The Pentagram—Solomon’s Seal

The five-pointed star, the Pentagram, was a symbol of absolute authority to the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), as early as the third millennium BC. It represented an additional axis or the royal authority reaching out to the four corners of the earth. Later, in classical Greece, it was used as a mystic symbol by Pythagoreans and in early Jewish lore it was associated with Solomon’s Seal, a magical signet ring of King Solomon which gave him the power to command demons and speak to animals. (Confusingly, Solomon’s Seal can also be depicted as a hexagon.)

This Seal of Solomon was revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Indeed an interlinked ribbon version—known as the Seal of Solomon—is used on the Moroccan national flag. Medieval astrologers interpreted the pentagram as a symbol of the five wounds of Christ. However, the symbol dropped out of Christian use, having been co-opted by medieval necromancers and modern witchcraft.

Renaissance occultists made a distinction in the star’s orientation. When pointed upwards the star was good, symbolizing spirit presiding over the four elements of matter. Pointing down it was evil—the sign of the goat of black magic (whose face could be drawn in the star or its beard and horn suggested by the points). Wiccans have adopted the symbol (in its good form) as their emblem, and it is widely used by neo-Pagans, often as a pentacle, within an enclosed circle.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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