The pentagram dates back as far as 3500 BC, where it was found on potsherds in Ancient Mesopotamia. In later Mesopotamian art, the pentagram is seen in royal inscriptions and was symbolic of the imperial power extending to the four corners of the known world. Amongst the Hebrews, the symbol meant “truth” and represented the Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses.
In Ancient Greece, it was called the pentalpha, being composed of five A’s. The pentagram was also considered by the Pythagoreans to be a symbol of perfection, as the pentagram was part of the theory of the Golden Proportion.
“Pythagoras had ideal numbers…five was the number of love, uniting the two (female) and the three (male)…five was also the symbol of health and harmony.”
The Golden Proportion states that if “a square is added to the long side of a golden rectangle, a larger golden rectangle is formed. Continuing this progression forms the basis for a nautilus spiral. The ratio of the distance between two points of a pentagram to its total width is in the golden proportion, as is the ratio of the height above the horizontal bar to that below.” This symbol was the secret symbol of the fraternity – the symbol which Hippocrates was thrown out for exposing.
Early Christians associated the pentagram with the five wounds of Christ. It was an integral part of the seal and amulet of Emperor Constantine I. The seal was comprised of two adjacent circles, the one on the left featuring the chi-rho symbol (a symbolic form of the cross) and the one on the right with a pentagram. In the ensuing church that grew from Constantine’s takeover of the Roman Empire, it was the cross from this seal that became the chosen symbol of Christianity.
The pentagram was also the glyph of Gawain in the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Inscribed in gold on his shield, the pentagram symbolized the five knightly virtues of generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety.
The pentagram was historically, a device to ward off evil, rather than a symbol of it. In the Medieval era, the “Endless Knot” (another term for pentagram) was used as an amulet of personal protection, and used on windows and doors as well. In Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles was exorcised with a pentagram.
It wasn’t until the Inquisition that the pentagram was turned into evil, where it was seen to symbolize a goat’s head or the devil in the form of Baphomet. Eliphas Levi was the first to illustrate the pentagram as a differentiation between Good and Evil as symbolized by the Pentagram. His drawing, seen here, places the microcosmic man (good) next to the image of the goat head of Baphomet (evil). This concept, taken to an extreme, became the symbol for the Church of Satan, a Satanic cult, founded by Anton LeVay in 1966. This group chose as its emblem the inverted pentagram, after Levi’s drawing.