Dear Reverend Valantasis,
I’m writing to express my sincere regret over the recent defacement of your church property. Such vandalism was a thoughtless violation of your sacred space, for which there is no excuse. At the same time, my desire for interfaith understanding has also led me to share a few thoughts.
As I watched Fox8News last evening, and read the Canton Repository’s article regarding the vandalism, I was struck by the persistent use of the phrases “Satanic pentagram” and “Satanic symbol” to describe the emblem left on St. George’s property. Although you and the reporter shared equally in this articulation, I wondered whether either of you were aware of the rich history and common usage of the five point star known as the pentagram. While it’s tempting for some to lump the pentagram into an all-inclusive category of “Occult/Satanism/Witchcraft,” the truth is not so simple. As a self-identified witch (i.e., not a Satanist), I wear the emblem in an upright position. I do so with a reverence for the five elements of life that each point symbolizes to me: earth, air, fire, water and spirit.
The five point star that graces my neck, hearth and home may have originated with worship of the goddess Kore, but that didn’t stop Judeo-Christianity from incorporating the emblem. Not only was the pentagram inscribed on King Solomon’s ring, its five points were said to symbolize the five books of the Pentateuch (i.e., the Torah). Just as Ostara eggs, mistletoe, holly and other pagan holiday customs were adopted by Christians, the pentagram was also appropriated by some churches to symbolize the five wounds of Christ, or alternatively, the five senses. Remnants of its Christian use remain, including the stained glass pentagram that appears on the Pilgrim Christian Church in Chardon, Ohio. I’m reasonably certain that parishioners would take issue with the description of it as a “Satanic symbol.”
It wasn’t until the mass paranoia of the Middle Ages that the pentagram was viewed with negativity. As suspected witches were tortured and killed, the pentagram was increasingly portrayed as an inverted sign with the two points upward. Eventually Satanists adopted this inverted pentagram, often showed with a goat’s head, as the Sigil of Baphomet. Since Fox8 News did not feature an aerial shot of St. George’s grounds, the positioning of the pentagram on church property was unclear (i.e., which points were facing the church). If the vandals positioned the star with the intent to invert the emblem, it’s possible you are correct and that it is truly a “Satanic symbol.” Otherwise it appears to be an insensitive prank at your parishioners’ expense. It should also be noted that some Satanists invert the cross, but I think you would agree that the appearance of a cross around your neck during holy services does not render it a “Satanic symbol.”
In addition to wearing a pentagram, I attempt to honor the Wiccan Rede in my life: “An it harm none, do what ye will.” This is reflected by my dietary choices, personal relationships, and community activities. Just as St. George has hosted events like the recent Men’s Cook-off for Charities, I share your desire to contribute to the community. Not only have I dedicated my life to the elimination of domestic violence and abuse in all its forms, but I participate in events that raise awareness on issues like animal cruelty, breast cancer, and poverty. Per my ethics and interest in healing, I’m the type of person who would normally assist you in repairing the churchyard and rejuvenating the sacred space from the vandals’ violation.
In closing, I would like to thank you for taking the time to let me share my insights. Interfaith understanding often begins with small steps- steps that are vital in preventing conflict on local and world stages. I wish you peace, kindness, and gratitude.
Melissa K. Dean, Esq.