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Stargazing at night is an amazing experience, but do you know the symbolisms of these beautiful lights in the sky? Throughout history, stars have been symbols of divine guidance and protection. Some even believe that they tell stories and reveal messages. Star symbols have been popular since ancient times and hold deep symbolism. From cultural to religious contexts, we have rounded up the most popular star symbols and their meanings.
The North Star
In the past, the North Star guided sailors and travelers in the northern hemisphere, as it’s more accurate than any compass. In fact, it remains in almost the same spot, marking the location of the North Pole. Think of it as a landmark or sky marker that helps in determining direction. If you’re at the North Pole, the North Star would be directly overhead.
At present, Polaris is our North Star—but it hasn’t always been the North Star and won’t always be When the Egyptians built the pyramids, their North Star was Thuban, a star in the constellation Draco. At the time of Plato, around 400 BC, Kochab was the North Star. By 14,000 CE, the star Vega of the constellation Lyra will be the North Star.
Contrary to popular belief, the North Star isn’t the brightest star in the night sky, but it can be easily found. Polaris belongs to the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. However, it’s easiest to locate by finding the Big Dipper’s pointer stars Merak and Dubhe, as they always point to the North Star at any time of the night and on any day of the year.
For African Americans, the North Star symbolized freedom, as it guided their escape to the northern states and Canada. Some also view it as a symbol of constancy, though Polaris does move a little in the night sky. It’s regarded as a symbol of hope, inspiration and one’s direction in life. After all, finding the North Star will guide you to where you’re headed.
The Morning Star
In astronomy, the Morning Star refers to the planet Venus, though it’s also nicknamed the Evening Star. This is because the planet rises in the morning a few hours before the Sun, fades away in the daytime sky, and then shines brightly after the Sun sets. Even though it’s a planet, it’s far more dazzling than the stars in the sky.
The ancient Egyptians and Greeks thought that Venus was two separate objects. Due to this thinking, the planet was called Phosphorus in the morning and Hesperus in the evening, which mean the bringer of light and the star of the evening respectively. Eventually, Pythagoras figured out that they were really one and the same.
In Native American culture, the Morning Star is associated with courage, fertility, and the resurrection of past heroes. The Pawnee even had a Morning Star ceremony that involved human sacrifice, with the belief that the victim’s spirit would ascend to the sky to become a star. In some contexts, the Morning Star also symbolizes hope, guidance, new beginnings and protection.
One of the oldest symbols in the world, the hexagram is a simple geometric shape made up of two equilateral triangles. You can’t draw the symbol without lifting and repositioning your pen. It’s a 6-pointed star, in which the two individual and overlapping triangles often represent the union of the opposites. However, it has been used by a number of religions and belief systems, so its meaning also varies in different cultures.
Rather than two overlaid triangles, the unicursal hexagram is a 6-pointed star that can be drawn in one continuous movement. Like a regular hexagram, it also represents the union between opposites, but more about the ultimate unity of the two halves rather than the two joining together. In the Thelema religion, a group that focuses on magic, occult and the paranormal, the symbol is drawn with a five-petaled flower at the center, symbolizing God’s union with man.
The pentagram is a 5-pointed star drawn in a continuous line. In ancient Babylon, it was used as a talisman against evil forces. In ancient Greece, the Pythagoreans also used the pentagram as the emblem of their brotherhood. They called it hugieia which means health, perhaps after the name of Greek goddess of health, Hygeia.
In 1553, German polymath Henry Cornelius Agrippa used the pentagram in his textbook of magic, and the points of the star symbol became associated with the five elements—spirit, water, fire, earth and air. The pentagram became an accepted symbol of protection and exorcism, driving away evil.
In 1856, the upside-down pentagram became a symbol of evil, as it’s thought to overturn the proper order of things. Its meanings also represent the opposite, as the elements of fire and earth were at the top while the spirit was at the bottom.
Commonly used as a magic or occult symbol, a pentacle is a pentagram set in a circle. In Wicca, it represents the five elements, but the addition of the circle signified the balance and harmony of elements. Eventually, French poet Eliphas Levi associated the inverted pentacle with the devil, as it has resemblance to the horns of a goat. Because of this, the inverted pentacle has been used in popular media as an omen of evil.
Star of David
In Judaism, the six-pointed star symbol is referred to as the Star of David, a reference to the biblical king. It’s a hexagram symbol that appears on synagogues, tombstones and the flag of Israel. In the Middle Ages, it didn’t have any religious significance, as it was originally used as architectural decoration. Eventually, Kabbalists popularized its use as a symbol of protection against evil spirits.
By the 11th century, the six-pointed star made appearances in Jewish texts and manuscripts. By the 17th century, the Jews of Prague incorporated it in the design of their flags, in recognition of their part in saving the city from Swedish invaders. Nowadays, the Star of David represents the Jewish faith, particularly their beliefs on creation, revelation and redemption. It’s the most popular Jewish symbol.
Seal of Solomon
The Seal of Solomon is often described as a hexagram, but other sources describe it as a pentagram set within a circle. It’s thought to be a magical seal owned by King Solomon of Israel. The symbol has roots in Jewish religion, but it later became significant in the Islamic faith and Western occult groups. When associated with the biblical character Solomon, it represents wisdom and divine grace. In occultism, it’s generally regarded as a symbol of magic and power.
In Hinduism, the Shatkona is a six-pointed star that represents the union of the male and the female. The upward pointing triangle stands for Shiva, the masculine side of their god, while the downward pointing triangle represents Shakti, the feminine side of their god. In general, it symbolizes Purusha (the supreme being) and Prakriti (mother nature). It’s commonly used in Hindu yantra, as well as in Jain and Tibetan mandalas.
Rub El Hibz
Also known as the Islamic star, the Rub El Hizb is an 8-pointed star made by two overlapping squares, with a small circle at the middle. In Arabic calligraphy, it’s used to mark the end of a chapter. It’s often used in the Quran as the division of the text into passages for recitation and memorization. It remains an important symbol for the religious and cultural life of Muslims.
Star of Lakshmi
In Hinduism, Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth associated with fortune, luxury, power and beauty. The Star of Lakshmi is an 8-pointed star formed by two overlapping squares. It’s used by Hindus to symbolize Ashtalakshmi, the eight forms of wealth. During the Diwali festival, it’s thought that the goddess visits each house to bless families with great wealth and luxuries.
In pagan iconography, the elven star is a sacred symbol used in witchcraft. It’s a 7-pointed star drawn in seven straight strokes, and is also called the Faery star, heptagram, or septogram. It’s thought to represent the four directions—North, East, South, West—as well as the dimensions Above, Below and Within.
Star of Life
A universal symbol of emergency medical care, the Star of Life is a six-pointed star with the staff of Asclepius at the center. The rod and the serpent represent Asclepius the Greek god of medicine, while each arm of the star represents the system’s functions. In the US, it’s used by paramedics and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel who have a vital role in public safety.
The Shooting Star
Shooting stars might look like stars that shoot across the sky, but they’re actually falling meteors that burn and shine from space. In ancient Rome, falling stars were thought to be pieces of heavenly shields that protect the world. The indigenous people of Australia even believed that they helped the dead climb to the heavens. Some cultures regard them as divine gifts and sacred objects.
Some people still wish upon a shooting star, in hopes of making their dreams come true. The superstition can be traced back to the times of Greco-Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy, who believed that they were a sign that the gods were looking down and listening to wishes. Nowadays, shooting stars remain associated with good luck and protection.
The above is a list of some of the most well-known star symbols, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list. Some of these symbols have changed in meaning over time and have become more negative in their representations. In general stars are associated with achievement, dreams, inspirations, hope, guidance and protection, but certain specific depictions can represent evil, the devil, magic, and superstition.