In old recipes and spells, strange ingredients are often called for such as “Eye of Dog” or “Bone of a Dead man.” Through research (of Cunnigham and my Grandma) I found out what’s REALLY being requested.😊 .
Eyes: Eyebright or Daisy
Hair: Maidenhair Fern
Skin of a Man: Fern
Bloody Fingers: Foxglove
Unicorn Horn: Unicorn Root
So when these animals are asked for, use this herb instead:
FUN FACT: When a sacrifice is called for, it means you should bury an egg, NEVER does it mean to kill any living thing!!!
The part called for in a recipe means the part of the herb to be used, as follows;
Head: the flower
Paw, foot, leg, scale: leaf
Tooth: leaf, seed pod
Guts: root or stalk
Hair: the dried version of the herb
Eye: the inner blossom
The heart: the bud or a big seed.
A lot of plants like Crowfoot or Cat’s Tail are usually found in old recipes, do not mistake them for actual animal parts! Practice safely and have a Blessed Evening! 🌛🌝🌜
Oddly enough, they all come to my work too (except the barista at Barnes).
This one guy was wearing a Mjolnir necklace, and I complimented it. He thanked me and told me it meant a lot, because it’s a symbol for his religion. Then he followed that statement with “but I feel you already knew that.”
A young lady was in my shop today and was asking about tea, and talking about lavender and aromatherapy, and I noticed her moon tattoo on her left forearm. I told her it was lovely, and she thanked me and told me that she loves the moon. She leaned across the counter and whispered “She gives me strength.” I told her I felt the same way, and she got all happy and said “So you know!” and I really feel like we just had this connection about it without having to come out and say (in front of the other guests in my shop) that we’re witches, or we study the occult, or any of the like.
At Barnes, the young man at the cafe had a beautiful Amethyst necklace, which (you guessed it) I complimented and asked if it was Amethyst. He was quite surprised and happy that I knew, so he told me all about the shop in town where he got it, and a few other hole-in-the-wall places between Naples and Fort Myers that sell things like crystals and herbs and incense. Places that don’t have websites and aren’t on yellow pages or the like.
I have had so many experiences where one of us compliments the other on our jewelry, or a tattoo, or a piece of clothing and it launches us into a conversation about the occult, or witchy things, or even just Paganism, but neither one directly says that it’s what it is. We help each other out, give each other little tips and tricks (and sometimes I will tell people which teas I use for spells and incense and baths) and we go our separate ways. I like to think that they think of our exchange at least a little, because these exchanges give me a type of energy that I quite enjoy, and they make my weeks more fun and full of color.
Symbols are constantly recycled in society and religion. Their meanings evolve over time and can differ from belief system to belief system. A pentacle/pentagram is one of those symbols that has picked up a whole lot of baggage over the years. Beginner Wiccans often come to our religion having to ‘reprogram’ their own way of thinking about the pentagram. For years, pop culture, media hysteria and other religions have drilled the idea into our heads that Pagan symbols are bad, and the pentagram is evil.
Unfortunately, in a lot of books aimed at Wicca for beginners, more misinformation about the pentagram is spread. This time, it errs on the side of trying to make the pentagram look good, attaching to it all kinds of romanticized ideas that are just not factual.
What is a pentagram? What is a pentacle? Is there a difference? Let’s have a closer look at the history of this symbol, and the meaning of the pentagram today.
WHAT IS A PENTAGRAM?
A good place to begin anytime you’re trying to understand a word and its usage is to hit the dictionary and look up the entomology of the word. The word pentagram is rooted in the Greek.
Instead of giving you my own interpretations, I’ll take the meaning directly from the dictionary:
MEANING OF A PENTAGRAM: A BRIEF HISTORY
The earliest use of the pentagram we know of is from ancient Sumeria– but it wasn’t a religious Pagan symbol. It was a word in their language that meant a corner or angle (due to the 5 sharp angles in the figure).
In the 6th century BCE, Pherecydes of Syros used it to illustrate the five recesses of the cosmology. Pentagram figures occasionally turned up in the far East as well, due to the 5 Chinese elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water.
Pythagoras went on to use the pentagram as the symbol of man. Partly it was because the shape represented a human standing with his arms spread wide (the top point being the head, the to outer points the arms, and the bottom two points the legs). It was also considered to represent the 5 elements that the Greeks believed made up the physical body: Earth (matter), Air (breath), Fire (energy), Water (fluids) and Aether (the psyche or soul). When Pythagoras’ school was driven underground, students used the pentagram as a secret symbol to identify each other.
In ancient Judaism it was a symbol found in mysticism, related to the top portion of the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah, it stood for the 5 books of the Torah (what Christians refer to as the Pentateuch in the Old Testament of the Bible) and the symbol was featured in a seal representing the secret names of God.
Early Christians into the middle ages used the pentagram heavily as a symbol for Christ’s five wounds. The star of Bethlehem that lead the wise men to the baby Jesus was believed to be the pentagram. In Authorial legends, you’ll often see the symbol of the Pentagram inscribed on knight’s shields and other things—these were actually Christian, not Pagan, references. Christians thought of the pentagram as a protective amulet, and it was the primary symbol of Christianity back then, even more common than the cross.
So the pentagram had a long, ancient history of uses as a Pagan symbol and Judeo-Christian symbol. It had no single meaning. It represented perfection in mathematics, the human body, words, and was also used in religious ritual and magic.
BUT WHAT ABOUT WITCHES, WICCANS, AND SATANISTS?
So I’ve mentioned that just about everyone had used the pentagram back then, except I haven’t mentioned Witches, Wiccans and Satanists. What about them?
The fact is, they didn’t really exist yet. The only “witches” at the time were the kind of folklore and rumor. Oh, don’t get me wrong—there were people who did magick, but they would not have identified with the term “witch”.
WHEN THE PENTAGRAM BECAME ASSOCIATED WITH “EVIL”
The 14th and 15th century saw the rise of occult practices that were rooted in Judeo-Christian symbolism and mysticism, and they borrowed liberally from many of the symbols, including the pentagram. They also borrowed from Gnostic and Paganism symbols. It’s no small surprise Ceremonial Magicians were accused by the Christian church of heresy. And heresy, to a medieval Christian, barrels down to Paganism, Satan worship and witchcraft.
Anything liberally used by Ceremonial Magicians became associated with anything considered heretical. If you don’t want to be associated with such things, you don’t use their symbols.
By Victorian times, the witch hunt craze was ending, and people started to forget how pentagrams were once very common, prominent Christian symbols. It’s now associated with paganism, Satan and witchcraft, and seen as an evil symbol.
The love of romanticized myth and history drive a new movement: the Pagan revival, and the pentagram gets turned around again. This is where it gets confusing, because misinformation and false histories begin to fly liberally from the late 19th to mid-20th century.
This is the time the Pagan Revival begins (mostly a re-invention than a re-construction of “Old Ways”). This is when Margaret Murray published her theories on ancient Witch cults being peaceful Pagan religions—though her works have been completely debunked since. This is when Gerald Gardner founded Wicca, and people came crawling out of the woodwork claiming to be ‘hereditary Witches’, or claiming their coven was ancient, or claiming some unbroken line to the Pagan religions of antiquity. This is also when a few ‘reverse Christian’ groups popped up, with practices specifically designed to mock and rebel against Christianity (those these groups were pretty rare and the NeoPagan community did their best to distance themselves from such groups).
One thing most of these groups have in common, though, is that they adopt the pentagram.
Hollywood – new on the scene in the mid-20th century – adopts the pentagram as well. Hollywood is not interested in accuracy; it’s interested in the shock value of things. They adopt it as a symbol for evil magic and reverse-Christian style devil worship and stick it into just about every horror movie conceivable. This fuels the antics of a lot of bored, rebellious people, particularly teens, who like to spray paint it on park walls and carve it into trees for the shock value.
By the late 20th century, the pentagram is being used and abused all over the place, but it is Hollywood who manages to make an indelible imprint on the social consciousness—and this is further driven by the media with sensationalized reporting during the 1970’s “Satanic Ritual Abuse” hysteria (which has also been debunked).
It’s only the tail end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century in which the pentagram is finally gaining some understanding. Though mainstream society hasn’t completely lost the ‘kneejerk reaction’ to it, the growth of the Pagan Revival and the availability of information via the Internet have helped to quell some of the shock value and fears over it.
WICCAN SYMBOLS: PENTAGRAM VS. PENTACLE
More misconceptions abound, considering the Pagan community more commonly refers to the symbol as a ‘pentacle’ rather than a ‘pentagram’. Many books and websites have tried (and failed) to make the distinction clear. Some assertions I’ve read in passing are:
The pentagram is evil with one point down
the pentacle is good with one point up
The pentagram is just the star
the pentacle is the star with a circle around it
The pentagram is 2-D; the pentacle is 3-D
Actually, all of these answers would be technically incorrect. If you look at the definitions provided above, pentagram and pentacle are synonymous, and have nothing to do with which way the points face, or whether or not they have a circle around them.
A look at the dictionary’s answer to pentacle and you see that the only real difference is one is derived from the Greek, the other from the Latin:
DICTIONARY MEANING OF A PENTACLE:
THE PENTACLE: NOT JUST A FIGURE, BUT A TOOL
A tool arose out of ceremonial magic. This tool was a flat, round disc or paper that was inscribed with protective symbols (a pentagram could be inscribed on it, but there were other symbols they used as well). It is used as an amulet of warding and power because a large part of Ceremonial Magic is invoking and commanding various entities from Judeo-Christian beliefs.
It was called the pentacle or sometimes pantacle. On the Tarot (a Christian-origin divination system), the symbol is used for the suit of coins, and it represents the Element of Earth.
Wicca and other NeoPagan religions borrowed this tool from Ceremonial Magic. They kept the name, but re-defined its purpose since Wiccans don’t believe in Judeo-Christian entities and is not concerned with calling or commanding spirits.
The pentacle (the disc) was adopted as an altar tool, and is used to symbolize the Element of Earth on the altar. It’s also used as a tool for placing sacred items upon it when cleansing, consecrating or charging them.
The Wiccan symbol of choice for this round disc was the pentagram/pentacle. To further confuse things, this tool does not have to be inscribed with a pentagram/pentacle.
TYPICAL MEANING OF A PENTAGRAM/PENTACLE IN WICCA
As far as Wiccan symbols go, the pentagram isn’t a representation of good vs. evil. It’s a symbol of our faith, a symbol of the 5 Elements (one for each point), and the circle (the universe) contains and connects them all. No matter which way it’s facing, circle or no circle, there’s nothing ‘bad’ about it.
Another misconception about the pentagram in Wicca is which way it points. Again, you will find common misinformation that says the pentagram is “evil” if point down and “good” if point up. The point down is most commonly associated with Satanism, because the largest branch of Satanism (Church of Satan, est. 1966) adopted the inverted pentagram with a goat head inside of it as their symbol.
It’s traditionally used both point up and point down. Point up pentagrams are more common; but point down pentagrams are not considered evil at all.
The point-up pentagram represents the spirit ascending above matter. The top point represents the Element of Spirit, the other four points represent the four Spiritual Elements.
When a pentagram is point-down, it represents spirit descending into matter. This is most traditionally used in lineage covens during second degree initiations, because it’s at this point of one’s spiritual path that one turns “inward”. You face and challenge your ‘dark side’ – your base emotions, fears, ignorance, prejudices, etc., you deal with them and develop mastery over yourself.