A pentagram (sometimes known as a pentalpha or pentangle or a star pentagon) is the shape of a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes.
In medieval Christian tradition, the pentagram could represent the five wounds of Jesus. In the Renaissance it came to be associated with magic and occultism, and is also found as a magic symbol in the folklore of early modern Germany (Drudenfuss). In modern use, it is sometimes used as representing the Seal of Solomon, and it has religious significance in various new religious movements (including certain forms of Neopaganism) as well as in occultism.
The word pentagram comes from the Greek word πεντάγραμμον (pentagrammon), from πέντε (pente), “five” + γραμμή (grammē), “line”. The word “pentacle” is sometimes used synonymously with “pentagram” The word pentalpha is a learned modern (17th-century) revival of a post-classical Greek name of the shape.
In early (Ur I) monumental Sumerian script, a pentagram glyph served as a logogram for the word ub, meaning “corner, angle, nook; a small room, cavity, hole; pitfall” (this later gave rise to the cuneiform sign UB composed of five wedges, further reduced to four in Assyrian cuneiform ).
The word Pentemychos (πεντέμυχος lit. “five corners” or “five recesses”) was the title of the cosmogony of Pherecydes of Syros. Here, the “five corners” are where the seeds of Chronos are placed within the Earth in order for the cosmos to appear.
In Neoplatonism, the pentagram was said to have been used as a symbol or sign of recognition by the Pythagoreans, who called the pentagram ὑγιεία hugieia “health”.
The pentagram was used in ancient times as a Christian symbol for the five senses. Or of the five wounds of Christ. A Christian use of the pentangle occurs in the 14th-century English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which the symbol decorates the shield of the hero, Gawain. The unnamed poet credits the symbol’s origin to King Solomon, and says the symbol is key to understanding the work. The poet explains that each of the five interconnected points represents a virtue tied to a group of five. Gawain is keen in his five senses, dextrous in his five fingers, faithful to the salvation provided through the Five Wounds of Christ, takes courage from the five joys that Mary had of Jesus, and exemplifies the five virtues of knighthood.