A pentacle -- also called a pentagram -- is a five-pointed star with even sides. The pentagram is ubiquitous throughout history and its symbolism has been adapted by many world religions and cultures, including the Freemasons, the Babylonians, and the Baha'i and Christian faiths. Both Neopagans (Wiccans) and Satanists employ the pentagram in their symbolism, but this doesn't make the two faiths synonymous.
Wicca is a Neopagan religion that originated in England in the first half of the 1900s and exploded in the U.S. in the 1990s. Wicca is a reinvention of ancient paganism, or earth-based religions, and has holidays on solstices and equinoxes in honor of the changing seasons. It celebrates the different phases of the moon, which Wiccans believe to be a governing factor in human life. Wicca is often referred to as modern witchcraft -- practitioners believe they can manipulate situations and outcomes through communing with powers that exist in nature. Wiccans practice alone or can join with other Wiccans in a "coven." Many modern self-defined Wiccans have an eclectic practice that draws from diverse faith traditions.
The Pentacle in Wicca
In Wicca, the pentacle or pentagram represents the five elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. A circle is often shown around the pentacle itself. In ancient earth-based religions, circles are representative of the feminine, the goddess and the interconnection of all things. The circle encompassing the pentacle is meant to show the unity of all life. As such, it is a powerful symbol used in the casting of spells. An upright pentacle represents the spirit world's dominance over the material world, whereas the inverted pentagram would symbolize the opposite.
Satanism is a broad term that represents diverse beliefs. The main archetype of Satanism is Satan, the fallen angel turned demon king of Christian lore. As such, Satanism is a Christian concept, and Christianity is diametrically opposed to it. Satanists can be theists, who worship Satan as a deity, and atheists, who focus more on Satan's archetypal and mythological symbolism. Satanists the world over have been widely condemned throughout history by mainly Christian groups. Many famous incidents of cruelty, torture, and serial and mass murder have been attributed to Satanist practices or values.
The Satanist Pentagram
The pentacle of Satanism is an inverted pentagram, meant to represent the head of a goat (Satan is often portrayed in mythical drawings as a man with a goat's head.) The two upward-facing points are meant to resemble the horns of a goat, the sideways-facing points are ears, while the downward-facing point is the muzzle. Some schools of Satanism use the three downward-facing points to represent the rejection of the Holy Trinity of Christianity -- the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The pentagram is used in Satanic ritual to draw upon the powers it represents.
- Wicca and Witchcraft For Dummies; Diane Smith
- Signs, Symbols & Omens: An Illustrated Guide to Magical & Spiritual Symbolism; Raymond Buckland
- Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture; Chris Mathews
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