Knowing the difference between a pentagram vs a pentacle is easy, but it’s one that’s often conflated, perhaps because Gerald Gardner wrote in The Meaning of Witchcraft that “In this position, the human body resembles the figure of the Pentacle, or Pentagram.” By doing so, he made the two symbols synonyms of one another, when they are not.
So, what is difference between a pentagram vs a pentacle? And, does the meaning change if you wear your pentagram upside-down?
What Is a Pentacle?
A pentacle is an object that has been inscribed with magical symbols or sigils. The pentacle is often a disc, like those you may have seen in the tarot. In tarot decks, the suit of pentacles represents the element of Earth and is often visually illustrated to look like a coin to symbolize earthy desires.
However, a pentacle can literally be any talisman. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or cloth. It’s when you add the magic symbols to this that it is transformed into a pentacle.
In Wicca, you often see a pentagram inside or on top of a circle. These combination of these is called a pentacle, but that’s because it has been inscribed with the magical symbol of the pentagram.
There are plenty of pentacles that contain other sigils or magical symbols that aren’t stars. In the grimoire the Key of Solomon, most do not.
What Is a Pentagram?
A pentagram is a five-pointed star. The word comes from the Greek word Pentagrammaton meaning “five-lettered name.”
For Wiccans, magicians, and some Neo-Pagans, each point on the pentagram represents a different Element, with the Element of Spirit ruling over all from the top point. Working our way around the star clockwise, the points represent Water, Fire, Earth, and Air.
The symbol can be used when performing rituals and spells. Witches may use it to consecrate the magical circle, or work with a pentacle inscribed with a pentagram to charge ritual tools or crystals. And, some Wiccans wear the pentagram — also known as a Wiccan star — as a symbol of faith. Sometimes it’s enclosed within a circle, sometimes not.
The pentagram has been around for thousands of years as a magical symbol. It goes at least as far back as Ancient Babylon where it was said to be used as a charm against evil forces. The Greek Pythagoras and his followers believed it represented health and it was a symbol to allow them to recognize each other.
It made its way into Western magical traditions when Henry Cornelius Agrippa used it his grimoire Three Books of Occult Philosophy, published in 1533. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn drew upon his philosophies and were the ones to assign each Element to a point of the star.
So, What About Upside-Down Pentagrams?
The first known writings about the reversed pentagram come from Éliphas Lévi Zahed’s Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magi written in 1856. In it, he wrote, “A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates.”
Years later, in 1966, Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, popularized the upside-down pentagram or inverted pentagram when he created the Sigil of Baphomet. By doing so, the Spirit Element was now at the bottom, the Elements of Earth and Fire were at the top, and he subverted the original meaning of the magical symbol.
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I was curious about the difference between a pentacle and pentagram so I’m happy that I came across this article. I am curious as to what the interior symbols/letters mean inside the pentacle image that is provided in the article. I understand the symbols for the 5 elements but I am still confused as to what the other symbols/letters are that are inside the pentacle. If anyone knows what they mean that would be awesome, I’ve been trying to find out what they are but didn’t come across anything yet. If anyone does know, it would help me a lot. Thank you
I asked myself the same thing. What do the symbols mean? Can we put our own symbols in place? Did you get a reply? I know it’s been like 6 months. 🙄
In one of the tarot cards igot the four stars no circle top : 1 Conner …bottom :2 Conners
. What does that means ?
Very interesting article. Thank you for making it brief and citing works.
Thanks for this article, I found the answer I was looking for which was “what’s the difference between a pentagram and a pentacle. That’s all I really needed to know. Everything else was a bonus, so thank you. Also I would like to note that, sometimes it’s ok to make mistakes, we are all human and it happens, it’s a good thing we do too… They are great teachers.
I was hoping to know the names of the symbols on the interior of the circle. I know the all seeing eye at center, but the other five are what I am inquiring about. And is this a particular pentacle?
Thank you in advance!
I know that I’m relatively new to witchcraft, but I think those are probably personal sigils made by whoever drew that picture.
I place the order of the elements based on my geographical location. I live in the north, so when casting circles, my north is earth, East is Air, South is Fire, and West is Water.
That is what I do. I feel a little strange about it
though, because I lived on the south coast for many years and was brought up in London. I moved to the Stockport area in the 2000s and I still don’t feel as if this area is quite where I belong. It’s a funny feeling. Also I’m driven by the fact that my first and only real love is buried in Parkstone (near Poole) cemetary, and that affects me oddly too. 🌒🌕🌘
Ahoj, ať už se jedná o pentagram duchem nahoru, nebo dolů, nejedná se o špatný pentagram. Záleží na tom, kdo ho na co používá. Pentagram duchem nahoru je mužský symbol a opačný je zase ženský symbol. Ničeho neexistuje jen polovina. Vše pochází z celku a tak i funguje, tak i pentagram má dvě ztvárnění.
Hi Pagan Grimoire,
I was wondering myself about the difference between a pentagram and a pentacle. So just to confirm, a Pentagram is a type of Pentacle, but a Pentacle in general is an object which can consist of any magical signs or symbols?
This was good, except I have a question to the author of this article: I am seeking the full answer to the order in which the other elements DO CORRECTLY go around the star, this is what I was hoping to find here. Upon reading, you said that from the top point being Spirit, clockwise the elements go as follows: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. But the picture directly under this description in fact goes as follows: Spirit at top as always, clockwise from there Water, Fire, Earth, Air. This of course sent me right back into confusion and my search, as to which way these elements are truly supposed to go around this star. If you’re able to inform me more, please do, as your article was pretty unclear in that area because the picture did not match your description. Thanks so much!
I’ve wondered this, as well, To me, it seems like water and earth should be the bottom two leaving fire and air in between spirit and the earthly plane. JMO.
Thank you for your question 🙂 The elements go around the pentagram as the image shows, but when you are drawing it in ritual or for another purpose, you’re correct that it doesn’t follow that order.
According to Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, the order to erect the temple is: Spirit, Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Spirit. I believe the Golden Dawn’s LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram) follows the same order, though they begin at the left hip.
When I wrote out the order, that’s the order each section of the pentagram has, not the order you use for magical practice. But, you’re correct, I miswrote it – it should match the image, so I’ll fix that now.
It appears u did not fix that yet. .good thing i came to the article comment section!!!!
this was fire man
This was so informative! The majority of people are confused by this (including myself!). It’s so nice to have an explanation that explains it so well! Thank you!
You’re welcome! I’m so glad it was helpful!