After looking at the Pentagram last week it is time to turn to the Pentacle, sometimes called the Paten In last week’s post I broke down the meaning of the word in detail so I am not going to do so again today. In brief, a Pentacle is a five-pointed star within a circle or drawn upon a disk as a tool.
Pentacle as A Symbol of Faith and Tradition
The Pentacle is one of the defining symbols of modern paganism. If a produc can be linked to modern paganism then it usually has a pentacle somewhere on it. From books to chalices, candlesticks to tattoos they appear pretty much everywhere but most commonly they appear as items of jewellery. In some cases the pentacle is being used as an expression of counter culture, harking back to last week’s conversation. Quite often it appears as an after thought in fashion, without real reason or meaning, in the same way the Christian cross was used in the 70’s and 80’s. The symbol sells.
But the symbol can mean a great deal to those who recognise the symbol as having complex meaning. In addition to the symbolism of the pentagram as already discussed the Pentacle has some meanings which are specific to the combination of star and circle and tradition.
For example the Pearl and Iron Pentacles for part of the Feri Tradition, as taught by Victor and Cora Anderson. Other variations exists within the tradition, including the Amythest, Lead and Blessing Pentagrams although not all streams of Feri use these variants.
The stations of the Iron Pentacle
The stations of the Pearl Pentacle are
The Iron and Pearl Pentacles are a meditative and ritual tool for reflecting on the individual, with the Iron Pentacle looking inward to the self and the Pearl Pentacle looking outward to interaction with the community.
More generally the Pentacle can be used to represent a belief in the cycle of Life and Death, indicating a belief in reincarnation, a belief common in new age streams. The points of the Pentacle come to represent the five stages of life; Birth, Youth, Adult, Mature, Death. These life events are contained within the never ending circle of life and death.
Pentacle as a representation of deity
This takes me neatly into the idea that the pentacle is a representation of deity.
Although I have presented the cycle of Life and Death as general life events some traditions replace Youth, Adult and Mature with the Jungian concept of Maid, Mother and Crone or its masculine counterpart of Warrior, Father and Sage. I myaelf am not a fan of the gender specific concepts as they are self limiting and can be very discriminatory but that is a post for another day. The point is that the pentacle can be used to represent these concepts so I mention it here.
The pentagram can be used to represent the God and Goddess in a number of different ways, both singularly and in union. In its simplest form the lines of the pentagram are used to represent the phallic God whilst the Circle represents the Goddess enclosing Him. The alternate rendering of this relates back to the discussion last week around the Pentagram as a representation of the five forms of the God (Man, Ram, Stag, Bull, Goat). Again the circle of the Pentacle represents the Goddess. In both cases the God rests within the ‘Womb’ of the Goddess, reminding us that, within the modern Pagan etiological tale explaining the cycle of seasons, The Goddess nurtures the God as both Mother and Lover.
More often than not the pentacle represents the Goddess, particularly Kore and Goddesses who carry this Maiden title. Pentagrams and Pentacles are particularly associated with Persephone and Aphrodite, two Greek maiden Goddesses. Apples and Roses, with their hidden pentacles, are as society with both these goddesses. It’s not surprising then that the planet Venus, named after the Goddess of Love Herself, dances through the heavens drawing a celestial petalled pentacle around the Sun.
These hidden pentacles occur in Christian contexts as well as Pagan ones, with Rose motifs, sonetimes bearing Pentagrams, appear in church architecture. The date of a carving is important, especially given the explosion of rose ornamentation that occurred during the War of the Roses and under the ageis of the Tudor dynasty that followed. The older the icon the closer it is to a time when Pentagrams and Pentacles were an acceptable church symbol.
Pentacle as Tool In Witchcraft
As an object of Witchcraft the Pentacle has a number of uses upon the Witches altar. Most commonly the Pentacle is used as a representation of the element of Earth and is placed in the Northern quadrant of the circle. At first this appears confusing, especially given that the pentagram is used to represent all five of the classical elements. The use of the Pentacle to represent Earth lies within Tarot and Golden Dawn system in which the tarot the suit associated with the element of Earth is Pentacles.
The Pentacle becomes a focal point, representing either the Northern element or any of the concepts that have been mentioned above. The image can be meditated upon and cycles understood though reflection and contemplation.
As well as serving a representational purpose the Pentacle can serve a practical one as well, serving as a plate in ritual from which to serve shared meals and offerings. The technical term for a plate used in the context is a Paten and the designs inscribed upon these plates can be anything however the Pentacle is a very common theme. Obviously size plays a part here, with smaller pentacles not being suitable for use as a paten, but there is no reason that a paten cannot be used to represent deities or the Earth if altar space allows. When large enough a pentacle can also be used as a charging took and even as an altar within itself, particularly if the symbolism is understood as the five classical elements in balance contained within the sphere of creation/the Universe/The Divine.
What the Pentagram and Pentacle Mean to Me
This week is a good one to to take give a personal perspective of this tool and symbol. I generally don’t wear a pentacle as a Pagan. There are other symbols I identify with more clearly in my practice and whilst I am by no means in the Broom closet I prefer to express myself in other ways.
As a tool of the mind I do use invoking pentagrams in my personal devotions to Hekate. By invoking the four classical elements using their invoking pentagram in conjunction with Orphic (epithehs) I work with Hekatean energies in my quest for understanding. As a tool of Witchcraft I use the Pentacle rarely, and only as a representation of Earth. I don’t use it as a representation of the Goddess though occasionally, when working with Pan, I use the inverted Pentagram to represent the five formed God.