Many believe that the pentacle acts as a defense against witch craft. In the past people would scratch the five-pointed star pattern onto their doors in order to deter witches. Witches and sorcerers also formed the pentacle in magic circles in acts of ritual magic. They believed with its powers it could act as a vehicles of transmission in the world of spirits.
The words pentacle and pentagram (a five-point unicursal star) are essentially synonymous, according to the Online Oxford English Dictionary (2007 revision), tracing the etymology through both French and Italian back to Latin, but notes that in Middle French the word "pentacle" was used to refer to any talisman. In an extended use, many magical authors treat them as distinct. In many tarot decks and in some forms of modern witchcraft, pentacles often prominently incorporate a pentagram in their design.
Pentacles as magical objects
Pentacles, despite the sound of the word, often had no connotation of "five" in the old magical texts, but were, rather, magical talismans inscribed with any symbol or character. When they incorporated star-shaped figures, these were more often hexagrams than pentagrams. Pentacles showing a great variety of shapes and images appear in the old magical grimoires, such as the Key of Solomon; as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa summarises it, their use was to "fore-know all future things, & command whole nature, have power over devils, and Angels, and do miracles." Agrippa attributes Moses' feats of magic in part to his knowledge of various pentacles.
A Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy (c. 1565) spuriously attributed to Agrippa gives detailed instructions as to how pentacles should be formulated:
But we now come to speak of the holy and sacred Pentacles and Sigils. Now these pentacles, are as it were certain holy signes preserving us from evil chances and events, and helping and assisting us to binde, exterminate, and drive away evil spirits, and alluring the good spirits, and reconciling them unto us. And these pentacles do consist either of Characters of the good spirits of the superiour order, or of sacred pictures of holy letters or revelations, with apt and fit versicles, which are composed either of Geometrical figures and holy names of God, according to the course and maner of many of them; or they are compounded of all of them, or very many of them mixt.
Francis Barrett, in his influential work The Magus of 1801 (Book 2, part 2), repeats these instructions almost verbatim.
Another common design employed in pentacles is a magic square, such as the Sator-Arepo-Tenet square.
In the Golden Dawn magical system, the Earth Pentacle is one of four elemental "weapons" or tools of an Adept. These weapons are "symbolical representations of the forces employed for the manifestation of the inner self, the elements required for the incarnation of the divine." Other pentacles for the evocation of spirits are also employed in the Golden Dawn system; these are engraved with the name and sigil of the spirit to be invoked, inside three concentric circles, having painted on their reverse a circle and cross like a celtic cross.
According to Aleister Crowley's instructions for the Ordo Templi Orientis, the pentacle is a disc of wax, gold, silver-gilt or Electrum Magicum, eight inches diameter and half an inch thick; the Neophyte should "by his understanding and ingenium devise a symbol to represent the Universe", and engrave this on the disc.
There is, therefore, nothing movable or immovable under the whole firmament of heaven which is not included in this pantacle, though it be but 'eight inches in diameter, and in thickness half an inch.' Fire is not matter at all; water is a combination of elements; air almost entirely a mixture of elements; earth contains all both in admixture and in combination. So must it be with this Pantacle, the symbol of earth.
A pentacle is also employed as a magical tool within Wicca and other modern forms of witchcraft, generally to summon certain energies or summon spirits.
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