Casting a Circle

Think of Stonehenge, a great circle of stone megaliths. Or consider the enormous ditch in nearby Avebury, England, that is 1,200 feet in diameter, and the ring of standing stones within it. Stone circles like these dot the landscapes of Britain and Ireland. Circles symbolize both wholeness and protection, which is why magicians usually perform spells and rituals inside the perimeter of a magic circle.

When you cast a circle, you work on several levels simultaneously. At a physical level, you're defining the boundaries for your magical work, separating it from ordinary space. At a spiritual level, you're imbuing the space with your personal power and erecting a psychic barrier to keep out any unwanted energies.

In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk describes the circle as “the creation of a sacred space … Power, the subtle force that shapes reality, is raised through chanting or dancing and may be directed through a symbol or visualization. With the raising of the cone of power comes ecstasy, which may then lead to a trance state in which visions are seen and insights gained.”

If you wish, you can draw a circle with flour, sea salt, sticks of burning incense, candles, feathers, flowers, or, of course, stones. But you needn't use a physical substance to cast a circle; you can simply envision a wall of white light surrounding you instead. You can cast a circle outdoors or inside. The circle should be large enough to accommodate the number of people who will be doing magic inside of it, as well as any objects that will be in the circle and your work area (such as a table, altar, or fire pit).

Bring all the ingredients you'll need and everyone who'll participate in the spell or ritual into the area before you cast the circle. Once inside, no one should leave the circle until the spell or ritual is finished. Cast your circle in a clockwise direction, so that when it's completed you'll be inside it. Begin at the easternmost point of the space where you'll be working (use a compass to find this point, if necessary). Move clockwise to the south, then the west, and the north, and finally come back to the east again to close the circle.

Many people place a symbolic item at each of the circle's four compass points. Here are some suggestions, but feel free to choose objects that hold meaning for you.

<tgroup cols="4"> <colspec align="left" colname="col1" colnum="1" colsep="0" colwidth="25%"/> <colspec align="left" colname="col2" colnum="2" colsep="0" colwidth="25%"/> <colspec align="left" colname="col3" colnum="3" colsep="0" colwidth="25%"/> <colspec align="left" colname="col4" colnum="4" colsep="0" colwidth="25%"/> <thead> <tr> <td><p><B>Direction</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Element</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Corresponding Color</B></p></td> <td><p><B>Symbolic Objects</B></p></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>East</p></td> <td><p>Air</p></td> <td><p>Yellow</p></td> <td><p>Wind chime, flag, feather, incense</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>South</p></td> <td><p>Fire</p></td> <td><p>Red</p></td> <td><p>Candle, lantern, torch, rod/pole</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>West</p></td> <td><p>Water</p></td> <td><p>Blue</p></td> <td><p>Cup or bowl of water, bell</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>North</p></td> <td><p>Earth</p></td> <td><p>Green</p></td> <td><p>Stone, plant, coin, bowl of salt</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>When you're finished performing your magic, open the circle. This signals an end to the spell or ritual and releases the power you've generated into the world, where it can manifest. To open the circle, go to the east and trace another circle, this time walking in a counterclockwise direction.</p> <div class="npsb"> <h2></h2> <p>At the end of a ritual, Wiccans often open a circle by holding hands and chanting or singing together: “The circle is open, but never broken. May the peace of the Goddess be forever in your heart. Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.”</p> </div> <h2>Calling in the Four Directions</h2> <p>This part of the circle-casting ritual invites the guardians of the four directions to be present and to lend you their protection and power for the term of the ritual. Some people envision these guardians as angels: Raphael guards the east, Michael the south, Gabriel the west, and Uriel the north.</p> <p>As you walk around your circle, stop at each compass point and “call in” the energy of that direction. Facing out, petition the entity by saying something like:</p> <p><emphasis>Guardian of the (eastern, southern, western, northern) sphere,</emphasis></p> <p><emphasis>now we seek your presence here</emphasis>.</p> <p><emphasis>Come, (east, south, west, north), come. Join this rite tonight</emphasis>.</p> <p>Another technique involves standing in the center of the circle, facing east, while you say aloud:</p> <p><emphasis>Before me Raphael, guardian of the east</emphasis>.</p> <p><emphasis>Behind me Gabriel, guardian of the west</emphasis>.</p> <p><emphasis>To my right Michael, guardian of the south</emphasis>.</p> <p><emphasis>To my left Uriel, guardian of the north</emphasis>.</p> <p>Your invocation can be as simple or eloquent as you wish. Use your imagination. At the end of the spell or ritual, remember to release the energies you've called in and thank them for assisting you. Here's a simple releasing statement, but you can say whatever expresses your own feelings.</p> <p><emphasis>Guardian of the (east, north, west, south) we thank you</emphasis>.</p> <p><emphasis>Return home now, harming none, and let there be peace between us</emphasis>.</p> <p><emphasis>Hail, farewell, and blessed be</emphasis>.</p> <p>Because you'll be opening the circle by moving counterclockwise, you'll release the energies of the four directions in the reverse order from the one you used to invoke them.</p> <h2>The Four Elements Technique</h2> <p>This technique combines the four elements — fire, earth, air, and water — to cast a circle. First, fill a bowl with saltwater, which symbolizes earth and water. Beginning in the east, walk in a clockwise direction, sprinkling the saltwater on the ground to define a circle as you say “With earth and water I cast this magic circle.” Next, light a stick of incense, which represents fire and air (smoke). Again, start in the east and walk clockwise around the circle, trailing the fragrant smoke behind you while you say “With fire and air I cast this magic circle.”</p> <p>If you prefer, two people can perform this circle-casting ritual together. In this case, one person holds the bowl of saltwater, and the other carries the stick of burning incense.</p> <h2>Circle Casting with Candles</h2> <p>You'll need twelve candles in rainbow colors for this method. Position a yellow candle in the east, a red one in the south, a blue one in the west, and a green one in the north. The other candles can be colors that represent your intention, such as green for money or pink for love. Or you might choose seven candles to coordinate with the colors of the seven chakras, plus a white candle for protection. Arrange these eight candles so that they complete the circle.</p> <p>Begin at the east and light the twelve candles one at a time in succession, working in a clockwise direction. 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