The five-pointed star can be found in many places, from the night sky in a child's drawing to representing ancient world religions. Likewise, what the five-pointed star symbolizes changes drastically with each culture's interpretation, and its significance has followed the course of human history for thousands of years.
The five-pointed star, commonly called a pentagram, consists of an unbroken line crossing to form five points. Commonly, one point sticks upwards, while two go left and right and two stick out from the bottom. The pentagram can be circled or not. For some, the lack of a circle represents the star's awareness or activity level being high, while circled signifies protection and connection.
In some of humanity's oldest belief systems, the five points of the pentagram represent the five earthly materials: the top being spirit, and the other four being earth, air, fire and water. Thus, the inversion of the pentagram supplicates man to his carnal nature, since spirit, thought to be man's godliest attribute, sits below the more material substances. In addition, the pentagram was sometimes associated with Mars, symbolizing harmony through conflict.
For other religions, the pentagram takes on entirely new meanings. For Muslims, the five points may correspond with the five pillars of faith or their five daily prayers. For Christians, the five points correspond with the five wounds of Christ. Later in the Christian tradition, the five points symbolize the virtues of a medieval knight as exemplified by Sir Gawain: generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety. However, later, the cross overtook the pentagram as the primary Christian symbol. Ironically the pentagram is now often viewed as a pagan and evil symbol by some Christians because of the work of French occultist Eliphas Levi in the 19th century.
In a broader sense, the pentagram symbolizes features of humanity in general. This can be plainly seen in Da Vinci's Vitruvian man, whose extremities can be mapped to the pentagram. In addition, the five points correspond to the five digits on each hand and foot, the five senses, and the categorization of human life into five stages: birth, adolescence, coitus, parenthood, and death.
The history of the pentagram can be traced through many ancient cultures. The symbol was used in the 4th century BC in Mesopotamia, and as both the seal of Solomon and of the city of Jerusalem for the Jewish people. The Druids thought of the pentagram as a symbol for the Godhead, while in the 12th century the Knights Templar associated the symbol with Christianity. The pentagram may have had a hand in the design of the pyramids, since for the Egyptians, the symbol was associated with the underworld.