There are witches in foxholes. But unlike their peers in more mainstream religions, when Wiccan veterans die, they cannot get the symbol of their religion, the pentacle, inscribed on their government-funded headstones.Now, witches, including some on the North Shore, are trying to change that. Two separate groups have asked the federal government to approve their star-in-circle symbol for use on deceased veterans’ grave markers.
Staff reporter Ben Casselman can be reached at (978) 338-2529 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When requesting a new emblem be approved for a headstone, the family must submit:
1. A letter from the “recognized central head or primary contact person” for the religious organization, certifying that:
r The emblem is “currently widely used and recognized as the symbol of the organization or its belief system.”
r The organization supports the addition of the emblem to the approved list.
r The organization “does not promote activity that is illegal or contrary to public policy.”
2. A written description of:
r How the organization’s belief system “is comprehensive in nature and addresses fundamental and ultimate questions.”
r The organization’s practices, such as services, ceremonies, clergy, “or other characteristics of a traditional belief/faith system.”
3. “Information about the size and organizational structure of the organization, including total number of members and the location of the congregations.”
Pentacle or pentagram?
The terms pentacle and pentagram are often used interchangeably, but most Wiccans say they are somewhat different. A pentagram is simply a five-pointed star, while a pentacle surrounds the star with a circle.
Both pentacles and pentagrams are ancient symbols that have been used by many different religions, including Christianity and Judaism. Wiccans trace their use of the symbols back to the ancient Celts, whose earth-based religion serves as a model for many modern pagan groups.
Many people mistakenly associate the pentacle with Satanism. In fact, Satanists generally use an upside-down pentacle, often with a goat’s head in the center.