Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The Pentagram and the Sacred Circle
The United States finally has capitulated and has given official recognition to the the five-pointed star or pentagram as a religious symbol. The pentagram is one of the oldest magical symbols known to humanity. Although it has been interpreted in many different ways, it is best known perhaps as a symbol used in magical circles and by neo-Pagans as an icon of Wicca.
The Book of Solomon contains a number of spells involving the pentagram. For Wiccans, the five-pointed star is the symbol of the four elements with a fifth force, known as Akasha or Spirit. It is worn by contemporary pagans as a religious icon, much as Christians wear a cross or crucifix. In actual magical practices, most Pagans use the pentagram only when creating a sacred circle. For ceremonial magicians, however, the pentagram is a vital component in almost every ritual.
Although the Pagan movement has been growing for decades in the West, the U.S. government refused to allow Pagans to recognise it as a valid religion until now. A lawsuit has ended with the surrender of the government on this point.
Ironically, although the government perceived it as a negative icon with Satanic connotations, the pentagram always has been one of the first symbols that children learn to draw. It is a star that can be drawn without lifting the pencil.
In ancient times, it was the symbol of Inanna or Ishtar, Queen of Heaven. To the Pythagoreans, the five-pointed star represented perfection. Those who worshipped Kore or Ceres recognised the pentagram as her special symbol.
The pentagram is found in Nature in the apple, a fruit that has enjoyed great symbolic significance. When an apple is cut, the seeds form a perfect pentagram with a seed at each point of the 'star'. It is this characteristic that probably was responsible for the appearance of apples in so many sacred myths, from the apple in the Garden of Eden to the apples of immortality guarded by Iduna.
To the ignorant, the pentagram is perceived as a symbol of Satanism or evil in the same way as the Sowilo rune and swastika are perceived as symbols invented by the Nazis. In point of fact, all these sacred symbols can be found as far back as the neolithic age, carved on rocks and the walls of caves and inscribed on wood and stone tools, weapons and jewelry. These symbols were woven into cloth as well and can be found throughout the world.
Satanism is a rather curious late development. Essentially, it is not an original religion but was conceived as a form of rebellion against Christianity. Its thrust, therefore was to denigrate and overturn Christian symbols and Christian rituals.
Even the 'Black Mass' is founded in the Catholic sacrament of the Mass in an inverted form. It therefore is not a true religion and should be taken 'cum grano salis', with a grain of salt.
Magicians like Anton LeVay and Aleister Crowley are responsible for the heightened popular interest in Satanism. Aleister Crowley began his magical studies as a Ceremonial Magician, studying with practitioners of the Golden Dawn movement, but his prediliction for dramatic social rebellion soon led him into Satanic practices. Anton LeVay, on the other hand, was a true Satanist, author of the Satanic Bible.
Although Satanists maintain that their religion is a legitimate one and is not simply a rebellion against Christianity, the entire dogma of Satanism is filled with references to Christian beliefs. It is, in essence, Christianity inverted.
What makes Satanism attractive to some is its egocentric foundation, the idea that 'I am my own God' and that any and all desires and wants are to be encouraged. There are no 'sins' and there is no reason to refrain from pursuing all instincts.
The old system of balance that existed in the Dionysian religion does not exist in Satanism. Like Satanism, Dionysian rituals included sex magic, but unlike Satanism, sex magic in Dionysian ritual fulfilled specific purposes and was restricted to specific times. To some extent, Satanists like LeVay misappropriated some of the principles of the old mystery religion of Dionysus and Pan and perverted them to create a system that embraces unbridled self-gratification. In fairness to LeVay, however, his work maintains that all acts are to be embraced insofar as they 'hurt no one'. The exception to this rule is voluntary submission to hurt or damage.
Popular media has made the inverted pentagram the symbol of Satanism although, in point of fact, it is a legitimate magical symbol without connotations of evil.
As a matter of fact, the pentagram was recognised by Christianity as a spiritual symbol in the Middle Ages. In Arthurian romance, the shield of Sir Gawain carried on it a pentagram. For medieval Christians, the pentagram symbolised the five wounds of Christ as well as the five senses. Used in amulets and talismans, often the letters S A L V S were incribed in the points of the pentagram. It was considered then, as now, to be a potent protective device.
A magical circle is a Sacred Space. Pagans and other magicians often create a magical circle by drawing a pentagram within a circle, pronouncing the names of each element as each point of the star is drawn. A Sacred Space can be used for any ritual, from prayer to meditation to magical 'work'. Like the prayer rug in Islam, it is a place that is reserved for spiritual practice.
The pentagram is a symbol that is used by Morocco on its flag as well as coins. Many individuals both in the Arab Nation and in the West therefore use Moroccan coins as amulets and talismans, and use them in jewelry and belts. It is by no means exclusively a Wiccan symbol, although Wicca has taken the pentagram as its official symbol.
Official recognition of the pentagram will not dispel ignorance completely, but it is a step in the right direction. May the Star of Knowledge shine more brilliantly to bring blessings to all humanity!