The Pythagorean mystics worshipped the pentacle or pentagram, a pentacle which is written or drawn, because it was based on the symbol of the Goddess Kore, frequently thought represented by the apple core. The mystics called this symbol Pentalpha, the birth-letter interlaced five times.
The pentacle itself is usually made of stone or wood, having a five-pointed star inscribed on it. In most Pagan and Witchcraft traditions it symbolizes the element Earth. The pentacle is frequently used as a magickal plate upon which objects are placed to be magically charged, or presented as ritual objects and offerings.
The pentagram, the five-pointed star image with its lines often interlaced, is typically enclosed within a circle; and thus, in most traditions, is a symbol of protection.
The star is upright, having the single point on top, the ascended position. The top point represents true spirit; or the Goddess, the other four points symbolize the elements of creation: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The star, as a whole, symbolizes the spirit bringing the elements into natural harmony, the opposite of chaos; a concept taught by Empedocles, ca. 475 BC.
The symbol of Man the Microcosm of the Hermetic magicians was based on the pentacle. The pentacle represents the macrocosm with the male figure representing the cosmos within it. His feet, hands and head touch each of the points with his genitals located exactly in the center. “This image is related to Fimicus Maternus’s remark that man is a microcosm ruled by `the five stars.'”
The circle surrounding the star also represents the safe place in which the Pagan/Witch or magician can work. The circle symbolizes a binding; in this instance, binding evil away from the wearer.
Most pentacles used in modern witchcraft and magic are made of silver, the metal of the moon and psychic powers. Some, however, are made of gold, the metal of power and energy. Pentacles are use to consecrate the magic circle, to ground energy and serve food; pentacles used for this latter function are usually round disks made of clay or wax. A.G.H.
Grimassi, Raven, Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraf, St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2000, pp. 285-286 Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, New York: Facts On File, 1989, pp. 265-266
Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, New York, HarperCollins, 1983, pp. 782-783