The Pentacle: a Positive Religious Symbol

Speaker: Maggi Joseph

“The whole universe is manifestly completed and enclosed
by the Decad, and seeded by the Monad,
and it gains movement thanks to the Dyad
and life thanks to the Pentad.”

Welcome – for coming together
Gathering Music
Call to Worship
Hymn #22— “Dear Weaver of Our Lives’ Design”

Please rise up in body or in spirit as you are comfortable and join us in singing hymn #22.

Welcome & Announcements

Good morning! On behalf of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Wichita, welcome to this morning’s service. I am David Brewer, your Service Leader today. I have been a member of this church for 48 years and have most recently served on the Ministerial Search Committee.

We are a community dedicated to acceptance of one another and encouragement towards spiritual growth. Here at First Unitarian Universalist Church, we like to get to know our visitors. At this time, if you are a guest, or have brought a guest today, we invite you to stand and introduce yourself and tell us where you are from. . . . . . Additionally all guests are invited to sign a guest card by the Meeting House door, so that we can send you our newsletter and you can get to know us. A group of us eats lunch together every Sunday at the Panera on Rock Road. Please join us! Would someone who is planning on going there today please stand, so that our visitors can recognize our group when they get to Panera?

In consideration of the people seated around you, please silence your cell phones or alarms.
Please take time to read the announcements printed in the order of service. [If there are special announcements, read them here.]


Dedication of Chalice

We now join with Unitarian Universalist all over North America as we dedicate our chalice:
We gather this hour as a people of faith
With joys and sorrows, gifts and needs.
We light this beacon of love,
For we celebrate the life we share together
Illuminated by wisdom and compassion.
Thank you, Maggi, for lighting the chalice.

Opening Words

About a year ago there was a victory for contemporary pagans when the pentacle was finally approved as a symbol which can be placed on the military gravestones of soldiers who are Wiccan. Wicca is a nature-based religion, one of the most widespread forms of contemporary paganism. A Wiccan group first petitioned the Veteran’s Administration for approval of the pentacle several years ago. Officials at the agency dragged their feet on the request but in the interim approved the symbols of six other religions and belief systems. Eventually Americans United for the Separation of Church and State brought suit on behalf of several Wiccan veterans’ families and the VA finally settled the suit last year without waiting for the case to be decided in court. Our presenter today will be sharing more about the meanings of the Pentacle this morning.

Community – a time for sharing

Personal Joys and Sorrows Shared

Because we are a religious community, we set aside time to share our personal joys and sorrows. This is not a time for ruminations on the world’s events. This is our family news time, a time to share the struggles and triumphs in our daily lives, with this caring religious fellowship. I invite you to come forward at this time. Please let us know your name and share your joy or sorrow and to light a candle if you choose.

If your joy is too private or your sorrow is too heavy for words you are welcome to light a candle in silence. (open the mike to the floor, if someone forgets, please ask his/her name)
***(after all have shared)

May we keep the joys and sorrows of this compassionate community in our hearts, both those unspoken and those shared; for in caring for one another, we are cared for.

We Sing Hymn #389 “Gathered Here”


First Reading from the The Da Vinci Code

I would definitely NOT recommend believing everything you read in The Da Vinci Code, but there is a lot of truth embedded in it along with some fairly wild story telling; it IS, after all, a work of fiction. It is interesting to me that the focus of much debate about the book is the myth about Jesus and Mary Magdalen while I believe the most profound and revolutionary material in the book is actually about the suppression of the sacred feminine in general. At any rate, the following exchange of dialog is accurate on today’s topic of the pentacle.

“It’s a pentacle,” Langdon offered, . . . “One of the oldest symbols on earth. Used over four thousand years before Christ.”

“And what does it mean?”

Langdon always hesitated when he got this question. Telling someone what a symbol “meant” was like telling them how a song should make them feel—it was different for all people. . . .

“Symbols carry different meanings in different settings,” Langdon said. Primarily, the pentacle is a pagan religious symbol.”

Fache nodded. “Devil worship.”

“No,” Langdon corrected, immediately realizing his choice of vocabulary should have been clearer.

Nowadays, the term pagan had become almost synonymous with devil worship—a gross misconception. The word’s roots actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning country-dwellers. “Pagans were literally unindoctrinated country-folk who clung to the old, rural religions of Nature worship. In fact, so strong was the Church’s fear of those who lived in the rural villes that the once innocuous word for “villager”–vilain–came to mean a wicked soul.

“The pentacle,” Langdon clarified, “is a pre-Christian symbol that relates to Nature worship. The ancients envisioned their world in two halves—masculine and feminine. Their gods and goddesses worked to keep a balance of power. Yin and yang. When male and female were balanced, there was harmony in the world. When they were unbalanced, there was chaos,.” Langdon motioned, “This pentacle is representative of the female half of all things—a concept religious historians call the ‘sacred feminine’ or the ‘divine goddess.’

Second Reading from A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe; the Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science: A Journey from 1 to 10

Fivefold symmetry fills a special place in nature’s design lexicon. The five-pointed star’s association with excellence, power, and authority is manifested in nature as beautiful and efficiently designed forms. Pan’s fertility was symbolized by the five-pointed star because the shape is a key to nature’s fecundity and generative powers, providing the freshness, fullness, and fertility of life. The archetype of five-ness expresses itself as living forms and in the attributes of living creatures. It was for this reason that the pentagram star was a symbol of humanity and health to the Pythagoreans, who wrote the name of the goddess Hygeia around its points. Pentagonal symmetry is the flag of life. When it appears in nature we are seeing the archetype of the Pentad expressing life’s excellence and authority.

We can’t help but encounter star and pentagonal structure throughout nature. The overall design of any leaf fits within a stretched or compressed pentagon. Leaves have the same symmetry as hands. Look at any bush or tree and visualize its leaves as open hands catching sunlight.

Or look at the bottom of any familiar fruit to see the pentagonal remnant of its five-petaled flower. The flower of every edible fruit has five petals (though not all five-petaled flowers yield edible fruit). Before you eat an apple or pear, cut it in half at its equator to see the star pattern in which its seeds, the holders of life itself, are arranged.

When we look at any leaf, flower, or fruit we’re seeing the invisible energy web of the archetype made visible as a pattern of living cells.

Offering – stewardship of our church
Call to Offering

Responsive Reading #570 Prayers for the Earth

Introduction of Presenter

Our guest speaker today is my sister, Maggi Joseph, who, like me, grew up in this church. She lives in San Antonio, TX with her partner, Lucy Norton, and their retired church cat, 17 ½ year old Olympia Brown. They are members of First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio where Maggi has served as a member of a Ministerial Search Committee, as Worship Chair, and as Congregational President among other things. She is currently Worship Co-Chair and a member of the Celestial Celebrations Circle Planning Group, a Chapter of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and Lucy is currently serving on the Board as Treasurer. Maggi tells me that Unitarian Universalism has been a place that has both welcomed and challenged her in ways that have helped her to grow as a spiritual person. When she first joined the San Antonio church Paganism was unheard of as a thealogical perspective within Unitarian Universalism and gay church members were all in the closet. Thankfully, a lot has changed in the way of opening minds and hearts since then. She indicates that she is profoundly grateful for the ways in which her own limiting ideas have been challenged by her faith. She was introduced to contemporary paganism through the Cakes for the Queen of Heaven curriculum published by the UUA in 1985. After about ten years of self-guided reading and practice, she decided to enroll in a six-year program leading to a Mistress of Wicca degree and, after completing a successful internship, ordination as a Priestess through the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. She maintains ties to this and other pagan groups in San Antonio while also being a committed Unitarian Universalist.

Presentation “The Pentacle: a Positive Religious Symbol” by Maggi Joseph

The Pentacle is a complex symbol with many layers of meanings. Its history in antiquity is somewhat mysterious, and pre-dates Christianity, but for contemporary pagans the pentacle is a widely accepted symbol for earth. It is used on Tarot cards and on altars as a symbol for earth. Contemporary pagans often wear the pentacle as an item of jewelry; other pagans recognize it as proclaiming the wearer’s pagan orientation. It is probably the single most common pagan symbol. Most pagans ascribe the elements of Spirit, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth to the points but there is not universal agreement on which point represents which element. These elements are all necessary to support basic life and to most contemporary pagans, they are sacred. For many modern pagans the symbol of the pentagram with it’s five interlocking points has come to represent the interconnected forces of the five natural elemental principals of the Universe working in harmony. It is a reminder that these forces exist in relation to each other, each serving a unique purpose and yet are interdependent with each other, each relying on the next for holistic balance to be achieved.

Some of the most important meanings represented by this pentacle are the five senses, the five stages of life, and the presence in our bodies of the five elements in perfect balance—life in balance. Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” is a good example of a pentacle using the human form as a template of sacred geometry. I am going to talk today mostly about the Iron Pentacle, a teaching and practice from a particular tradition of paganism, and one that I have found to be profoundly useful. This core tool or practice was developed and passed down through the teachings of Victor and Cora Anderson and within their tradition it is considered foundational for the work of becoming fully human. My most important teacher, T. Thorn Coyle, was their student. It is both a conceptual and an energetic tool, making use of potent words and freeing their energies for our use. It attempts to reclaim the energies of sex, pride, self, power, and passion—reintegrating in us that which has been taken from us, or distorted beyond recognition, by mainstream culture. As you look at the drawing of the Iron Pentacle on your insert, imagine yourself lying on your back on top of the pentacle. Thus your head is at the apex, sex, your right foot is on pride, etc.

The iron pentacle seems to take its name from the idea that in working with it one is drawing on the energy of the molten iron core of the earth.

It is difficult to try to explain the Iron Pentacle in words because it is more experiential than intellectual. During some periods of my life I have used it as a meditative practice and doing so has helped me transform and balance. All the points are basic human qualities. As we free the energies of each point, we become more healthy human beings within ourselves and also in our relationships. Pentacles are earth energy. One works with the iron pentacle by drawing energy up from the earth and running that energy through the body–following each of the lines through every point and back around the points clockwise enclosing the five-pointed star and creating a personal boundary.

The Iron Pentacle consists of five pieces of our humanity—pieces which mainstream culture tends to inflate, demonize, twist, or condemn. When distorted the Iron Pentacle can take the form of a Gilded Pentacle with the points inflated by egotism and it can also become a Rust Pentacle, with the points deflated of energy.

Sex, the top point in the Iron Pentacle represents the creative life force. It is present in all creative acts. In our culture, sex is both glorified in strange and twisted ways and swept under the rug. It is very confusing as we are simultaneously urged to suppress sexual energy and encouraged to believe that if we aren’t making sexual conquests we are losers. As we reclaim the sex aspect of the iron pentacle, we develop a reserve of life force energy to fuel all of our endeavors: gardening, working, studying, painting, playing music, dancing and having sex. When the life force is fully present, it is available for the whole of one’s life. When the sex point is in the rusted form of impotence or the gilded form of greed, we are out of balance and the life force does not serve us.

The left foot point, Pride, is called in mainstream culture, the greatest sin. Yet feeling proud of accomplishments or of a creation is normal and desirable. I like to think of true Pride as arising out of that sense of “the inherent worth and dignity” of every person when felt within oneself. The point of Pride is our recognition of our own self-worth and the ability to live fully without reservation, allowing our true nature to shine outward while not giving in to the ego’s temptation to compare ourselves to others. In our culture “pride” is mistaken for arrogance. Arrogance is really false pride, the gilded version of the true Iron Pentacle. Whenever we do not have a measure of our own self-worth, we feel shame, the rust point of pride.

At the point of the right hand, we find Self, the essence that represents our full knowledge of our own potential as well as our limitations along with the knowledge of who we are in relation to others and the Universe at large. Somewhere in us, we are who we are. We may bury this or give it up, but with some uncovering, we find it within us singing its song. Much of the self is formed by circumstances, childhood experiences, economic situations and by other’s expectations and desires for us. You can begin to look at how your sense of self has been formed and whether that sense suits the deeper purpose of your actual self, your core essence, the “I am.”

At the left hand is the point of Power. Often we fear power. Power in our culture is usually conceived of as violent or dominating. The power meant here is more truly the power found in an apple seed that can grow into a tree. It is the ability to become what we are meant to become by acting effectively in the world. When we are in touch with our Power we have greater access to our own deep potential. It is the projection of our true selves into the world. It is never manipulative, for true power exists in its own right and finds revelry in cooperative relationships with other beings and points of view. Insecurity breeds a mentality of scarcity. We are taught to feel powerless or to use “power over” to dominate our environment and other people to get money, possessions, and to control others through fear. What a paradox: when we feel powerless, we use force. The misunderstanding and misuse of Power perpetuates systems of dominance—“power over” rather than “power with.” We know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, however shared power is power magnified. We can have power, not by having power over others but by joining our personal power with others in order to act effectively.

At the right foot, we encounter the point of passion. Passion is our ability to be open to the fullest experience and range of feeling. Often in our culture we are encouraged to numb ourselves and to become completely out of touch with our feelings, to buy or eat or otherwise consume rather than take the time to figure out what we really may desire. When we reclaim passion we know what we really feel and we are not easily distracted by the media or anyone’ attempt to manipulate us. Often emotional blocks keep us from following our bliss. Have you ever noticed that we get too “busy” to do what we love? Passion is difficult to keep in balance. In the gilded pentacle, passion becomes obsession. In rust, passion reduces itself to apathy. We don’t feel alive without passion.

The circuit completes back to the point of sex. Taken individually, the points on our personal pentacle represent important aspects of our consciousness that are normally interpreted in a negative light from the standpoint of mainstream society. Even in those times when an energetic relationship to the conceptual point on the pentacle is one that is encouraged by the mainstream, we find the relationship is usually an unhealthy one. One needs only look to the prevalence of sexual imagery in modern advertising, and the unrealistic expectations that it encourages, for an example of this. Our negative relationships are formed and reinforced each time we compare our bodies to those we see in a magazine, each time we feel “selfish” for accepting a compliment or taking pride in our work, and each time we automatically equate power with corruption.

All of the points are related to all of the others. With one point out of balance, all the other points are affected. When we reclaim the qualities of the Iron Pentacle, we are more alive and a more functional human being.


I wanted to offer you to chance to try running iron pentacle energy in your bodies as a meditation today. Obviously, you need not actively participate in this meditation unless you want to.

Some people like to stand and hold out their arms in the star position as they do this meditation, but it is completely possible to do it without moving out of your chair. If you would like to stand, feel free to move to the perimeter of the room where you can do so comfortably.

Breathe deeply. Sit or stand comfortably balanced and with your spine as straight as you can make it. Feet planted firmly and, if standing, with knees slightly flexed. Continue breathing deeply but without any forcing. On your next breath release any concerns or tensions. Bring your mind to the molten core of the earth. On your next breath begin to envision drawing up that molten iron energy from the center of the earth.

Feel that energy rising up into your body and beginning to pool into a point, or ball, in the center of your head behind your forehead or third eye. Name this point “sex.” Begin to call back its energy from anyone or anything outside of yourself. Call it back from lovers and partners. Call it back from people who invite you to feel “not sexy” and from those who help you feel full of sexual energy. Call sex back. This is your energy. This is the life force that runs through all things, making the world vibrant and alive. Let yourself fully experience this energy. Blessed be sex.

Now envision the iron energy running in a glowing line from your head down to your right foot and pooling in a point, or ball, there. Name this point “pride.” Call back the energy of “pride” from the times when you told yourself you couldn’t do something. Call it back from the accomplishments you feel good about. Call pride back from any time your were arrogant. Call it back form anytime you felt unworthy. Call it back. This is your energy; let yourself fully experience it. Blessed be Pride.

Now envision the iron energy running in a glowing line from your right foot to your left hand and pooling in a point, or ball, there. Name this point “self.” Call back the energy of “self” from all the things that your ever wanted to be. Call “self” back from the expectations other people have for you. Call self back from feeling that you must play some role in life. Call it back from the fear of being fully yourself. This is your energy; let yourself feel it fully, completely. Take your place in the world. Blessed be “self.”

Now envision the iron energy running in a glowing line from your left hand across your body through your heart to your right hand and pooling in a point, or ball, there. Name this point “power.” Call back power from the times it has been used against you. Call it back from the times you have used power over someone else. Call it back from times you felt powerless. Call it back from force. Feel yourself filling with strength and beauty. Breathe in power. Blessed be “power.”

Envision the iron energy running in a glowing line from your right hand to your left foot and pooling there. Name this point “passion.” Begin to call back passion from your dreams. Call passion back from your projects that are languishing. Call it back from the causes you believe in and work for.

Feel passion building within you and feel yourself full of glowing passion. Breathe it in. Blessed be “passion.”

Envision the circuit completing as the energy flows back from your left foot to your head. Feel all of the connecting lines vibrating and feeding each other. Flowing from your head (sex) to right foot (pride) to left hand (self) to right hand (power) to left foot (passion) and back to sex. And then running clockwise in a circle from your head (sex) to left hand (self) to left foot (passion) to right foot (pride) to right hand (power) and back to your head (sex).

This is the practice of the Iron Pentacle. I hope you have enjoyed this experience as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. Thank you very much.

For more information and exercises consult T. Thorn Coyle’s book Evolutionary Witchcraft.

Closing – for continuing and moving on

We Sing Hymn #73— “Chant for the Seasons”

Closing Words by Theodore Parker

Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere;
its temple, all space;
its shrine, the good heart;
its creed, all truth;
its ritual, works of love;
its profession of faith, divine living.
Amen, Ashay, Namaste, Shalom, and Blessed Be.

Service leader extinguish the chalice after reading the closing words.