The terms pentagram and pentacle are sometimes used interchangeably. However, it it believed that the most common precise meanings are:
The word pentagram comes from the Greek: "pente means 5 (as in Pentagon). "Gram" comes from the Greek verb graphein, "to write". The same ending is found in such words as telegram. Thus, pentagram refers to a five pointed star, or "any figure of five lines. It is most often used to refer to a symmetrical, five pointed star, with equal sides, drawn either with a single line or with two closely spaced parallel lines.
An upright pentagram is a 5 pointed star with one point aligned upwards.
An inverted pentagram is a 5 pointed star with two points aligned upwards.
An upright pentacle is generally defined as an upright pentagram surrounded by a circle
Upright pentacles and pentagrams are among the most widely used religious symbols. They have been used in many eras and by many cultures and religions of the world: by ancient Pagans, ancient Israelites, Christians, magicians, Wiccans and others.
This symbol apparently originated as the symbol of a Goddess who was worshiped over an area which extends from present-day England to Egypt and beyond. Her name was Kore (a.k.a. Car, Cara, Carnac, Ceres, Core, Kar, Karnak, Kaur, Kauri, Ker, Kerma, Kher, Kore, Q're, etc.). As Carmenta she was said to have invented the Roman alphabet. From her alternate Roman name Ceres have evolved many English words: cardiac, carnal, cereal, core, corn, and kernel. The port of Caraalis, (now Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia), was named after her.
Kore's sacred fruit is the apple. When an apple is cut through its equator, both halves will reveal a near-perfect pentagram shape at the core, with each point on the star containing a seed. Many Wiccans, other Neopagans and Roma (Gypsies) continue to cut apples in this way. The Roma refer to the core as the Star of Knowledge.
In ancient Greece, Pythagoras (586 - 506 BCE) established a school which pursued knowledge in mathematics, music, religion, and other specialties. Driven underground, his followers used the pentagram as a secret sign to identify themselves to each other. The Masonic Order has traditionally traced its origins back 2,500 years to the Pythagoreans.
Kore was worshiped within the Coptic Gnostic Christian religion in Alexandria, Egypt, during the 4th century CE. Her festival, the Koreion, was held yearly on January 6th. This was adopted by the Christian church as the Feast of Epiphany (Twelfth Night). This date is still celebrated as Jesus' birthday in Armenian churches In England, the Koreion became the Kirn - the Feast of Ingathering. The Christian church later adopted it to the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy.
During the times of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the pentacle was the first and most important of the Seven Seals - an amulet whose seals represented the seven secret names of God. It was inscribed on King Solomon's ring, which is often called Solomon's Seal. Each point of the pentagram was also interpreted as referring to the five books of the Pentateuch - the first five books in the Hebrew Scriptures; the Torah.
The Celts believed that the pentacle was the sign of the Goddess of the Underground, who they called Morgan (Morrigan). The concept of five points seems to have permeated at least one of the Celtic lands. "Ireland had five great roads, five provinces and five paths of the law. The fairy folk counted by fives, and the mythological figures wore five fold cloaks."
In Christian times
The five points of the pentagram have been interpreted as representing the five wounds of Christ (2 wrist, 2 ankle and 1 side).
The Roman Emperor Constantine used the pentagram in his seal and amulet.
It has been referred to as the Star of Bethlehem
It was used to symbolize the star which allegedly led three Zoroastrian astrologers to the baby Jesus; it was called the Three Kings' star.
The English warrior Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur, adopted the pentagram as his personal symbol and placed it on his shield. It appeared in gold on a red background. The five points symbolized "the five knightly virtues - generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety."
Tarot cards originally had a suit of coins or discs. These were changed in the 19th century to pentacles when the Tarot became associated with the Kabbalah. They eventually became the suit of diamonds in modern playing cards.
It has been widely used by past Christians as a protective amulet. During the burning times when the Christian church burned alive or hung hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the meaning of the pentagram changed. It began to symbolize a goat's head or the devil in the form of Baphomet. "The folk-symbol of security - for the first time in history - was equated with evil and was called the Witch's Foot.
The religion of Wicca is based in part on ancient Celtic deities, symbols, days of celebration, etc. The pentacle and pentagram are their main symbols. Many religious and spiritual groups use the pentacle or pentagram today.
Inverted Pentacle / pentagram
Some religious and spiritual groups have used the inverted pentacle.
During the 20th century, Satanist inverted the upright pentacle and adopted it as their own symbol. However, the symbol is most commonly shown with the head of a goat within the pentagram as shown below.
The Sign of Baphomet
The inverted pentacle with a goat's head is called the sign of Baphomet. The term may have come from two Greek words, baphe and metis, meaning "absorption of knowledge." It has also been called the Black Goat, Devil's Goat, Goat Head, Goat of Mendes, and Judas Goat. Its first appearance appears to have been during the vicious interrogation of members of the Knights Templar by the Christian Inquisition. There was little consensus among different victims' descriptions of the Baphomet. It can probably be safely assumed that their description of the Baphomet is more a product of the Inquisition's torture methods than of any actual statue that was in use by the Knights.
Today, the Baphomet is widely used by religious Satanists. The Church of Satan also uses a second symbol which is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its side). A Roman cross is placed on top with a second, longer cross piece added beneath the top cross piece.
The meaning of Pentacles / Pentagrams
There is no single consensus on the significance of these symbols. Various groups use and define them quite differently
Wiccans have attempted to reconstruct a Pagan religion similar to that of the ancient Celts. They have adopted the upright pentacle/pentagram, since it was the symbol of Morgan, an ancient Celtic goddess. Many wear it as jewelry and use it on their altars. The symbol is frequently traced by hand using an athame (a ritual knife) during Wiccan rituals. It is used to cast and banish their healing circles. Some Wiccans interpret the five points as representing earth, air, fire, water, and spirit -- the five factors needed to sustain life. Others relate the points to the four directions and spirit. Some Wiccans and other Neopagans bless themselves and others with the sign of the pentagram. Their hand passes from their forehead to one hip, up to the opposite shoulder, across to the other shoulder, down to the opposite hip and back to the forehead. Some of the more highly structured Wiccan traditions have used an inverted pentagram to represent a second or third degree status. "Many of these groups have since substituted a triangle form for the same degrees because of the association of the inverted form of the pentacle with Satanism and black magic.
Use the pentagram. Its points can "represent various elemental energies, spirits or deities.
The Order of the Eastern Star
Is a international humanitarian organization composed of women who are wives of advanced Masons. They use an inverted pentacle as their symbol. Essentially all Eastern Star members in North America are Christians.
The Rosicrucian movement
Consists of groups of Christian mystics. They frequently use a wand, sword, cup and pentagram as tools during their rituals. The pentagram represents "earth, matter and stability.
The Masonic Order
Associate the five points of the pentagram with "Five Points of Fellowship." However, its "use in Masonry is vestigial and peripheral.
Is composed of many diverse groups with no central overall organization. Some Satanic grottos and temples use the Baphomet symbol.
The meaning of Pentacles/Pentagrams to Christians
Because Christians interpret the Bible in different ways, they have developed very different belief systems over time, and agree on very few points. This disagreemnt carries over into their understanding of pentacles and pentagrams.
Christians generally view Satan as a principle of evil rather than as a living entity. Those who are familiar with Wicca and Satanism are aware of the lack of similarity of the two religions: Wiccans do not recognize the existence of the Christian quasi-deity, Satan. They have no all-evil deity in their pantheon of gods and goddesses. Satanists recognize Satan (or one of his precursors) as either a living deity or a principle.
Wiccans are prohibited by their Wiccan Rede from harming, manipulating or controlling others. Satanists, on the other hand, are free to use magic to harm their enemies. Wiccans follow an gentle, nature-based, aboriginal religion that is similar to that of Native American spirituality. Satanists practice indulgence, gratification and vengeance, rather than concern for all humans and for the environment.
They do not differentiate between Wicca and Satanism. Because they consider the Wiccan gods and goddesses to be Satanic or demonic, they regard the two religions as very similar and they do not differentiate between upright and inverted pentacles / pentagrams. All are viewed as symbols representing evil, violence and lawlessness..
They commonly believe that Satanist, (and Wiccans) engage in Satanic Ritual Abuse and murder. Belief in this is gradually diminishing, but still remains to some extent