In ritual magic, the realization, either mental or physical, of a magical figure is often required, the most common being a magic circle in which to include the objects of the spell or to put oneself. They can be methods of sacralization, protection, empowerment... above all, it is a tool. However, there is often confusion between the concepts of pentacle and pentacle, especially among those who are new to the study of esotericism and occultism, because there are no records of these concepts outside of esoteric dictionaries. On the other hand, the pentagram is confused with the pentacle. This confusion, however, is justified, as will be seen throughout the article, and ultimately, it is its function and not its name that really matters, although many authors, such as Cunningham (1988), insisted that the confusion of both terms produces not only ritual problems but also problems of general transmission. For this reason, this brief article may seem obvious to those who already know it, but it may be explanatory for those who have some doubts, so that they can draw their own conclusions.
The pentagram, from gr. penta-, "five" and -gramma, "writing", is the famous five-pointed star, which can also take the form of a pentagon in specific cases. It is also called pentalpha because it forms five capital Greek alpha letters, similar to A in the Latin alphabet. The important thing about this figure is that it can be done in a single stroke, and this makes it a magical-sacred geometric symbol. On the other hand, in Antiquity and the Pythagoreans found in this figure the golden ratio and the human being, the upper point being the head, the lateral ones the arms and the remaining two lower ones the legs. Being compared with man and therefore with Creation "in the image and likeness" of the Christian God, together with its aesthetic perfection, in magic a powerful, creative and benign, positive value was assumed. Much later an element would be associated with each point, the two lower ones being Earth and Fire; the two lateral ones, Air and Water, and the upper one, the Ether or the spirit. The magic that uses this symbol, then, is positive, and has spiritual growth and human consciousness present, if not for purposes. It is the human spirit above nature, but in close relationship with it. In this image, the ability to draw the figure without lifting the tool to trace it evokes an idea of continuous movement of these energies. The five strokes or the five triangles that are formed can also be related to the five senses, the five wounds of Christ, etc. The pentagram is not, therefore, necessarily a magical symbol, but a symbol, to dry, that can be found in many religious, mathematical and simply cultural contexts.
However, when the pentagram is inscribed in a magic circle, delimiting its sacred or magical space of action, then it must be called a pentacle or pentacle. It is believed that its etymology would also come from gr. penta- and from the Latin diminutive -culum, as a set, or as a circle ending. The circle is a geometric figure also characterized by the perfection measured with respect to its center and by its idea of continuity, of cycle. The pentacle has been used in many cultures as a protective and healing amulet, since it represented the balance of the body and the world. They could be carried as a talisman or placed on the doors of homes, on clothes, hidden somewhere... In the case of ritual magic, the most customary thing seems to be to record it on a wooden or metal plate to have it as an area base of the objects involved in the spell or incantation, although it can also be drawn temporarily or formed with plants and flowers, incense or minerals, each one methodically associated with the cardinal points.
Often the five-pointed star is seen accompanied by other symbols and magical words, such as Tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew reference (yod, he, vav, he) for the unpronounceable name of the Hebrew God, which can be shown, in effect, with these four characters, or written Te - tra - gram - ma - ton and accompanied by the numbers 1-2, which symbolize duality and perfection, and 1-2-3, which symbolize balance and plenitude, and in magic in a Christian context, the Trinity. In any case, 2+3 =5, like the five strokes. Other planetary symbols, other cabalistic Hebrew names, and allegories are also added, along with divine, angelic, demonic, spiritual, magical, or personal sigils.
In a more symbolic and ritual vision, and also associated with Wicca, the points of the star are accompanied by symbols of the elements, often triangular in shape.
-The inverted pentagram or pentacle
The inversion of the pentagram or pentacle supposes the abandonment of the aforementioned idea about the elements and the human spirit, leaving the spirit below, for which reason it is associated with evil or satanic magic, although the inversion does not always follow this pattern, in the same way that in many other rituals of this nature since the Middle Ages everything is done "upside down" as criticism, mockery or simply rebellion. This inversion is also identified with imbalance and two differentiated concepts: on the one hand, the idea of exceeding the limits of nature; on the other, that it is nature that surpasses the spirit, affirming that instinct is superior to the mind.
In the case of the satanic image, the horns of a goat are also identified with the two upper vertices, changing the human image to that of a demonic symbol. When the head of a goat or baphomet really drawn and the five Hebrew letters (lamed, vav, yod, tav and nun) of the name Leviathan appear, as one of the infernal princes, it is the symbol and logo of the Church of Satan , founded by A. LaVey in 1966. Here, following the ideas of the founder, the lower three points are a denial of the Trinity, and the upper two - a revelation of the existing duality in the world: male-female, day-night , good bad...
The inverted pentagram is also a symbol of the Gaians, followers of the Gaia hypothesis by J. Lovelock (1969), where the Earth (Gaia or Gea) is a living organism and the human being is part of it. Here the pentacle does not have a magical mission, but a symbolic one, since it represents the elements and the human being as the main point of balance, whose actions unbalance the entire figure. There are some Wiccan covens where the inverted pentagram is a sign of having reached a second degree of initiation, another case of inversion without destructive intent.
A practitioner can choose what to include or not to include in a magic circle. All elements within this circle are influenced by it. Here is the key to what a pantacle is, from the Greek panta-, everything: a representation of everything, of the universe, of the things relevant to the practitioner, and therefore of their control for the desired purposes. However, there are those who consider that it is actually an interrelationship with penta-, since, as has been seen, it coincides with issues such as creation, the elements, the human being, etc., in short, "the whole in the key of five" .
The pentacles may or may not include a five-pointed star, depending on the intentions or symbolic ideas that the person performing the ritual can apply to it. Also because of this confusing issue, the pentacle is called the Seal of Solomon, although it should be with the six-pointed star, the so-called Star of David. This symbol would be a full-fledged pantacle, since it is made up of two facing triangles, one facing up and the other down, which symbolize the fusion and balance of universal opposites. The already mentioned Seal of Solomon has its own history within magic: the apocryphal text Testament of Solomon, from the 3rd century, tells that this king receives from the hand of the archangel Michael a ring with engraving or inlaid stone where his seal appears, -which was later identified with a pentalpha-, with which to force evil spirits to reveal to them who and what causes affectations, and which angel annuls their power. In this way, he was able to catalog them and even force some, like Asmodeo, to build the Temple.
In the past, the pantacles, until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, were considered angelic seals or signatures, beneficent talismans whose hidden characters could be used to support traditional medicine and that which was advancing - astrological talismans identified with astrological talismans were still used in the time of Paracelsus. specific ailments, although the amulets attributed to his studies are sometimes the product of reinterpretations of his knowledge of herbs, minerals and metals.
These talismans could defend the one who went to war or the one who traveled at night, they were also useful to attract love or defeat enemies, but very rarely one of them has a negative or attacking function. Many of these are already found in Renaissance grimoires, arising from a sigilistic tradition derived from religion to magic. To cite an example, in The Clavicles of Solomon we find a compendium of pentacles directly related to the planets, and which contains symbols related to astrology, the elements, etc. as well as sacred words in Hebrew or Greek, as "sacred" languages are considered to be more powerful.
These pantacles are designed to be performed mainly on the tanned skin of a related animal or a planetary metal, along with many other elements that complicate the ritual, such as the blood of sacrificed animals, herbs collected on specific dates or under certain lunar conditions, etc. It must be taken into account that, in principle, the realization of the pentacle is not enough to achieve the desired objectives. Although the pantacle is part of the ritual, it must also be ritualized or consecrated. There are different formulas for this, including subjecting the talisman to the influence of the stars for thirty days, bathing it in holy water or exposing it to certain incenses, magnetizing it with magnet shavings and putting it in a bag, and even consecrating them with a magic circle or pentacle with that specific function, as it appears in the Book of San Cipriano, a grimoire whose contents seem to come from the 16th century, although its editions are from the 17th century, and in which the pentacles are presented directly as physical talismans.
Pantacles are also not to be confused with angelic or demonic sigils or seals. The difference lies not only in its origin and purpose - in the case of seals such as the one already mentioned, the signature and invocation. A sigil, for its part, would not be a pantacle until it had been surrounded by the circumference, and within it there may be several of them. However, in grimoires such as The Clavicles of Solomon, many of the pentacles have the power to subdue spirits, invoke them or attract them so that they are the ones who activate their power - that is, the pentacle itself would have no power other than to attract the forces that do have that ability. In such a case, its presentation as a talisman yields to the use as a ritual tool.
The pantacles also have purely symbolic uses, as occurs in the alchemy treatises of Basil Valentin (S.XV), whose existence is still disputed. Here the mathematical balance is part of his search. Likewise, many pantacles make sense through a cabalistic interpretation, where the sephirot, the tree, etc. are manifested.
Likewise, the development from scratch is possible through anything that wants to be part of the magical circumference, including original sigils and symbols intended for the function of the ritual to be developed. Of course, for the "convincing" creation of pantacles, even among habitual practitioners, it seems necessary to know at least part of the stamps and signatures mentioned, which is why the pentagram has often become the most widely used figure, and hence it comes that pentacle and pantacle, once again, have been fused.