A pentagram (sometimes known as a pentalpha or pentangle or, more formally, as a star pentagon) is the shape of a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes. The word pentagram comes from the Greek word πεντάγραμμον (pentagrammon), a noun form of πεντάγραμμος (pentagrammos) or πεντέγραμμος (pentegrammos), a word meaning roughly “five-lined” or “five lines”, from πέντε (pente), “five” + γραμμή (grammē), “line”.
Pentagrams were used symbolically in ancient Greece and Babylonia, and are used today as a symbol of faith by many Wiccans, akin to the use of the cross by Christians and the Star of David by Jews. The pentagram has magical associations, and many people who practice Neopagan faiths wear jewelry incorporating the symbol. Christians once more commonly used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus. The pentagram has associations with Freemasonry and is also utilized by other belief systems.
The first known uses of the pentagram are found in Mesopotamian writings dating to about 3000 BC. The Sumerian pentagrams served as pictograms for the word “UB” meaning “corner, angle, nook; a small room, cavity, hole; pitfall,” suggesting something very similar to the pentemychos (see below on the Pythagorean use for what pentemychos means). In René Labat’s index system of Sumerian hieroglyphs/pictograms it is shown with two points up. In the Babylonian context, the edges of the pentagram were probably orientations: forward, backward, left, right, and “above”.These directions also had an astrological meaning, representing the five planets Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn, and Venus as the “Queen of Heaven” (Ishtar) above.
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and others perpetuated the popularity of the pentagram as a magic symbol, keeping the Pythagorean attributions of elements to the five points. By the mid-19th century a further distinction had developed amongst occultists regarding the pentagram’s orientation. With a single point upwards it depicted spirit presiding over the four elements of matter, and was essentially “good”. However, the influential writer Eliphas Levi called it evil whenever the symbol appeared the other way up.
“A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates.
“The flaming star, which, when turned upside down, is the hierolgyphic [sic] sign of the goat of Black Magic, whose head may be drawn in the star, the two horns at the top, the ears to the right and left, the beard at the bottom. It is the sign of antagonism and fatality. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns.”
“Let us keep the figure of the Five-pointed Star always upright, with the topmost triangle pointing to heaven, for it is the seat of wisdom, and if the figure is reversed, perversion and evil will be the result.”
Satanists use a pentagram with two points up, often inscribed in a double circle, with the head of a goat inside the pentagram. This is referred to as the Sigil of Baphomet. They use it much the same way as the Pythagoreans, as Tartaros literally translates from Greek as a “Pit” or “Void” in Christian terminology (the word is used as such in the Bible, referring to the place where the fallen angels are fettered). The Pythagorean Greek letters are most often replaced by the Hebrew letters לויתן forming the name Leviathan. Less esoteric LaVeyan Satanists use it as a sign of rebellion or religious identification, the three downward points symbolising rejection of the holy Trinity.
Aleister Crowley also made use of the pentagram and in his Thelemic system of magick: an adverse or inverted pentagram represents the descent of spirit into matter, according to the interpretation of Lon Milo DuQuette. Crowley contradicted his old comrades in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who following Levi considered this orientation of the symbol evil and associated it with the triumph of matter over spirit.
The Order of the Eastern Star, an organization associated with Freemasonry, has employed a point-down pentagram as its symbol, with the five isosceles triangles of the points colored red, blue, yellow, white and green. This is an older form of the order’s emblem and it is now more commonly depicted with the central pentagon rotated 36° so that it is no longer strictly a pentagram.
Sigil of Baphomet
The Sigil of Baphomet is the official insignium of the Church of Satan. It is also a symbol that is used by several other organizations, usually those associated with Satanism and the Left-Hand Path.
The squatting Hebrew letters at each of the points of the pentagram read “לִוְיָתָן” starting from the lowest point and reading counter-clockwise. Translated, this is Leviathan (LVIThN), a sea creature that originated from Judaic mythology. The image of Leviathan has many complex meanings, many of which apply to its use in the Sigil of Baphomet, most notably because Leviathan is commonly associated with Satan in Christian beliefs. This symbol originally had no connection to Satan, Christianity or the devil until the Spanish Inquisition, when any pagan symbol, religion, or practice was considered “The Devil’s Work”.
Although versions of the Sigil of Baphomet appear as early as the 1897 book La Clef de la Magie Noire by Stanislas de Guaita, the variant in common use by the Church of Satan is known as the Hell’s Kitchen Baphomet, a slightly modified version of an original which appeared on the cover Maurice Bessy’s 1964 book A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural. This design created by Bessy was inspired by the Oswald Wirth Baphomet design created in 1930. The Church of Satan Baphomet, according to the CoS, is copyrighted and cannot legally be reproduced without their permission in conjunction with the Church of Satan name. However, historic versions are in the public domain, many of which are virtually identical to the one employed by the Church of Satan.
In an interview with Wikinews, High Priest Peter H. Gilmore described the meaning of the symbol:
The goat face represents carnality. In ancient Egypt goats were considered representations as god symbols of lust, and we think lust is an important factor of biology that keeps humanity going so we value that. The five-pointed star really comes from the Pythagoreans. That is the one figure in which every element is within the golden mean of each other. It’s this wonderful mathematical symbol of perfection, organic perfection specifically. Since we are organic life and enjoy the idea of perfecting ourselves, that star is right for us in there and it perfectly fits the goat head inside. Now around it are two circles, one at the tip of the points of the star and one outside. In that are Hebrew characters starting at the bottom and going counter-clockwise spelling Leviathan. In Hebrew mythology, Leviathan was the great dragon of the abyss, this powerful earthly figure that even Yahweh was afraid of. So all these things taken together creates a symbol that Anton LaVey identified with Satanism specifically. When he started the Church of Satan, usually upside down crosses were considered Satanic, and he saw that these different elements and felt this was a positive symbol you could tie to the Satanism he was creating.