The hexagram, or six sided star is known today as an exclusively Jewish symbol. This has not always been the case though. In this article, we discuss what other faiths and cultures it has represented over the millenia.
Star of David نجمة داوود
The hexagram formed by the intersection of two equilateral triangles known today as the Star of David is the most prominent symbol of the state of Israel, and Judaism today, as can be seen on the flag of Israel.
However, this symbol was not adopted by Judaism nor Zionism as their symbol until recent times.
Magen David مجن داوود
It is said to be "The Shield of David", or Magen David in Hebrew. The Semitic root M-G-N has the same meaning in Hebrew and Arabic.
The symbol was adopted by Jews in Prague in the 17th century, with somesources quoting the 14th century instead. The earliest mention of theMagen is in a 12th century Karaite book by Judah Hadassi. Some sources mention it as a Cannanite symbol, but archeological digs in Palestine have failed to confirm neither a Hebrew nor a Canaanite origin. It was adoped by some American Jewish publications in 1873, and by the Zionist Congress of Basel.
The earliest association with Judaism is a Jewish tombstone in Tarentum, in southern Italy dating from the 3rd century C.E.
It is commonly found on jewelry today.
Seal of Solomon خاتم سليمان
The Seal of Solomon was associted with Solomon, son of David. He is seen in Islam as a prophet, as well as a great miracle maker.
However, in folklore, legends of his miracles took mythical dimensions, with a ring of his that had the "The Greatest Name of God" on it, unknown to anyone else. With it, unimaginable feats can be done. It is mentioned in the Arabian Nights, for example in the Fisherman and the Jinni story, and the Eldest Lady's Tale. It was believed by the superstituous to be a talisman طلسم with magicaland healing qualities.
As a result, the Seal of Solomon was used by Muslims from India to Spain to adorn and decorate the bottom of drinking vessels, coins issued by various dynasties, decorations on mosques and other buildings, and elsewhere. Click on the images on the side to see a larger version.
Several religious and quasi-medical manuscripts show the hexagram in relation to incantations for healing and warding off evil.
For example, the so called Libros Plumbeos, or the Leaden Books, found in the Sacromonte hill in Granada in the 16th century, show the hexagram among writings about the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and some of his disciples. A Morisco Muslim, Ahmad Ibn Qasim al-Hajari writes about them in the first half of the 17th century as if they are Muslim symbols.
In Europe, the symbol also took a non-Jewish character, as can be seen in this collection of building decorations in St. Petersburg, including some churches.
The five pointed star, the pentagram, is also associated with Solomon, being another variant of the Seal of Solomon. Since his persona took magical and mythical qualities, the pentagram also took these qualities. In Medieval Europe, this symbol is adopted by those delving into the realm of the Occult, and is still associated with that notion.
Note that the pentagram was adopted on the flag of Morocco. Although this web site claims it is a symbol of the link between "God and the people", it is most likely due to the pentagram being an ingrained symbol in the society, going back to its attribution to Solomon.
In other disciplines
In Astrology, a formation in the sky that is more of an extrapolation than an observation is called the Star of David or Solomon's seal.
In botany, There is a family of flowering plants that is called Solomon's Seal. They are common garden plants in North America.
The hexagram was not always an exclusively Jewish symbol, apart from the last century and a half. It was used by many cultures, including Arab and Islamic ones.
Resources and Links
- Jewish Encyclopedia article on Magen David.
- Jewish Encyclopedia article on Seal of Solomon.
- Jewish Encyclopedia article on Solomon, with section on Arabic literature on him, from a Jewish viewpoint.
- Wikipedia article on Seal of Solomon.
- Article on the Flag of Israel and the symbolism of the Magen David.