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+3 votes
I see the black star used as an anarchist symbol. I imagine it’s the counterpart to the red star, just like the black flag, but I can’t find any information on its meaning or history.
by (2.5k points)

There's a fascinating interpretation of this question in Occult Features of Anarchism. When I get a chance to find my copy of the book, I'll add an answer here.

I need to pick that book up.. never heard of it. I’m especially interested in that relationship and was curious if there was any relation. Was just reading Spiritual Destinations of an Anarchist today.

The black five pointed star specifically in relation to anarchism? If not, it has been used to represent solidarity. 

In relation to the occult, Aleister Crowley got the five pointed solid black star from The Commodores' Signal Book and Vade Mecum by Thomas Manning.

Zubaz— yea, the star as an anarchist symbol. Do you know the history of its use as a symbol of solidarity?

Where does Crowley use the solid black five-pointed star?

It's sometimes used in the Thelema religion he created. I remember reading in one of his books where he was talking about the black star and The Commodores' Signal Book and Vade Mecum. The book is literally just compilation/guide book/almanac from 1874 containing various signals, flags, symbols...etc for mariners and sailors while they are out on the heavy seas. Crowley read it and the liked idea behind these two flags of some oceanliner. 

My best guess on the meaning of the anarchist black star version probably means the samething as the black flag does. I think it's more about the color than the shapes containing the color. Like the black star means African soliderity to African folk and people of African descent. The black in the pan African flag means the samething. Then there's Islam the OG of the black flag Islam. Can't top the original gangsta. The Hadith explains that it means legit struggle, victory, and fact bearers of Islam. Then there is the prophecy aspect of it. The prophecy is that an army will emerge from Khruasan (modern day Afghanistan) flying the black flag. From the emegerence of that army, Mahdi the Messiah will rise and Prophet Jesus will return both bearing the black flag alongside the army. They will bring forth a utopia and at the end the Prophet Jesus must die so the idea of the Trinity will be smashed. Mahdi the Messiah ultimate goal is to end the Trinity once and for all. That could be the plot behind a pretty good buddy/cop ultimate betrayel action film. Anyways, the Hadith says Muslims are to support and/or join the army of the black flag. the color black inside a shape also meeans the samething. Soooo... anarchism wise, the black star means the same as the anarchist black star. You've probably seen Islamists with one. Sometimes they write on it too. It would not surprise me if anarchists just jacked dat shit from Islam. 

Here's something neat, the first people that really used the black flag were the Abbasid revolutionaries and they carried out a revolution. So the black flag has been part of a successful revolution. That gots to count for something.

When I have less free time, I'll try to figure out which Crowley book it was and to solve my own mystery. Vexillology books maybe interest of symbols on stuff like banners or flags.

i always find occult meanings to be fascinating. One analogy to the black flag i found that was very interesting was how in the tibetan book of the dead black "is the color of aversion", which i interpret meaning as the person dieing is being reborn to embrace all the things that conventional society considers dangerous and foreboding (think the color of night and the color of a rotting corpse...). I dont know if that has anything to do with tibetan monks, but it also plays into the stereotype that anarchists never approve of anything, they love to say the word "no"...

some graphic design specialists also say that black is a symbol of authority, which also makes sense in an anarchist context because some believe that the universe is governed by "order through chaos"....

1 Answer

+1 vote

According to Erica Lagalisse in Occult Features of Anarchism, the star was directly borrowed from European occult traditions:

Communist and anarchist symbolism, such as the red star and the circle-A, date back to this period and also have Masonic origins. The star, which hosts an endless charge of esoteric meanings in both the Hermetic and Pythagorean traditions, had been adopted in the eighteenth century (some say seventeenth) by Freemasons to symbolize the second degree of membership in their association—that of Comrade (Compañero and Camarade in my sources). Among socialists, it was first used by members of the Memphite lodges and then the IWA. Regarding the circle-A, early versions like the nineteenth-century logo of the Spanish locale of the IWA are clearly composed of the compass, level, and plumb line of Masonic iconography, the only innovation being that the compass and level are arranged to form the letter A inside of a circle[6]. Over time these symbols have developed a new complement of meanings—many twenty-first-century anarchists don’t even know that the star used by communists, anarchists, and Zapatistas alike is the pagan pentagram. They are not reminded of the mathematical perfection of cosmogony when they behold it, or of Giordano Bruno’s geometric arts of memory, nor do they necessarily realize there is a genealogical link between the (neo)pagan May Day celebration and today’s anarchist May Day marches. Nowadays the May Day march is taken to commemorate the Haymarket massacre (1886), yet it is no coincidence that there was much upheaval in Chicago that day, because revolutionaries had been honoring May Day since before the time of the Illuminati, which was also founded on this symbolic day. In the nineteenth century, these symbolic associations were well known by those involved, however, and their adoption reflected how much they resonated with mystical and historical weight.

So what was the meaning of the star which nineteenth-century anarchists would have understood immediately but which has been forgotten? For an in depth discussion of this question you would want to delve into the literature from the Western magical tradition (I can definitely recommend Gordon White's Star.Ships for an excellent discussion of the meaning of the star in the Western magical tradition, with some clear anarchist resonances to boot!), but the very short answer is that the stars are the dead, the ancestors.

The star is black (as with the other black anarchist symbols -- flag, mask, etc), because black is the color of death, and also of negation, the unseen and the invisible.

So taking these together we see that the black star symbolizes the dead who are forgotten and erased by history.

by (20.0k points)

I downloaded and read that ebook you mentioned. The part you quoted from Lagalisse it is Lagalisse just making shit up. She cites the article De masones y revolucionarios by Alberto Frenandez that's from some kind  European college/university yearbook. The thing is is that article doesn't support, nor allude to what Lagalisse is claiming. That's bad when the source cited doesn't corroborate the author's claims whatsoever. To make it worse, the part she's citing is like 3 or 4 completely different possible answers to a question Fernadez classmates and/or professors put forth to Fernadez as like a brainstorming activity. I downvoted because of the part you quoted since there's nothing whatsoever supporting what Lagalisse wrote. If, if, if there is something to support her claim, she hasn't provided it. So, seems plausible she likely she made it up.

Did you read the claim she made about Kropotkin. That Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was inspired by Japanese "revolutionaries" and she asks whether Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was "culturally appropriated" from Japanese "revolutionaries." Her claim goes like this. Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was heavily influenced by presumably Lev Mechnikov. Mechnikov lived in "revolutionary" Japan for a few years teaching Russian. Japanese "revolutionaries" practiced what is now called mutual aid and that practice supposedly inspired Mechnikov. Therefore, Kropotkin was inspired by these Japanese "revolutionaries." Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was influenced by the Japanese because Kropotkin knew someone that lived in Japan for a few years. It sounds like a pretty dubious claim so I investigated.

I know Kropotkin knew Mechnikov and the two contributed to Elisee Reclus' Universal Geography, but I haven't come across anything indicating Mechnikov was this huge influence on Kropotkin's Mutual Aid. The book she cites, Anarchist Modernity Cooperatism and Japanese-Russian Intellectual Relations, which I actually paid money for it during my quest to learn more about anarchism in Japan.

Anyways, anyways Anarchist Modernity doesn't say anything about Kropotkin's Mutual Aid being influenced by Mechnikov throughout the book. When Kropotkin is mentioned it's alongside Tolstoy. So, it's hard and probably a waste of my time to try to verify the claim made by Lagalisse since she won't tell the reader where she got that from. There wasn't even revolution going on in Japan when Mechnikov was there either.

It made me feel bad that I downloaded and read it, and then wasted my time bothering to look at her sources. Some of her sources are pretty interesting. It's just some of those sources don't support her claims. However, it inspired me to write a short book and see if I can get PM Press to print and distribute it. I would probably need someone to help me to turn my verbose vomit writing style into the art of the word salad style of writing, and then learn to drown the word salad in jargon.

Anyways, anyways, anyways I have read anarchists saying the black flag means death and/or negation. It makes me wonder just how pervasive Christianity was among the commoners in Europe during the 1870-1880 and  how pervasive christianity was wthin the individual anarchists' lives at that time. In christianity, black represents basically the same thing the anarchists of old said it meant.

The End.

Where were you able to find De masones y revolucionarios? I haven't been able to locate it at all online, only references to it in Occult Features and in Anarcoccultismo, plus a book with a similar but different title by the same author, Masoneria y revolución (maybe the same book republished under a different title?).

Christianity would have been very, very pervasive in that time and place.