written by K Lenore Siner
Many people come to Witch City Ink looking to get a memento of their visit to Salem, most often something related in some way to the Salem Witch Trials or to witch craft in general. More often than not, I find that my client has only a vague notion of what the symbol they have chosen to wear permanently on their body means, and I at times I lack the ability to clearly explain the meaning of what I am tattooing. So I’ve decided to start blogging on some of the most common symbols that I tattoo and their meanings as a way to further educate myself as hopefully interest future clients as well.
Hands down the most commonly requested symbol is the pentacle.* The pentacle is an ancient symbol used by many cultures through out time. It was used by the followers of Pythagoras, the Jewish and Christian Mystics, and the ancient Babylonians. The symbol was coopted by several 19th century Western Magical traditions and also became a central symbol to the Neo-pagan movement in the 20th century. Add to that, the inverted pentacle was adopted by the Church of Satan in the 1960’s as its official seal and Hollywood has also had its fun over the past decades using it as an image of evil or “anti-Christian” beliefs.
With such diverse history, the pentacle has many different meanings to different people. However most meanings draw from its connection to the number 5 because of its geometry. Thus the pentacle is connected to the human microcosm -the 4 limbs and the head, the 5 fingers and the 5 senses – as well as the macrocosm – the 5 elements and the 4 directions plus center. Thus it speaks to the magical concept of the macrocosm with the microcosm, or that which exists externally (in the world) also exists internally (in the self).
5 is also a circular number and a number of manifestation as when 5 is raised to its own power, it produces itself again in its last digit.
The pentacle is often used as a suit of the tarot instead of coins or disks, and corresponds with the element of earth.
In Western magical and neo-pagan traditions each point of the star corresponds to a particular element. One may invoke an element, and the powers of that element by drawing the star starting from a particular point. This is of particular interest when tattooing a pentacle for you can enhance the intention of the tattoo by being mindful to the manner in which it is tattooed. The circle around the star can be seen as a magical circle, containing the energies invoked within.
One thing that frequently comes up while tattooing is the meaning of the inverted pentacle verses one with the point up. Many people associate the inverted pentacle as “evil” because of its association with Satanism and its use in pop culture horror movies. By looking at the attributes of the points of the stars its easier to understand possible meaning and decide for yourself what, if any truth that has. The pentacle point up places Spirit at the top, with Earth ascending towards Spirit. Inverted, Spirit is ascending towards Earth. This is read either as a focus on the internal journey of finding the Divine with in oneself, or as placing carnal or “earthly” desires over those of Spirit.
So why get pentacle tattoo? When it comes to tattooing magical symbols, intention is everything. Especially with a symbol that has been used so diversely, connecting clearly to your purpose in wearing it creates the matrix in which it can function. Looking at the above correspondences a pentacle tattoo can be an intention of focusing on manifestation and physical abundance, a way to dedicate yourself to the study and understanding of a particular element or direction, a reminder of the macrocosm within the microcosm,a symbol of your neo-pagan practice or just that “witch star thing” that people wear in Salem. No one intention is better than the other and each will lead the wearer down a different path.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts, your experiences of wearing a pentacle tattoo or requests for other symbols to blog about – please message me at @snakeoclock
Art is Magic, wear your Magic!
– K Lenore
*There is some debate as to the difference between a pentacle and a pentagram. Some sources say that a pentacle is a physical object while a pentagram is a drawing or diagram. Others say that that pentacle refers only to a paton or magical tool that can be inscribed with a variety of symbols. For the purpose of this article a pentacle is the encircled, 5 pointed star, in any of its forms.