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The Pentagram in modern Paganism
The Pentagram is one of the most recognised Pagan Symbols in the world. This five pointed star, usually depicted with one point upwards and the other four below it has had, and continues to have, many meanings. Today in the West the most common meaning is the four elements under the dominion of Spirit/Will, sometimes there is a circle encompassing the design which is usually associated with protection, order, or reincarnation depending on the system being practised.
Following the lines of the pentagram also had different meanings depending on whether you follow Eastern or Western magick. In western magick tracing the pentagram is used like a circuit board to invoke, combine, and banish, different elements depending on the direction the line being drawn. In this article we will look at the use of the Pentagram in modern Western magick.
Each point of the pentagram is associated with the Divine or a different element but this varies according to the system being practiced. In some types of Ritual Magick if you imagine the pentagram to be point up and travelling clockwise the associations generally are: Top = Divinity/Spirit, 3 o’clock = Air, 5o’clock = Water, 7 o’clock = Earth, 9 o’clock = Fire. But many Witches I know prefer Top = Divinity/Spirit, 3 o’clock = Fire, 5 o’clock = Water, 7 o’clock = Earth, 9 o’clock = Air. Both systems seem to work, as long as the associations are consistent.
To use these associations in magic you trace from point to point starting from the element you want to invoke or banish. So when a modern Witch casts a circle they may well use invoking pentagrams to mark the direction associated with the appropriate element. For example North is associated with Earth so facing North and starting from the 7 o’clock position they would scribe a pentagram in the air passing throughTop, 5 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and back to 7 o’clock.
As the Witch draws the pentagram it is imagined forming either as a blue flaming star, as if it had been drawn in burning alcohol, or as a red flaming star- the colour of the element. It stays there while the celebrtaion or ritual is in progress, then the drawing action is reversed and the pentgram is banished by reversing the direction in which it was drawn.
The banishing pentagram is also used to remove unwanted influences, both as a cleansing process before rituals and as part of procedures such as exorcism. Some systems absorb the energy back into the Witches’ body, while others release it to the elemental beings also associated with the direction in which the pentagram/element is located as thanks for their help.
While the pentagram with one point up is associated with positive magick the inverted pentagram with two points up tends to be connected with negative magickal practices and Spiritual Paths. This is comes from a time when the use of magick for personal advancement was frowned upon by those in positions of authority – even though they did it themselves. The upturned pentagram symbolises Spirit subjugated by the four elements which in classical magick can be summarised in the 15th Major Arcana card “The Devil” which can mean ‘materialism and deception’
The association with the Tarot card seems to be a key part of thinking that only Satanists and practitioners of selfish magick wear the pentagram point down because it is “evil”. This is a popular misconception; the inverted pentagram in many branches of Paganism is the equivalent of the neophyte ‘black belt’ in Marital Arts. It’s the point at which the practitioner knows all the techniques but has yet to internalise the principles and make them their own, quite literally, being overwhelmed by the elements of what they have learned. At that level you encounter your Shadow side – all the negative aspects of your personality – particularly if you have avoided doing any self development until this point.
This can be a very traumatic experience for people who have not been aware of, or tried to suppress, or ignore these parts of their psyche. Some people are so distanced from them that they perceive these aspects as external entities unconnected with their personality. On the Astral and Etheric planes this can result in the projection of them as ‘thought forms’ in addition to the usual psychological technique of projection of the unaccepted parts of the personality onto other people. In this stage of their training the inverted pentagram symbolises how overwhelming this can be.
But with patience, guidance, and experience these issues can be worked through and the person develops a more integrated and harmonious individuality. This shows in themselves, how they treat others, and how their spiritual practice and spellwork take on a personal dimension as unique as a fingerprint.. When this point comes they are ready for the Third Degree level which is symbolised with a point upright pentagram with a as triangle either above it, or being intersected by the top point.
In attaining the Third Degree the person is eligible to start their own coven should they so wish, now being in a position to help others travel the path as they have done. Also the road to advanced spiritual development is open to them now that they have faced, understood, and integrated their shadow. This journey, symbolised by the changing pentagram, enables them to work with what is really there rather than working with
self- created illusion.
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