Signs and Symbols

The six-pointed Star of David, or hexagram, symbolising Judaism is familiar to most of us. The menorah or seven-branched candlestick is also heavily featured in the study of the Qabalah. This star shape is actually made up of two opposed interlaced triangles, and Jews have actually been using this symbol for only a relatively short time, although it appears to have no actual religious meaning. This symbol has been in existence for many thousands of years, and is thought to be useful as a protector. To those who study paganism or witchcraft, it symbolises the speadeagled male body, and being made of two equilateral interlaced triangles, it also shows a balance between masculinity and femininity, the upward pointing triangle being symbolic of man and the downward pointing triangle being symbolic of woman. For the Jews, this star has an emotional impact. During the Second World War, Jews in countries controlled by the Nazis were forced to wear this sign on their clothing as a method of identification. To many, especially those of Polish origin, this gave them the opportunity to turn a negative situation into something more positive - they used costly materials to make their Star of David, thus making it a symbol of pride in being Jewish. Thought to be representative of Fire and Water, active and passive, positive and negative, heaven and Earth, this symbol became connected with thoughts of peace, perfect balance and the union of the higher and lower selves which everybody strives to attain. To students of yoga, this shape represents the heart centre in the chakras, and the powers of the air. The number 6, linking with Venus and with love, linking with the colour indigo, is considered to be a very spiritual number. This double triangle is connected to the desire to share and desire to receive, and Qabalists will link it to Tiph-Ereth.

Hebrew MAGEN DAVID ("Shield of David"), Magen also spelled MOGEN, Jewish symbol composed of two overlaid equilateral triangles that form a six-pointed star. It appears on synagogues, Jewish tombstones, and the flag of the State of Israel. The symbol--which historically was not limited to use by Jews--originated in antiquity, when, side by side with the five-pointed star, it served as a magical sign or as a decoration. In the Middle Ages the Star of David appeared with greater frequency among Jews but did not assume any special religious significance; it is found as well on some medieval cathedrals. The term Magen David, which in Jewish liturgy signifies God as the protector (shield) of David, gained currency among medieval Jewish mystics, who attached magical powers to King David's shield just as earlier (non-Jewish) magical traditions had referred to the five-pointed star as the "seal of Solomon." Kabbalists popularised the use of the symbol as a protection against evil spirits. The Jewish community of Prague was the first to use the Star of David as its official symbol, and from the 17th century on the six-pointed star became the official seal of many Jewish communities and a general sign of Judaism, though it has no biblical or Talmudic authority. The star was almost universally adopted by Jews in the 19th-century as a striking and simple emblem of Judaism in imitation of the cross of Christianity. The yellow badge that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe invested the Star of David with a symbolism indicating martyrdom and heroism -- Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica.