Pentagram or Pentacle?

I've gotten this particular email a number of times in a number of incarnations from well-meaning but misguided people. I get similar messages about ManWoman as well, regarding the swastika — those have mostly disappeared though as people learn more.

From: nice_dream@***
Subject: An offensive error in your page.

Under the Scarification section of your webpage, under Misc. Cuttings (the top left picture link), on the 2nd and 3rd picture pages there is an error that has offended me and will probably offend others. I am probably the only person who will actually take the time to write to you about it. The word "Pentagram" is used on one of the cuttings of an upright star. The correct term is "Pentacle". The marking shown is a Wiccan symbol and is used by many Pagans. The upright star is a symbol for spirit, air, earth, fire, and water, all of the elements of our religion. If the star were to be flipped it would be called a Pentragram (which is the word/symbol used in Satanism). By associating the word "Pentagram" with the picture of a "Pentacle" your website is helping to further the miseducation of the public about Witchcraft, and is helping contribute misconceptions about our religion. Please change the caption for this picture, and help everyone know that we aren't Satan Worshippers after all.
Thank you.
Mandi*** ***

My reply was:

Hate to break it to you, but you're just repeating propaganda and misinterpreted history typical of neopagans that don't really have any understanding of the history of Wicca or the history of the pentagram or the meaning of the word — sort of like how many Christians don't understand anything except some messed up rhetoric told to them by the minister.

A pentagram is a five pointed star, with no indication of orientation. If it's called an “inverted pentagram” the two points are up. If not, it's called an “upright pentagram”. The words pentagram and pentacle are interchangeable — look it up in a dictionary and under pentacle you'll quite likely see “see pentagram”. It's only modern (20th century) neopagans and satanists who have attempted to create a difference between the two. It should be noted that this is primarily a political action, and has no real basis in history as either a purely Wiccan or “Satanic” symbol. Like many other “basic” symbols, it was used by numerous other groups, the Greeks, Egyptians, Christians, Babylonians, Jews, etc.

Why don't I just label it a “Pentalpha”? That's what the Greeks called it, since it was composed of five A's.

In any case, if you want to assign religious value to it on some level, that's your problem. But don't try and tell me that a five pointed star isn't a pentagram. Next you'll want to tell me that I can't call a four-sided shape a square any more — it has to be called a “sacred google box”.

If someone sends me a picture and says “this is a tattoo of my holy cross”, I'll label it as such. If someone tells me that the cross in fact means they're straightedge, I'll label it as is. But if someone doesn't tell me what they'd like theirs called, I'll just say what it is.


Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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