The pentacle, a highly recognized symbol of Witchcraft was taken from Ceremonial Magick. It is a very widespread sacred symbol used since ancient times in many areas including Egypt, India, Persia, and Greece. Almost all cultures had a five-fold symbol, which was very important to their religious and spiritual life. In the early days of Christianity the pentagram was used to represent the five wounds of Christ: one through each hand or wrist, one through each foot, and the one to the chest.
The five points of the pentagram symbolize the four cardinal directions of North, East, South, and West and are associated with the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water respectively. The fifth top point represents Spirit while the circle around the pentagram symbolizes unity and wholeness or the continual flow of life energy. The complete pentacle symbolizes the macrocosm of man, for when a human being stands with arms and legs outstretched he or she forms a star-like shape.
Within the study of Alchemy each point of the pentagram stands for an element with the top point representing the quintessence, or the highest element that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies. When all elements are surrounded by the circle, there is total purification of body, mind, and spirit, divine transformation, and the idea of the Philosopher’s Stone.
As a physical tool for the witch, it is traditionally a flat disk or plate made of metal or wood and inscribed with a pentagram, a five pointed star, encased by an outer circle, possibly with other symbols inscribed around it. The main function of the pentacle is to shield, protect, and ground stray energies or entities that are evoked into the magick circle or space. Used as a manifestation device, the witch will draw in or send out intentions of a spell or magickal working. The pentacle can also be used in consecrations or as a focal point for meditation or concentration when working magick. Drawing a pentagram in the air or on a surface with a wand, blade, or other tool will evoke or banish the energies of a particular element depending on the starting point and direction it is drawn, however it is always drawn in one continuous motion.
Some witches may use a paton in place of the pentacle or in addition to a pentacle. Patons were once made from disposable materials such as wax, clay, dough, or earthenware so that evidence of his or her practice could be quickly destroyed should the authorities appear at the door, however within our modern society patons can also be found made of ceramic, glass, and resin.
The inverted pentagram is often associated with devil however this negative view is based on misconceptions of witchcraft employed during the European Inquisition. It was believed that if the upright version represented “God”, then the inverted pentacle represented his adversary or “Satan”. The two lower points were understood to symbolize the horns of the devil however the inverted pentagram does not represent evil intentions.
If one associates the top angle with Spirit then when the pentacle is inverted and Spirit is pointed downward it can be interpreted as Spirit hidden by matter (the elements of earth and air); this particular symbol may be used when a witch is working within the Underworld and exploring his or her own Shadows, which is part of knowing his or her own strengths and limitations in order to grow and enhance their own power. This is neither an evil or negative intention.
We see the same concept used by The Church of Satan when they adopted the inverted pentacle inscribed with a goats head and Cabalistic symbols which spell out “Leviathan” as their symbol of Baphomet. For them the inverted pentacle represents matter or basal instincts reigning over the mind or intellect.