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August 11, 2010 / ashithymia


Symbols have been around since the beginning of time and naturally, it is assumed that while humans have evolved in terms of technology, language and thought processing – the meaning of our symbols may have changed too.   No one can escape the meaning of symbols – whether they be religious or spiritual, or merely the everyday run-of-the-mill type of symbols which are seen around all the time.  In Mari Womack’s book ‘ Symbols and Meaning: a concise introduction’ she begins her first chapter by driving home the message ‘tonight, somewhere in this very city, someone will die for a symbol’.  While this statement can be viewed as vastly overdramatic, it reinforces the notion that no one can escape them and that they are a paramount part of our communication.

A symbol which I researched in terms of its meaning evolving and changing over time, is that of the Pentagram.

A symbol five pointed star shape, that many children are taught to draw as a quick way of ‘drawing a star’.  Its name comes from the merging of the words ‘star’ and ‘pentagon’, simply as it is a pentagon enclosed inside a star shape and can be interchanged with the word ‘pentacle’.

The first known and recorded uses of the pentagram symbol are from around 3000 BC in Mesopotamian writings from Sumer.  The pentagram here served as a pictogram for the word ‘UB’ which meant something along the lines of a corner, angle, small room or cavity.  In this context it was used upside down, with two points facing upwards.

More recenty, in the mid 19th century, the pentagram symbol received two meanings.  Used in the same way as the image above, with one triangular facet pointing upwards, the symbol presented a ‘good’ meaning in relation to magic and spiritual elements.  However, when used in the context of the Sumerians (upside down) it was linked to the ‘goat of Black Magic’, where the two upper most points symbolised its horns, the two  outermost its ears and the lower point its beard.

In Christianity, the pentagram was taken to be a representation of Jesus Christ’s five wounds, which he received before being crucified.  It was called the ‘pentalpha’ and was believed to protect against demonic forces and witchcraft.  The symbol was used for a while in Christianity, but the Catholic church later chose the cross as a better symbol and the use of the pentagram eventually ceased.

Since then, the pentagram is now widely renowned for its use in Wiccan/Pagan spiritual beliefs when used upright and enclosed in a circle as it represents the four elements; earth, wind, water and fire and the fifth point being the spirit.  It a symbol of ‘good’, also representing the 5 fold Wiccan kiss and the 5 stages of life which also parts of Wiccan belief and Paganism.

However, within the last 20-30 years, the pentagram used upside down and enclosed in a circle has come to represent Satanism.  It is reflective of the horned god which is often used as a symbol of Lucifer, a fallen angel of the Christian God and symbol for the ‘anti-Christ’.  This is reflective of the Sumerian belief of the ‘Goat of  Black Magic’ and now in contemporary times, a horned goat or ram is often super imposed over the figure.

This symbol is now one of fear and often used in a confrontational way, such as tattooed on death-metal band members and worn on their clothing.  This is particularly symbolic as at the time of the rise of Rock and Roll music, many Christian authoritative figures denounced the music and associated it with Satanism.


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