A pentagram inside a circle is called a pentacle and is commonly used by modern pagans today. A pentacle is a talisman used in magical evocation, and is commonly made of parchment, paper, cloth or metal. Is the pentacle a modern Wiccan symbol, where does it come from and what are the meanings of the pentacle?
The earliest surviving document to depict pentacles is the grimoire Heptaméron, a concise book of magical ritual rights concerned with summoning specific angels for the seven days of the week. It was written by 13th century Italian philosopher, astrologer and physician, Pietro d’Abano. He was accused of heresy and atheism, but died in prison c.1315 before the end of his trial. A second document The Key of Solomon is a grimoire dating back to the Italian Renaissance of the 14th or 15th century, attributed to King Solomon, containing many spells. Famous promoter of Thelema, Aleister Crowley, used pentacles in his magic. Arthur Edward Waite designed the pentacles used in the popular 1909 Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck and they have been used in many decks since. In 1954 retired British civil servant, Gerald Gardner, made the Wiccan movement (which he developed in the 1940’s and 50’s with Doreen Valiente) public. Today, Wiccans make extensive use of pentacles in their magic.
Although, the most commonly used pentacle today is an upright pentagram (five pointed star) inside a circle, there have been many other designs used. The Heptaméron’s is a hexagram, embellished by crosses and letters. The Key of Solomon has many different pentacles, but only two are pentagrammic. Pentacles were originally magical talismans, inscribed with any symbol or character, not exclusively pentagrams. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, a 16th century legal scholar, soldier, theologian and occult writer from Cologne, Germany states that pentacles were used to “fore-know all future things, command the whole of nature, have power over devils and angels, and do miracles”. In the Golden Dawn magical system, the pentagram and circle pentacle represents the Earth element and is a weapon, or tool of an Adept. In Wicca a pentacle can be used to summon certain energies, deities or spirits.
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