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Regular pentagram
Star polygon 5-2.svg
A regular pentagram
TypeRegular polygon
Edges and vertices5
Schläfli symbol{5/2}
Coxeter diagramCDel node 1.pngCDel 5-2.pngCDel node.png
Symmetry groupDihedral (D5)
Internal angle (degrees)36°
Dual polygonself
Propertiesstar, cyclic, equilateral, isogonal, isotoxal
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For other uses, see Pentagram (disambiguation).
Regular pentagram
Star polygon 5-2.svg
A regular pentagram
TypeRegular polygon
Edges and vertices5
Schläfli symbol{5/2}
Coxeter diagramCDel node 1.pngCDel 5-2.pngCDel node.png
Symmetry groupDihedral (D5)
Internal angle (degrees)36°
Dual polygonself
Propertiesstar, cyclic, equilateral, isogonal, isotoxal
A pentagram inscribed in a circle, also known as a pentacle

A pentagram (sometimes known as a pentalpha or pentangle or a star pentagon) is the shape of a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes.

The word pentagram comes from the Greek word πεντάγραμμον (pentagrammon),[1] from πέντε (pente), "five" + γραμμή (grammē), "line".[2] The word "pentacle" is sometimes used synonymously with "pentagram"[3] The word pentalpha is a learned modern (17th-century) revival of a post-classical Greek name of the shape.[4]

Cultural significance[edit]

Early history[edit]

In early (Ur I) monumental Sumerian script, a pentagram glyph served as a logogram for the word ub, meaning "corner, angle, nook; a small room, cavity, hole; pitfall" (this later gave rise to the cuneiform sign UB 𒌒, composed of five wedges, further reduced to four in Assyrian cuneiform ).

The word Pentemychos (πεντέμυχος lit. "five corners" or "five recesses")[5] was the title of the cosmogony of Pherecydes of Syros.[6] Here, the "five corners" are where the seeds of Chronos are placed within the Earth in order for the cosmos to appear.[7]

A Pythagorean "Hugieia Pentagram"[8]

In Neoplatonism, the pentagram was said to have been used as a symbol or sign of recognition by the Pythagoreans, who called the pentagram ὑγιεία hugieia "health"[9]

Western symbolism[edit]

The pentagram was used in ancient times as a Christian symbol for the five senses.[10] or of the five wounds of Christ. A Christian use of the pentangle occurs in the 14th-century English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which the symbol decorates the shield of the hero, Gawain. The unnamed poet credits the symbol's origin to King Solomon, and says the symbol is key to understanding the work. The poet explains that each of the five interconnected points represents a virtue tied to a group of five. Gawain is keen in his five senses, dextrous in his five fingers, faithful to the salvation provided through the Five Wounds of Christ, takes courage from the five joys that Mary had of Jesus, and exemplifies the five virtues of knighthood.[11]

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and others perpetuated the popularity of the pentagram as a magic symbol, attributing the five neoplatonic elements to the five points, in typical Renaissance fashion. By the mid-19th century a further distinction had developed amongst occultists regarding the pentagram's orientation. With a single point upwards it depicted spirit presiding over the four elements of matter, and was essentially "good". However, the influential writer Eliphas Levi called it evil whenever the symbol appeared the other way up.

The apotropaic use of the pentagram symbol in German folklore (called Drudenfuss in German) is referred to by Goethe in his Faust (1808), where a pentagram prevents Mephistopheles from leaving a room (but did not prevent him from entering by the same way, as the outward pointing corner of the diagram happened to be imperfectly drawn):

I must confess, my stepping o'er
Thy threshold a slight hindrance doth impede;
The wizard-foot [Drudenfuss] doth me retain.
The pentagram thy peace doth mar?
To me, thou son of hell, explain,
How camest thou in, if this thine exit bar?
Could such a spirit aught ensnare?
Observe it well, it is not drawn with care,
One of the angles, that which points without,
Is, as thou seest, not quite closed.

East Asian symbolism[edit]

Wu Xing (Chinese: 五行; pinyin: Wǔ Xíng) are the five phases, or five elements in Chinese tradition (medicine, acupuncture, feng shui, and Taoism) They are similar to the ancient Greek elements, with more emphasis on their cyclic transformation than on their material aspects. The five phases are: Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 ), Metal (金 jīn), Water (水 shuǐ), and Wood (木 ). They are sometimes[according to whom?] represented as a diagram in the shape of a pentagram.

In Japanese culture, the pentagram (五芒星 gobōsei) is a symbol of magical power, associated with the onmyoji Abe no Seimei; it is a diagram of the "overcoming cycle" of the five Chinese elements.[citation needed]

Use in modern occultism[edit]

A goat's head inscribed in a downward-pointing pentagram, from La Clef de la Magie Noire by Stanislas de Guaita (1897).

Based on Renaissance-era occultism, the pentagram found its way into the symbolism of modern occultists.

Following Anton LaVey, and ultimately based on a drawing by French nobleman and occultist Stanislas de Guaita (La Clef de la Magie Noire, 1897), the so-called Sigil of Baphomet, a pentagram with two points up inscribed in a double circle with the head of a goat inside the pentagram is the copyrighted logo of the Church of Satan.

Aleister Crowley made use of the pentagram in his Thelemic system of magick: an adverse or inverted pentagram represents the descent of spirit into matter, according to the interpretation of Lon Milo DuQuette.[15] Crowley contradicted his old comrades in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who, following Levi, considered this orientation of the symbol evil and associated it with the triumph of matter over spirit.

Use in new religious movements[edit]


Main article: Bahá'í symbols

The five-pointed star is a symbol of the Bahá'í Faith.[16][17] In the Bahá'í Faith, the star is known as the Haykal (Arabic: "temple"‎), and it was initiated and established by the Báb. The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh wrote various works in the form of a pentagram.[18]

Latter Day Saint Movement[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began using both upright and inverted five-pointed stars in Temple architecture, dating from the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedicated on 30 April 1846.[19] Other temples decorated with five-pointed stars in both orientations include the Salt Lake Temple and the Logan Utah Temple. These usages come from the symbolism found in Revelation chapter 12: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."[20]


A typical Neopagan pentagram (circumscribed).

Wiccan publications described ritual practices involving pentagrams since at least the 1980s,[21] and within traditional forms of Wicca, a pentagram (no circle) with two points up is associated with the Second Degree Initiation.[22]

Wiccans began to use the pentagram as a symbol of their faith by the 1990s.[23] Because of a perceived association with Satanism and occultism, many United States schools in the late 1990s have sought to prevent students from displaying the pentagram on clothing or jewelry.[24] In public schools, such actions by administrators have been determined to be in violation of students' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion in 2000.[25] The encircled pentagram (referred to as a pentacle by the plaintiffs) was added to the list of 38 approved religious symbols to be placed on the tombstones of fallen service members at Arlington National Cemetery on 24 April 2007. The decision was made following ten applications from families of fallen soldiers who practiced Wicca. The government paid the families USD 225,000 to settle their pending lawsuits.[26][27]

Other religious use[edit]

Druze star

The five pointed star is a symbol of the Serer religion, and a multicolored version is used as symbol of the Druze religion.

Other modern use[edit]


A regular pentagram colored to distinguish its line segments of different lengths. The four lengths are in golden ratio to one another.
Fractal pentagram drawn with a vector iteration program

The pentagram is the simplest regular star polygon. The pentagram contains ten points (the five points of the star, and the five vertices of the inner pentagon) and fifteen line segments. It is represented by the Schläfli symbol {5/2}. Like a regular pentagon, and a regular pentagon with a pentagram constructed inside it, the regular pentagram has as its symmetry group the dihedral group of order 10.


The pentagram can be constructed by connecting alternate vertices of a pentagon; see details of the construction. It can also be constructed as a stellation of a pentagon, by extending the edges of a pentagon until the lines intersect.

Golden ratio[edit]

The golden ratio, φ = (1 + √5) / 2 ≈ 1.618, satisfying

\varphi=1+2\sin(\pi/10)=1+2\sin 18^\circ\,
\varphi=1/(2\sin(\pi/10))=1/(2\sin 18^\circ)\,
\varphi=2\cos(\pi/5)=2\cos 36^\circ\,

plays an important role in regular pentagons and pentagrams. Each intersection of edges sections the edges in the golden ratio: the ratio of the length of the edge to the longer segment is φ, as is the length of the longer segment to the shorter. Also, the ratio of the length of the shorter segment to the segment bounded by the two intersecting edges (a side of the pentagon in the pentagram's center) is φ. As the four-color illustration shows:

\frac{\mathrm{red}}{\mathrm{green}} = \frac{\mathrm{green}}{\mathrm{blue}} = \frac{\mathrm{blue}}{\mathrm{magenta}} = \varphi.

The pentagram includes ten isosceles triangles: five acute and five obtuse isosceles triangles. In all of them, the ratio of the longer side to the shorter side is φ. The acute triangles are golden triangles. The obtuse isosceles triangle highlighted via the colored lines in the illustration is a golden gnomon.

Trigonometric values[edit]

\sin \frac{\pi}{10} = \sin 18^\circ = \frac{\sqrt 5 - 1}{4}=\frac{\varphi-1}{2}=\frac{1}{2\varphi}
\cos \frac{\pi}{10} = \cos 18^\circ = \frac{\sqrt{2(5 + \sqrt 5)}}{4}
\tan \frac{\pi}{10} = \tan 18^\circ = \frac{\sqrt{5(5 - 2 \sqrt 5)}}{5}
\cot \frac{\pi}{10} = \cot 18^\circ = \sqrt{5 + 2 \sqrt 5}
\sin \frac{\pi}{5} = \sin 36^\circ = \frac{\sqrt{2(5 - \sqrt 5)} }{4}
\cos \frac{\pi}{5} = \cos 36^\circ = \frac{\sqrt 5+1}{4} = \frac{\varphi}{2}
\tan \frac{\pi}{5} = \tan 36^\circ =  \sqrt{5 - 2\sqrt 5}
\cot \frac{\pi}{5} = \cot 36^\circ = \frac{ \sqrt{5(5 + 2\sqrt 5)}}{5}

As a result, in an isosceles triangle with one or two angles of 36°, the longer of the two side lengths is φ times that of the shorter of the two, both in the case of the acute as in the case of the obtuse triangle.

Three-dimensional figures[edit]

Several polyhedra incorporate pentagrams:

Higher dimensions[edit]

Orthogonal projections of higher dimensional polytopes can also create pentagrammic figures:

4-simplex t0.svg
The regular 5-cell (4-simplex) has 5 vertices and 10 edges.
4-simplex t1.svg
The rectified 5-cell has 10 vertices and 30 edges.
5-simplex t1 A4.svg
The rectified 5-simplex has 15 vertices, seen in this orthogonal projection as 3 nested pentagrams.
5-simplex t2 A4.svg
The birectified 5-simplex has 20 vertices, seen in this orthogonal projection as 4 overlapping pentagrams.

All ten 4-dimensional Schläfli-Hess polychoron have either pentagrammic faces or vertex figure elements.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ πεντάγραμμον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus; a noun form of adjectival πεντάγραμμος (pentagrammos) or πεντέγραμμος (pentegrammos), a word meaning roughly "five-lined" or "five lines"
  2. ^ πέντε, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus; γραμμή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  3. ^ this usage is borne out by the Oxford English Dictionary, although that work specifies that a circumscription makes the shape more particularly a pentacle. "Pentacle", Oxford English Dictionary: "Middle French pentacle talisman [before 1555, in English from 1561], most often in the form of a five-pointed star and its etymon post-classical Latin pentaculum [...] A pentagram, esp. one enclosed in a circle; a talisman or magical symbol in the shape of or inscribed with a pentagram. Also, in extended use: any similar magical symbol (freq. applied to a hexagram formed by two intersecting or interlaced equilateral triangles)."
  4. ^ πένταλϕα "five Alphas", interpreting the shape as five Α shapes overlapping at 72-degree angles.
  5. ^ πεντέμυχος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  6. ^ This is a lost book, but its contents are preserved in Damascius, De principiis, quoted in Kirk and Raven, (1983) [1956], p. 55.
  7. ^ "the divine products of Chronos' seed, when disposed in five recesses, were called πεντέμυχος (Pentemychos)" Kirk, Geoffrey Stephen; Raven, John Earle; Schofield, Malcolm (1983) [1957]. The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (2nd edition, illustrated, revised, reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 51–52, 55. ISBN 978-0-521-27455-5. "the only other place in Homer where Ortygie [sic] is mentioned is Odyssey V, 123, where Orion, having been carried off by Eos [the dawn], is slain... by Artemis... since solstices would normally be observed at sunrise in summer, and so in the north-east-by-east direction, that is what the phrase might suggest... the dwelling-place of Eos... Aia..." 
  8. ^ Allman, G. J., Greek Geometry From Thales to Euclid (1889), p.26.
  9. ^ Allman, G. J., Greek Geometry From Thales to Euclid, part I (1877), in Hermathena 3.5, pp. 183, 197, citing Iamblichus and the Scholiast on Aristophanes. The pentagram was said to have been so called from Pythagoras himself having written the letters Υ, Γ, Ι, Θ (= /ei/), Α on its vertices.
  10. ^ Christian Symbols Ancient and Modern, Child, Heather and Dorothy Colles. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971, ISBN 0-7135-1960-6.
  11. ^ Morgan, Gerald (1979). "The Significance of the Pentangle Symbolism in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"". The Modern Language Review 74 (4): 769–790. JSTOR 3728227. 
  12. ^ Lévi, Éliphas (1999) [1896 (translated), 1854 (first published)]. Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual [Dogme et rituel de la haute magie]. Trans. by A. E. Waite. York Beach: Weiser. OCLC 263626874. 
  13. ^ Lévi, Éliphas (2002) [1939 (translated), 1859 (first published)]. The Key of the Mysteries [la Clef des grands mystères suivant Hénoch, Abraham, Hermès Trismégiste et Salomon]. Trans. by Aleister Crowley. Boston: Weiser. p. 69. OCLC 49053462. 
  14. ^ Hartmann, Franz (1895) [1886]. Magic, White and Black (5th ed.). New York: The Path. OCLC 476635673. 
  15. ^ The Magick of Aleister Crowley p 93 and endnote 31 to Chapter Five (p 247).
  16. ^ Bahá'í Reference Library – Directives from the Guardian, Pages 51–52
  17. ^ Nine-Pointed Star, The:History and Symbolism by Universal House of Justice 24 January 1999
  18. ^ Haykal - Baha'i Five Pointed Star Symbol
  19. ^ See the Nauvoo Temple website discussing its architecture, and particularly the page on Nauvoo Temple exterior symbolism. Retrieved 16 December 2006.
  20. ^ Brown, Matthew B (2002). "Inverted Stars on LDS Temples". Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. 
  21. ^ e.g. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft (1985)
  22. ^ Stewart, Farrar. The Witches' Way.  (1984) Chapter II – Second Degree Initiation
  23. ^ Scott Cunningham, Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Llewellyn Worldwide, 1993, p. 151.
  24. ^ "Religious Clothing in School", Robinson, B.A., Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 20 August 1999, updated 29 April 2005. Retrieved 10 February 2006. "ACLU Defends Honor Student Witch Pentacle" (Press release). American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. 10 February 1999. Retrieved 10 February 2006.  "Witches and wardrobes: Boy says he was suspended from school for wearing magical symbol" Rouvalis, Cristina; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 September 2000. Retrieved 10 February 2006.
  25. ^ "Federal judge upholds Indiana students' right to wear Wiccan symbols". Associated Press. 1 May 2000. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 
  26. ^ Associated Press (23 April 2007). "Wiccan symbol OK for soldiers' graves". Archived from the original on 26 April 2007. 
  27. ^ "Burial and Memorials: Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers". United States Department of Veterans Affairs. 3 July 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 


"Pentagram" article in The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols Becker, Udo, ed., Garmer, Lance W. translator, New York: Continuum Books, 1994, p. 230.

External links[edit]