It is common within witchcraft, wicca, and paganism to confuse the pentacle and pentagram. Although there are several arguments that go around saying they are one in the same, this is not exactly true.
Through many different historic texts through the ages, the pentacle and pentagram have come to represent different meanings depending on the faithful who hold these symbols in holy light.
This posting will summarize the differences between the pentacle and pentagram
A pentagram is a five pointed star and means "five line" or "five lines" which stems from the Greek word pentagrammos. The pentagram was used extensively in Greece and Babylonia. To the Greeks and Babylonians, the pentagram stood for magical energies and associations. Those who wore a pentagram or showed a pentagram adorned on their clothing would show off without fear their practice of witchcraft freely.
Neo Pagans are also heavily associted with the pentagram, and it is commonly tied to a deity The Horned God.
Ironically, the Christians once symbolized the pentagram as the five wounds of Jesus.
The pentagram is often represented with Venus the planet and Venus the Goddess. Ancient astronomers when viewing into space every eight years could make a constallation around Venus in the shape of a five pointed star.
By the mid-19th century a further distinction had developed amongst occultists regarding the pentagram's orientation. With a single point upwards it depicted spirit presiding over the four elements of matter, and was essentially "good".
However the other way up was considered evil. A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates.
This is perhaps where the pentagram started to become synomous with Satanism and evil. Satanist use a pentagram with two points up, often inscribed in a double circle, with the head of a goat inside the pentagram. This is referred to as the Sigil of Baphomet and is now often associated with Lucifer or Satan and has demonic meanings.
Many Neopagans, especially Wiccans, use the pentagram as a symbol of their faith similar to the Christian cross or the Jewish Star of David. It is not, however, a universal symbol for Neopaganism, and is rarely used in actual rituals and spells that Pagans and Wiccans actively practice in. It is more of a religious symbolism that is commonly explained by reference to the basic understanding that the five points of the pentagram represent the four elements air, earth, fire, and water with the addition of Spirit as the uppermost point. As a representation of the elements, the pentagram is involved in the Wiccan practice of summoning the elemental spirits of the four directions at the beginning of a ritual.
The outer circle of the "circumscribed" pentagram is sometimes interpreted as binding the elements together or bringing them into united harmony with each other. The Neopagan pentagram is generally displayed with one point up, mostly because of the "inverted" goat's head pentagram's association with Satanism; however, within traditional forms of Wicca a pentagram with two points up is associated with the Second Degree Initiation and in this context has no relation to Satanism.
Wiccan and Pagans do not believe in Satan or what Satan traditionally represents. They instead worship gods such as Gaia, The Horned God, and often Norse, Greek, and Egyptian gods.
A pentacle in all definately is actually considered an amulet that is used for magical invocations, rituals, and spells. The pentacle is meant to be a symbol with which the spirit draws upon for added strength and energies for these spells and rituals.
The most famous historical pentacle is the Seal of Solomon. Solomon was historically linked to being one of the greatest wizards that ever lived. He is often revered by wiccans and pagans and in grimoires and various texts, there are different styles and designs of Solomon's pentacles. Each of them that he had crafted were used for various difference rituals and spells that he would perform.
Even though pentacle and pentagram are similar in spelling, pentacle does not represent "five" rather, it represents magical energies and any design or shapes could be considered pentacles. If they were drawn with five points they were often referred to as hexagrams, not pentagrams.
Pentacles were often used for protection against demons and negative entities. They were used and still are used extensively for these purposes within paganism and wicca. They can either be adorned around the neck as a necklace or charm, or they can be used as altar tiles or patens for altars.
Pentacles are also considered important to draw or attract spirits. Within Wicca and Paganism, the pentacle can be used as a center point with which to open the doorway for spirits to step forth into this plane. Many rituals and spells often call for a pentacle of some form to be within the center of the sacred circle as a focal point for the spirits to be drawn to.
It is often said that once a spirit has been summoned, they are "tied" to the pentacle's center often like a statue being held by a base, the spirit is tied to the center of the pentacle and cannot leave or move beyond that point.
Solomon commonly employed this method when either summoning spirits or to entrap them. He was famously known for binding and sending back evil spirits and demons to whence they came, and he often used the above method to do this.
Pentacles are also popular for appearing within the Tarot. The pentacle within the tarot replaced the coin reference within the minor Arcana. The pentacles in tarot represent the Earth or financial situations depending on the meaning of the cards to the reader.
Resources and Information:
If you would like to view various pentacles and pentagrams in their many different forms, you can do so here:
Pentacles & Pentagrams