Pagans and non-pagans are familiar with the symbol of the pentacle: the five-pointed star surrounded by a circle. Each point represents one of the elements – fire, water, earth, air and spirit or ether. I have always understood the pentacle to be both a symbol of balance and protection. The circle delineates the worlds and in ritual creates a sacred and safe place ‘between the worlds’ in which to work. One of my rituals of the elements involves creating the presence of each element through a candle flame (fire), incense (air), a bowl of water (water) and a rock or stone (earth). After calling the presence of each element, I myself take on the shape of the five-pointed star, arms out straight and legs spread; I then embody ether and unite all elements within me creating both internal balance and external balance.
So, bearing that in mind, wouldn’t inverting the pentacle be a direct attempt to subvert balance, to consciously call on chaos? Perhaps. If the upright pentacle represents the light of balance and harmony, the inverted pentacle could be said to represent the dark, chaotic aspects of creation (how would there be evolutionary ‘progress’ without the chaotic aberration that took the monkeys from the trees and pushed them to stand, farm, build cities, create high culture and organise mass destruction of its own species through war et al?). The fearful striving of white-light pagans to create a world of harmony, creativity and perfect love to me smacks of chasing the sun ever westwards trying to outpace the sunset. This is unnatural. The sun both rises and sets. In the beginning there was void and darkness and light issued through the darkness. Cut out the dark, and you may as well perform a full clitoridectomy of the soul. Instead of running ever westwards trying to outpace the shadows, try and find a place to sit and let the light and the dark wash over you in the natural rhythms of the universe. There is a natural cycle of both and attuning ourselves to these rhythms – knowing both the light and the dark – is the fully integrated path to knowledge. Wearing an inverted pentacle to me is a reminder of the dark in a world that denies the darker aspects and darker power of the soul.
An upright pentacle is representative of the mastery of spirit over matter: the single upward point being spirit. An inverted pentacle is then said to be representative of the mastery or primacy of matter over spirit. We live in a world heavily influenced by Plato’s notions of dualism and the prejudice that matter is less than spirit, and man’s path on earth is to strive ever closer to spirit and further away from matter; we poo-poo materialists and consumerists of whatever type of physical pleasure as being less than we of the higher, spiritual mind – we see beyond that, we are civilised and free from such needs, whereas they are caught in the mire of deadly sins that will hold them back from union with god. But can we really say we have conquered the dark, when we hide in the light and always avert our eyes from the moving shadows? You can turn away, but the shadow is still behind you – unknown, unexperienced and exercising its power over you (through fear) even from the other side of your protective circle…
This gnostic perspective of the emanation of spirit from god, and that the further away from god and spirit we are, the more entrenched we are in materialism, has been fully assumed by many major religions and to a great extent by paganism itself. Paganism certainly advocates a conceptual body-spirit unity and in fact paganism is known (amongst non-pagans in particular) for a profligacy and orgiastic freedom of physical enjoyment denied to Christians, for example. In fact, how many of us have tried to convince non-pagan friends that our ‘religion’ [sic] is not (just) about dancing naked and shagging an incarnation of Pan out in the local woods, only to lend them a pagan book full of naked initiation rites and Beltane celebrations skyclad? Doh! And yet, I still sense a tremendous split and that the primacy of spirit over matter is very much a ruling principle. Is it so inconceivable to think that spirit can be obtained through the material and the material through spirit? Should we always strive upwards and never down? Shouldn’t we aim to be masters of both realms?
An inverted pentacle reminds me in this world of light that the dark is still there both inside and outside of myself. I do not deny either the light or the dark, and I remember that the beginning of time was one of darkness before light. There was nothing, an absence of light, an absence even of that thing called dark … but Dark is the closest concept we have for connecting with the ineffable, infinite Nothingness from which Everything came. In the dark we are vulnerable, helpless, fearful and blind: and so we stand bare and raw before the Ultimate Source. In the light we feel secure, known and safe … as long as we keep our eyes on the light and don’t look behind at the dark; so in essence, a sole focus on the light is a cry of fear against the dark. It has greater power over you, than if you turned to face it, know it and be known. Only then can you truly attain unity with All and let both sunrise and sunset pass over you … fearlessly.