world. During the 1800s, the French occultist Eliphas Levi captured the public's attention with his interest in magic and the occult. Levi, pseudonym of Alphonse Louis Constant, associated the inverted pentagram with evil. He specifically associated the inverted pentagram with the horns of the goat of the witches' sabbat, or holy day. The goat refers to Baphomet, the half-human, half-goat figure that represents the demon or the devil.

Upright Pentagram in Modern Magic

Different magical traditions may have their own interpretations of the upright pentagram. The pentacle is the most important symbol in the Pagan religion of Wicca (or contemporary witchcraft). A pentacle is a pentagram with a circle drawn around it. The upright star relates to the five elements of earth, air, water, fire and spirit. The top point of the star relates to spirit. Witches use the pentagram as a sign of their faith, for protection and for invocation or banishing spells and rituals. In modern magical traditions, the upright pentagram represents the power of spirit over the material.

Inverted Pentagram in Modern Magic

In modern magical traditions, the inverted pentagram typically relates to the domination of matter over spirit. People often associate the inverted pentagram with evil and Satanists, or individuals who worship Satan or the Devil. In 1966, Anton Szandor LaVey founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco. The Church of Satan uses an image of Baphomet as its main symbol. The symbol features Baphomet's head with an inverted pentagram enclosed in a circle on it. Depending on the magical tradition, modern witches may refrain from using the inverted pentagram in their rituals because of its evil connotations. However, in the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca, witches may use the inverted pentagram to represent a Second Degree Initiation.