Being the two of the most prominent pagan and Wiccan symbols, pentacles and pentagrams are often confused with each other by people who do not have a good grasp of paganism or Wiccan practices. And that is for a good reason; these two symbols look almost identical.
But the truth of the matter is, these two symbols have been and are still used interchangeably with each other and there are only slight differences in terms of appearance, meaning and uses of them. Starting with their definitions, here are the differences between pentacle and pentagram symbols.
What Is A Pentagram?
Pentagram is a unicursal five-pointed star. The word unicursal means ‘to draw or trace in one line’. That is to say, a pentagram can be drawn using one continuous line.
The word pentagram is derived from the Greek word pentagrammaton meaning ‘the figure with five points/lines’ (you can draw a pentagram using five straight lines).
What Is A Pentacle?
Derived from the Latin word pentaculum, the word pentacle defines a unicursal five-pointed star within a circle. This is literally the only difference in appearance between the two symbols.
However, it is important to note that, in today’s world where pentacles are used as talismans, the symbol within the circle does not need to be a five-pointed star/pentagram for the talisman to be called a pentacle.
Pentacle Vs Pentagram: The Origins And Uses Of The Two Symbols Throughout History
Pentagram is one of the oldest and most commonly used ancient symbols that has been used in many cultures and religions throughout the history of mankind. Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Greeks and Mesopotamian civilizations all made use of this symbol in one way or another.
The earliest documented use of the pentagram symbol dates back to 4500 BC. Sumerians of Mesopotamia used it to denote words like ‘angle’, ‘cavity’, ‘corner’, ‘nook’ and ‘room’.
According to Greek philosopher Pyhtagoras pentagram was the symbol of perfection and he called it pentalpha as he found out it was possible to draw a pentagram joining five letters of A together in a symmetrical manner.
Pythagorean communities used the symbol for self-recognition and identification as well as to denote health and well-being.
In ancient Christianity, it was believed that the pentagram represent the Five Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ, namely, the wounds caused by the nails on his hands and feet and the one made on his side by the Spear of Destiny (also known as the Holy Lance/Spear and the Lance of Longinus).
Pentagram was a symbol of truth for Jewish people of the old times as they believed it represented the five books of Pentateuch/Torah, the first of Hebrew Scriptures. These scriptures, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy symbolize truth for followers of Judaism.
Ancient Chinese and Japanese people believed the symbol had magical properties and represented the five elements; earth, water, fire, wood and metal.
In ancient Celtic tradition, the pentagram represented Morrigan the goddess (or goddesses as the deities called the Three Morigna were believed to be three sisters by some people) of battle, sexuality, fate and fertility.
The Druids also believed that the symbol represented the sacred nature of five; the spirit and the elements of fire, air, earth and water, a concept for which neo-pagans and Wiccans also use the symbol today.
Since the pentagram represents the spirit and the four elements of nature, it is mainly used for spells involving these elements by people of Wiccan and neo-pagan faiths.
Let us discuss the pentacle now. On the contrary to the pentagram symbol, there is no certain proof as to the first documented uses of the pentacle although it was found on some ancient buildings.
That said, the first use of the word pentacle dates back to the 14th century in French language. It is suggested that the French word ‘pentacol’ meaning ‘talisman’ and ‘ornament/charm worn around the neck’ is the first time the word pentacle appeared in writings.
Pentacles are worn for protection by neo-pagan and Wiccan people. They are also used in elemental magic as they represent the four elements and the spirit just like the pentagram.
However, there is a slight distinction in terms of using the two symbols in practice of magic. It is suggested by some people that the circle around the pentacle actually boosts the power of the spell cast using a pentacle.
It is also believed to bring balance and harmony between these elements and the spirit which might be considered as another way to add more power to the spell.
Inverted Pentacle In Satanism: The Sigil of Baphomet
As another difference from the pentagram symbol, the inverted variation of the pentacle is closely associated with occultism and Satanism.
The inverted pentacle is used as the base for the Satanic symbol known as the Sigil of Baphomet/the Seal of Satan. When turned upside down, the two top points of the pentacle create an outline for the ears of Baphomet, the goat-headed deity that has been closely associated with Satan.
In fact, the inverted five-point star is the perfect outline to draw Baphomet’s head on. Here is the Sigil of Baphomet to make it more clear:
The Sigil of Baphomet, also known as ‘the material pentagram’ as it represented earthly principles and carnality, became the official insignia of the Church of Satan founded by Anton Szandor Lavey. It was used by the Church of Satan for the first time in 1968 on the cover of the Satanic Mass LP and later, on the cover of the Satanic Bible in 1969.
These are the differences between pentagram and pentacle symbols. If you would like to read more about pagan symbols, here is our extensive article on the subject.
If you would like to learn more about occult symbols, you should check out our article here. Thanks for reading!