Not to dwell on Satanism, but the morning after my last post on the topic, while out on my morning jog, I came across a pentagram incised in the pea gravel of the bike path. Then another. Lest there was any lingering doubt that this had to do with the local school’s Satan club, a few feet further along a 666 appeared. None of this was there the day before and, given that folks my age are too busy to be out scraping sigels in the sand, I suspect that it might’ve been someone younger. Dare I say, school-aged. Protesting or promoting I couldn’t tell. As I jogged, I fell to thinking about pentagrams. They’re not inherently evil and actually have an interesting history. For most of that history it was morally neutral, if not a positive sign.
In the 1800s, during Romanticism’s heyday, it was supposed that an inverted pentagram—one with two points up instead of one at the top—was a sign of evil. It was also in the 1800s that the contemporary king of outrage, Aleister Crowley, began what would eventually morph into modern Wicca. Crowley liked to refer to himself as “the wickedest man on earth,” at least among his friends. The upside-down pentagram was seen to represent a goat’s head, and if you’ve read my book you’ll know that some groups have long associated goats with demons. Ironically, during the Nixon Administration the Grand Old Party began to use inverted pentagrams on their elephant logo. Evangelicals who otherwise object to this “Satanic” symbol seem quite okay with it branding their political party. Truth in advertising, I guess.
The thing about symbols is that they only have the power we give them. The five points of a star symbol match well the pentagonal symmetry that we often see in nature: sea stars, sand dollars, strawberry flowers, and eucalyptus seed pods. It’s pleasing to the eye for creatures with five fingers and five toes. There’s a rightness about it, even if it doesn’t look a thing like the stars in the sky. Is it Satanic? No, only to those who believe it to be so. Are there Satanists trying to take over public schools? No. That doesn’t mean people don’t think they aren’t. (That last sentence is all tied up in nots, I guess.) Symbols, by their nature, contain the meaning we assign to them. They say to me that kids pay attention to what adults do, so if we act grown-up perhaps—just perhaps—they will aspire to do the same.