The word pentacle, meaning the five pointed star in a circle, is derived from ‘penta’ meaning five, and the ending of the word ‘circle’. The five pointed star without the surrounding circle is called a pentagram. This symbol is used by many Pagans today as a symbol of their faith. It is unclear exactly where it originated, however it has been used by many groups including Pythagoreans who used it as a secret symbol to identify themselves, and by early Christians who wore it for protection and as a reminder of Christ’s wounds suffered on the cross.
Pagans see the pentacle as representing their faith, and as a symbol of protection. The five points of the star represent earth (bottom left), air (top left), fire (bottom right), water (top right) and akasha, or spirit (top). This emphasizes spirit, or spirituality ruling over the material elements. It shows the higher mind moving past the restrictions imposed by our senses to explore the infinite possibilities in the universe. The star can also be seen to represent man, with the bottom two points for legs, the left and right points for arms and the upper most point for the head. The circle represents divinity surrounding and encircling man, never ending protection, unity and oneness.
In ritual the pentacle may be drawn in the air, to invoke a certain element. A flat pentacle is a common center piece on altars. These used to be made of disposable materials such as clay or dough as, if found with a pentacle, a person could be killed. Nowadays this altar piece can be made of a variety of things including silver, stone or wood. They can be intricately carved, or decorated with gemstones or other material. During spells it may be used to draw in and send out the energies raised.
When shown with one point downwards, two upwards, the pentacle becomes a symbol of a second, or third degree initiate in a Wiccan tradition. However this form of the pentacle has gained negative associations through teenagers using it as a way of rebelling against their parents, wearing it for shock value alone. As these people tend to be rather anti-social and offensive, people sadly associate the pentacle with this kind of behavior. Satanists also use the pentacle inverted, generally with the Baphomet drawn on it.
The symbols around the outside read ‘Leviathan’ in Hebrew from the bottom, anticlockwise. As already mentioned, the pentagram comes from the Pythagorean tradition, the goat’s head within the star refers to the Goat of Mendes, a symbol of the Egyptian Neter Amon. These things combined are used to represent Satan, and in this case the inverted pentagram represents earthly desires and physical matters as ruling over the spiritual. It does not have this meaning in Paganism, and when it does appear upside down it represents a person who is going through a period of exploration and self-analysis.