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ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

Ancient symbols: The pentagram

It has been associated with perfection, the five elements, the five wounds of Jesus, and even witchcraft. The pentagram, also called the pentacle or pentalpha, is a manifestation of the divine number five, which has been revered since ancient times.

The Babylonians used the pentagram as a sign of protection. In ancient Israel, it was symbolic of the city of Jerusalem and was inscribed on King Solomon's ring (which may or may not have existed), as the Hebrews equated the pentagram with the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. In medieval times, a curved version of the pentagram was called "the endless knot" and symbolized the infinite.

Almost all religions and many ancient cultures have used the pentagram as a symbol. Some of that can be traced to the simplicity of the design--it can be drawn with a single pen stroke--and, some, more esoterically, to the mathematical perfection of its geometry. (It is said the Pythagoreans, or followers of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, used a pentagram as a symbol to identify themselves at secret meetings.)

More recently, the pentagram has been usurped by Wiccans for witchcraft and magic, so it has gotten a bad rap, so to speak. But to call it a cultic symbol without knowing its true origins and significance is a mistake.

The pentagram appears quite a bit in my second book, The Riddle of Solomon (out July 1), with some references to ancient mysticism and some to the occult. I don't want to give too much away, but I'll just say it is the key to deciphering the "riddle."
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