Witches and other magickal practitioners do much of their work in what is called the “magick circle”. This is where spells are cast, rituals are performed, magickal tools are consecrated, and meditation and other introspective techniques can all be practiced. I use the magick circle for these purposes, and nearly everything else from personal tarot readings to Reiki treatments. By casting the circle, you are creating sacred space, a “world between worlds”. It is a space that not only contains and amplifies the energy you raise within it, it also serves as a barrier to deflect any energies that may be harmful. It is a place where the creative forces of the Universe gather with you to make magick. The circle is a microcosm of the Universe, and perfectly illustrates the concept “As Above, So Below”. Whatever is created in the circle (Below) will eventually manifest in the visible world (Above). One of my favorite teachers, Christopher Penczak, describes the circle in a beautiful way, as symbolic of the witch’s cauldron into which “we invite the powers of the universe…to create a unique stew between the worlds”.
Circle-casting is not a product of modern Wicca, as some claim. The earliest known record comes from a woodcut illustration in 1608, depicting witches gathered in a circle traced upon the ground. Early Puritans demonized this concept by placing the Devil outside the circle, to imply that the Witches had conjured it. Even so, this image still illustrates the protective quality of the circle against harm. (The artist of this illustration also mentions in his writings that Witches work with the elemental spirits of Earth, Air, Fire and Water). The circle has been used by practitioners of magick for centuries, long before Gerald Gardner (the “father” of modern Wicca) was born.
Casting the circle is not something to be done haphazardly or with a casual attitude. I have been to rituals where it seemed people were just saying words and going through the motions. Don’t rush the words, take your time, pay attention to what you’re saying. Circle-casting is an art that requires strong focus, visualization and intent. When the circle is complete, it is no longer a circle, but a sphere. This is so that not only the circumference is protected, but also the top and bottom of the sacred space you have created. Before casting the circle, however, it is important to be in a right state of mind. Remember, the circle intensifies whatever energy is brought into it. If you are angry or tense, you are going to bring that energy unless you do some centering and grounding exercises first. Before I begin any ritual, the first step is meditation. Simply close your eyes, take some deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Prepare yourself spiritually and mentally for what you are about to do. Put away all worries and concerns of the day. Once you have reached “ritual consciousness”, then you may begin casting the circle. Many people skip this step, and I think it has detrimental effects on the energy of their circles. Another important thing to do before casting your circle is to cleanse the area. This can be done with incense, salt water, a lit candle, or through white light visualization.
I won’t go into a full ritual outline, as these vary greatly according to tradition. In this article, I will focus only on Casting the Circle and Opening the Circle. It must be understood that this is only one way to cast a circle. There are other ways, however, this is a traditional method that works best for me.
Casting the Magick Circle
- Cleanse the area with incense, salt water or visualization.
- Close your eyes, put away all worries of the day, and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state of mind.
- Stand up and face the North or the East (whichever direction feels right for you). Using both hands, grasp a sword, athame (a black-handled ritual blade) or wand, and point it upwards. Not vertically straight up, but in an upwards diagonal position. If you don’t have these tools, it is perfectly acceptable to use the forefinger of your dominant hand. My coven uses a dagger, my personal tradition uses a simple, unadorned wooden wand.
- Begin walking clockwise in a circle, and visualize a blue flame coming out the end of your sword/athame/wand. You will walk this circle three times while making the following three statements, one statement for each circle. If your space is limited and you can’t walk around, you can stand in one spot and turn as you cast your circle.
CIRCLE ONE: I cast this circle to protect me from all harmful energies.
CIRCLE TWO: I cast this circle to allow only the most perfect energies for this work.
CIRCLE THREE: I cast this circle to be a sacred space for the highest good, harming none.
My personal circles at home are a bit more wordy, but this is the basic idea.
- Don’t just say the words, but think about what you’re saying. “See” it and “feel” it happening. Once your circle is created, it is not uncommon to sense a difference in energy and temperature. As you walk the circle three times, visualize the blue flame forming a circle in the air around you. You can write your own words for circle-casting, and make them as creative and elaborate or as simple as you want, but they must include the intentions that your circle is for protection from harmful energies and is a sacred space.
- Next, point your sword/athame/wand straight up and say “As Above”. Visualize the top half of the sphere being formed by the protective blue light. Then point your sword/athame/wand down so that the tip is touching the ground, and say “So Below”. Visualize the bottom half of the sphere being formed. You have now created not only a circle, but a sphere of protection.
It is important to visualize the entire process of circle-casting as clearly as you can in your mind’s eye, with strong focus and intention. You are not just saying words. You are creating an energetic sphere of protection and power.
At this point, most magickal practitioners invite the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water into the circle by facing their associated directions. This is also done in a clockwise direction: North/Earth, East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water. You may also invite any deities or spirit guides to assist and lend their energies to the circle. Now you are ready to do magick or anything else you have cast your circle for.
Opening the Circle
- At the end of your ritual or magickal working, if you have invited the elements, thank them for their assistance, and gently release each one in a counter-clockwise direction with a statement like “Stay if you will, but go if you must”. Remember to thank your deities and spirit guides as well. I have special candles devoted to certain spirit guides that I light and extinguish at the beginning and end of each circle ritual.
- Return to the same position where you began your circle (North or East), and point your sword/athame/wand upwards again. While walking a counter-clockwise circle only once, say “This circle is open, but remains unbroken”. As you walk the circle, visualize the blue flame of the circle/sphere dissolving into nothingness. When opening the circle, it is only necessary to walk the circle one time.
As I mentioned earlier, you can use the magick circle for almost anything. I cast a circle when I meditate, use my tarot/oracle cards, commune with my deities and spirit guides, for rituals to do magick, or to celebrate the Sabbats or the Full Moon and New Moon. The magick circle creates a sacred space where the only energies present are there for your highest good.