Iron pentacles and an iron pentacle key with pentacle tarot cards and a candle. Text says Pentacle vs Pentagram, what's the difference.
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Pentacle vs Pentagram, What’s the Difference?

Have you wondered what the difference is between a Pentacle and a Pentagram? Perhaps you have heard people use the terms in ways that seem to confuse the two. Visually the symbols are similar. A Pentagram refers to a five pointed star and Pentacle refers to the star within a circle. However, their history, uses and symbolism are different. It is important to understand these differences as you move along your spiritual path and practice your magic. Let’s explore pentacle vs pentagram.

What is the difference between a Pentacle and a Pentagram?

Iron pentacles and an iron pentacle key with pentacle tarot cards and a candle. Text says Pentacle vs Pentagram, what's the difference.

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While the pentacle and the pentagram both feature a five-pointed star, the pentacle specifically refers to the symbol that is enclosed within a circle. Sometimes people use the terms pentacle and pentagram interchangeably, but it is important to note the difference between the two when discussing spiritual or magical symbolism.

What is a Pentacle?

A pentacle is a symbol that consists of a five-pointed star enclosed within a circle. The word “pentacle” comes from the Greek word “penta,” meaning “five,” and the Latin word “circulus,” meaning “circle.” It has also been linked with the middle French word “pentacol” (around 1328) which meant “talisman”.

Pentacles have been used as symbols for centuries in various cultures and spiritual traditions, including Wicca and Paganism. In these traditions, pentacles are often used as protective talismans or symbols of power and balance.

Pentacles can be made from various materials, including wood, metal, and stone, and may be inscribed or decorated with symbols or images that are meaningful to the individual using the pentacle. In our forge, we create beautiful iron pentacles that are then fire painted into a stunning, natural rainbow of colours.

Some people use pentacles as tools for ritual and magical purposes, such as casting spells or invoking certain energies or spirits. A pentacle talisman, especially an iron pentacle, can be a powerful cleansing tool, for cleansing tarot decks or crystals. Many pagans use a pentacle as an altar tool to hold items that will be ritually consecrated.

Pentacles in Tarot

In tarot there are four suits in the Minor Arcana, and one of the suits is commonly called Pentacles (it may also be referred to as Coins or Discs).

Pentacles in tarot are associated with the element of Earth, which represents the material world, practicality, stability, and abundance. The imagery of the Pentacles suit is often depicted with images of coins, pentagrams, or other symbols of wealth and prosperity.

The Pentacles suit represents material possessions, finances, work, career, and the physical realm. It can also represent the practical skills, talents, and abilities that we use to create abundance and stability in our lives. This suit can indicate financial stability, security, and success, as well as the hard work and effort required to achieve these things.

In Tarot, the Pentacles provide a holistic view of life and the human experience. It acknowledges that, while spiritual and emotional aspects of life are important, the material world is also a vital part of our existence. The Pentacles suit provides a framework for understanding our relationship with the material world, including our finances, possessions, and work.

The use of Pentacles in Tarot also reflects the historical and cultural context in which Tarot developed. Tarot has its roots in Renaissance Italy, a time when trade and commerce were flourishing, and wealth and prosperity were highly valued. The use of Pentacles in Tarot reflects this cultural emphasis on material abundance and success.

Overall, the Pentacles suit represents our relationship with the material world and our ability to manifest abundance and stability in our lives. It can indicate both the rewards of hard work and the challenges of financial or material instability.

What is a Pentagram?

A pentagram is a five-pointed star that can be drawn with a single continuous line and is commonly used in spell work.

The word “pentagram” comes from the Greek words “penta,” meaning “five,” and “gramma,” meaning “letter.”

Each of the five points of the star are associated with a different element, direction, or meaning depending on the tradition and context in which it is used.

Pentagram with meanings
Pentagram showing elemental associations

In some spiritual and magical traditions, pentagrams are used as tools in rituals and magical practices. They can be used for invoking or banishing energies or spirits, casting spells, or creating protective talismans.

Pentagram Use Across Cultures

Pentagrams have been used as symbols in various cultures throughout history going back thousands of years. It is popular as a symbol of the five elements (earth, air, fire, water, and spirit), as a mathematical symbol, and as a symbol of various religions and spiritual traditions. Let’s explore a few of these different uses and meanings for the pentagram throughout history.

In geometry it is a polygon composed of 15 line segments with 10 points.

Sumerian cultures dating back to 4500 – 1900 BC, used the pentagram for the word “ub” which means cavity, angle, corner, nook, or small room.

Pythagoras used the pentagram as a symbol of man. The top point as the head, the sides as the hands, and the bottom angles as the legs. Ancient Greeks also used the pentagram as an illustration of the golden ratio and it was highly regarded as the symbol of perfection.

Ancient Judaism used the symbol to represent the five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) of the Torah.

During the Middle Ages in Christian tradition, the five pointed pentagram star symbolized Christs’ five holy wounds which suffered during the crucifixion.

Ancient Celts used the pentagram as a symbol of the powerful ancient Celtic goddess, Morgan. She represents healing magic, battle, fertility, and sexuality.

Chinese Tradition used the symbol to stand for the five phases which are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood.

What is an Inverted Pentagram?

When a pentagram is inverted or upside-down it changes the meaning of the symbol. Some refer to this as a Satanic Pentagram.

An inverted pentagram is simply a five-pointed star with one point facing downward, instead of upward like a traditional pentagram. Inverted pentagrams are often associated with the occult and Satanism. They are popular as a symbol of rebellion and anti-Christian sentiment.

It’s really important to note that the inverted pentagram is not inherently evil or negative. Like all symbols, its meaning depends on context and intention. In some cases, it may be used as a symbol of personal transformation. With the downward-pointing triangle representing the descent of the divine into the human realm.

In some modern Pagan and Wiccan traditions, the inverted pentagram is used to represent the element of Earth and Matter, while the traditional upward-facing pentagram represents the element of Spirit. However, this usage is not common across all practices, and is not recognized by all Pagan or Wiccan paths.

The inverted pentagram gained popularity when it was used by the Church of Satan in the Sigil of Baphomet. Due to this and other associations, the inverted pentagram can be a controversial symbol.

Sigil of Baphomet showing an inverted pentagram/pentacle
Sigil of Baphomet

Pentacle vs Pentagram in Magical Practice

Although uses and practices vary, here are a few ways you can use pentacles and pentagrams in your practice.

Place a pentacle on your altar. You can buy one made of iron, wood, crystal, precious metals or stone. Or you could make your own using something as simple as branches ethically harvested from a sacred tree. Use the pentacle to cleanse or protect. I have a special iron pentacle that I keep on my altar and place my tarot deck on it between readings.

Pentacle vs Pentagram with iron pentacles and pentacle tarot cards
Ace of Pentacles and Nine of Pentacles from RWS with two iron pentacle talismans and a pentacle key forged by Daelen Forge.

When conducting a ritual, draw a pentagram on the ground or on a piece of paper to call on the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

Where a pentacle necklace as a protective talisman.

Create a tarot spread or rune reading using the pentagram form.

Scribe a pentagram onto a candle as part of a candle magic ritual or spell.

The use of these magical symbols continues to be popular today, especially in pagan practices. With an understanding of the pentacle and pentagram, you can use these symbols to further your magical path.

Pentacle vs Pentagram iron pentacles and an iron pentacle key with a painting of the Queen of pentacles and pentacle tarot cards
Queen of Pentacles art by Amy Freeland. Iron Pentacle talismans and iron pentacle key forged by Daelen Forge.

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