The Circle has been used in a number of traditions excluding Wicca. The Circle in Wicca however is among the most interesting and very different from many others. Where Ceremonial Magicians use the power of the Circle to protect themselves and keep evil spirits contained within its circumference, Wiccans use the power of the Circle to invite energies into their rites and keep unwanted spirits out. This leads Wiccans to do a number of wonderful things because the Circle really has no endless power and potential. The Circle is excellent for keeping power contained that we have raised, and also allows us to commune with our Gods. The Circle is probably the most important function to Wicca and no ritual could begin without a Circle– except in certain occasions which you will know them (such as magical working , praying and meditation) .
The Circle is symbolic in shape that has been used for magical purposes throughout the world is still widely used in many religions and cultures today. It has many different meanings and functions, all which can be used in the practice of Wicca by a group, a couple or even yourself who might be working alone. Although Wicca isn’t technically meant to be a solitary practice, its adaptability as a religion and a way of life for those who seek Wicca has found its way to the solitaires who practice without a problem. The truth is you don’t need a Coven to cast a Circle. You don’t need four people, of separate elements, to call the Quarters. Although, they might be a good idea if you are working with a large group. EVERYONE should be doing something in Wiccan Circles. It is one of the reasons why I am not to fond of Open Circles because I’m just standing there waiting for something to happen while everyone else seems to take the lead.
Why is the Circle so important in Wicca than?
Well from what I’ve stated I hope its obvious some of its functions but the Circle does provide other functions. The circumference of the Circle separates that which is within from that which is without. It also has no beginning and no end, and so represents eternity. The area within the Circle’s edge is considered to be a place outside ordinary space and time, and indeed, rituals held within Circles do often seem to take on a time structure of their own, with hours of “ordinary” time rushing by in what seems like an instant.
Outside of the Circle is ordinary time and reality exists, and to jump between the two requires a little ritual of its own in order to keep the two worlds separate in everyone’s mind and space. The point is within the Circle anything is possible. It is here where we meet our Gods, commune with spirits, conjure the elements and perform our ceremonies and magical rituals.
“But I don’t need to use a Circle when casting a spell!”
I get this snarl remark all the time by Wiccans. Which is fine. Work with what is best for you. But keep this in mind (and also a further discussion on Power) the magic Circle used for the purpose of casting spells or any magical operation is primarily to keep out unwanted influences and to contain any power raised for magical working. In this way, the power raised can be focused for its intended purpose before sending it beyond the boundaries. Magic isn’t an absolute thing, it is a mystical force which draws in the attention of many spirits (that’s why animals seem particularly drawn to rituals) and many are not kind spirits who can twist the magic around (this doesn’t necessarily mean they do it on purpose) making the Pattern of the spell something unrecognizable. I know how that sounds. Believe me. But it doesn’t change the truth of what it is. When we are working magic we are doing just more than bending reality to our will, we are forging connections “As Above, so Below” and this statement (whether you believe in it or not) refers strongly to Kabbalah and the Tree of Life (which maps out the existence of Divinity). That might not seem harmless but many Wiccans tend to neglect the other half of the Tree known as Quliphoth. Look, Wicca isn’t all light and shiny as you might have read it in the books and I sure as hell don’t want to burst your bubble, but understanding the roots of Wicca should be your first step and see where Wicca draws from its sources. We may not believe in a Satan but doesn’t mean we do not believe in evil spirits. Qliphoth is the idea where impure and evil spirits reside among its branches. When we cast a spell it goes through both those trees (As Above, so Below) that is the reality. A magic Circle is what prevents impure, or evil spirits, to twist our magic. I really won’t get into it here now, and it isn’t meant to frighten you but doesn’t change the fact either. Take this warning in mind, follow it if you will.
The Circle is much more than what we think it is, and has also presented itself in our faith through the Pentacle in Wicca. A circle surrounding a five pointed star. Cut open an apple and you will see that a pentacle resides in the heart of the fruit. In this way we are connecting to magic. In any magic system it is how you do it that makes it powerful. In knowledge and reverence.
We are going to go through the basics of Casting a Circle, how to take down the Circle, and the meaning behind the Circle more in depth.
Casting the Circle
You should practice casting a Circle at least once a week. You should try to memorize the steps necessary to do so. Reading from paper, from a book or script will only distract you and a lot of emotional value and importance will be lost. I frown on anyone who uses scripts during ritual work– period. Should not be tolerated. There are exceptions, of courses, such as starting out and trying to remember the lines (the paper should be placed to the side or close enough where all you need to do is glance down). Those who are experienced they should never use a script and I often loose a lot of respect for them.
The first steps of casting a circle are simple:
- Clear the space intend for use.
- Mark out a Circle on the floor. Traditionally speaking the Circle should be 9 feet (3 meters) in diameter, but reality is it should be a Circle comfortable and suitable for you and your Coven (if you have one). If you are working with others, take each others hands and step an arms length apart so it is comfortable diameter for movement and and activities. The Circle can be drawn with salt, flour, chalk, flowers of seasons, crystals etc. Make sure it is easily swept or cleaned away. This isn’t necessary but it does help put you in the right set of mood for ritual working. Traditionally a white cord is sometimes used (sometimes Purple) to do so.
- Now you should lay out your altar in the North (some say East, some say North-East) I say the North because the North is the direction of the Gods. The altar should be round, but in reality it can be any round surface. It can be placed in the center of the circle or placed off to the side.
- Place a candle at the four cardinal points. Ideally, all objects should fit inside the marked-out Circle, but if space is severely limited, you can place things just outside it as long as you include them with the magical sword (or athame) when you draw the Circle later.
- You can adapt any Wiccan rituals and practices to suit your needs. What I present here is what I have been taught and may not work for other people, this is some of the ore traditional ways of working Wicca.
- The Circle is than swept (or before) with the besom (the broom) from the middle out to the edges deosil (clockwise). A small little charm could be said as you do so, I will provide the charm in another post but here is one for you now: “Sweep, sweep, sweep away all the cares of the day. Cast out shadows, cast out wrong, make the Circle safe and strong.”
- Your altar is then set up the way you like it (no candles are lit yet) and the broom is laid aside (usually in front, behind or to the east of the altar).
- Before any ritual you should spend a few moments contemplating of the sacredness of the space around you. Then the candles are lit at the altar.
I will go more in depth with the Altar in a few posts (maybe the next one) on how it should be set up. For now use your imagination and the knowledge that you know now and what will be presented to you here. In Wicca everything is about symbolism. Everything should be dark right now because in the beginning there was darkness. On your altar you should have at least two candles (one for the Goddess and one for the God) but you may wish to include a lamp. If you desire to include the lamp it should either be placed aside and somewhere in the distance from the Circle which is than brought into the Circle and place between the God and the Goddess, or it is already in the center between the two and placed somewhere else if it bothers you and you don’t like it on the altar.
The lamp need not be a real lamp, any other candle is fine.
This is the Void, the Source of all creation. From it all things shall come to pass and all life was born. This is symbolic. What you will be doing essentially is mimic (a form of sympathetic magic) the Creation of the Universe. If you do not want to do it this way or disregard the lamp all together, that is fine, the left candle (the Goddess) is always lit first than and from that source of flame all other candles should be lit. The God candle is than lit from the Goddess candle if you choose this method. No other candle is lit yet. Only these two (three).
If you decide that you enjoy using the idea of the lamp you may wish to do a ritual drama first before lighting the candle or narration, for example you may wish to use the Vangelo delle Streghe. You may not wish to. Light the lamp and say:
“I light this Candle/Lamp
(light the Presence Lamp)
in the name of that Ancient presence,
which is, was, and ever shall be
male, female, all-knowing, all-powerful
and present everywhere.
And in the names of the four Mighty Ones,
the ruler of the elements,
may power and blessing descend
in this hour upon this place
and those gathered here.”
This becomes the next crucial step. Taking both the Goddess and the God candle you are going to light both the candles at the same time. Set those aside. You may wish to burn the charcoal block now using the flame of the Presence Lamp. The Quarter candles are not lit yet. What comes next is the exorcism of the water and the blessing of the salt. I was taught water than salt, but you could bless the salt and than the water. There are three crucial steps in this, water, salt and than you add the two.
Exorcising the Water
I’m not sure, but I in my experience I have never really seen any Wiccan use the pentacle so much in eclectic practices. The pentacle is very important in Traditional Wicca and it is important to note now that whatever you put on your altar have a good reasons for using it. Place the bowl of water on the pentacle (the star pointed down because we are exorcising spirits). Take your athame and slowly lower it into the water until its tip touches the bottom. Visualize an electric blue light flowing from the blade and say:
“I exorcise thee, O Creature of Water,
that thou cast out from
thee all impurity and uncleanliness of
the world of phantasm.
In the names of the Lord and the Lady.”
You do not need to use a formal chant like this. You may wish to say something informal and casual. The important thing is how you do it and what the words mean to you. If there is no meaning in your words than there will be no meaning in your actions.
Blessing the Salt
Like the water, you are going to place the dish of salt on the pentacle (this time the point of the star should be upwards because we are asking divine presence) and as before slowly lower your athame into dish and as you touch the bottom visualize a blue light dancing through it, say something like:
“Blessings be upon thee, O Creature of Earth,
let all malignity and hindrance
be cast forth from thee, and let all good enter within.
Wherefore, do I bless and consecrate thee,
that thou may aid me.
In the name of the Lord and the Lady.”
Purity into Purity
Now comes the final part to this, this is called in my Tradition purity into purity. The idea that you are taking to blessed and consecrated items and merging them together, purity into purity to create blessedness. So what you do is very simple, with the athame scoop some of the salt and place it into the water. Stir deosil with the athame three times while saying:
“Behold, the Salt is Pure!
Behold, the Water is Pure!
And so purity into purity
So mote it be!”
Set it aside for later.
Now that the basics are out of the way lets start talking about the actual ritual casting of the Circle. The only candles lit should be the Goddess, God and the presence lamp if you have decided to use it. Incense should be going in the censer and now you will take the sword from the altar (or use the athame) and to the North you will you start to cast the Circle. Many Wiccans in books I’ve read say to point the sword and athame outwards and draw the Circle this way, if this works for you than do so. Personally that way doesn’t make real sense to me because the idea is that you are limiting yourself. I mean this because you are still grounded to the physical world in the sense you need to visualize the sphere before you as you draw. That is fine, but I am not a fan of drawing the Circle that way. I draw it the “As Above, So Below” if you will.
The Circle is a sphere of power that knows no bounds. Physical substance means nothing to the Circle and can pass right through them and still hold its integrity. Let me go through the basis of this Circle casting and behind some of the symbolism. First thing is first, AS ABOVE SO BELOW is a common term, the way I cast my Circle puts that statement in theory. Second, we walk on the Earth and in so the earth keeps us grounded, focused, centered and provides us with unlimited source of untapped power. I’m not saying my way is the right way, far from it, this is the Circle casting that makes sense to me.
Take the sword or the athame (like before) stand to the North. With the blade pointed to the ground you should will your energy through your arms and out the tip of the blade pouring into the Earth rising to create a sphere below you and above you. Take your time as you move around the Circle. If others are present they may wish to use their own athames and walk with you as you pass them and perform the same technique. This allows everyone to have a place of their energy in the Circle. Set the sword aside.
If you wanted to say an incantation while cast the Circle you might. Personally I don’t use one because I am to busy working on the Circle trying to erect it as something sacred and purity that I sometimes forget to chant. If others are present in the Circle this might be a good activity for them to do, sing or chant as you cast the circle.
All Wiccans Circles should be cast three times. This can be done in a number of ways. This is how I do it.
The first circle is drawn with energy to divide the world.
Next with the salted water aspurge the circle (sprinkle the salt water) starting from the North, this seals the energies raised within and keeps unwanted spirits out.
Lastly perform a third circle with incense at the line. The incense allows you to commune with the Gods if you will.
This is the basics of casting the Circle.
Leaving the Circle
This is something that I discourage but sometimes cannot be helped. If you have to leave the Circle for any reasons at all, there is a small ritual to do so. This helps keep the illusion in the mind of the people that Circle is still there. You do what is known as cutting a doorway and should be done at the northwest by using the athame to draw a small piece of the circle in widdershins (counterclockwise) direction and then laying the athame at the threshold. To close the door, use the athame to redraw that piece of the circle in a deosil direction.
*FUNNY STORY– To be honest not sure how funny this is but it was funny at the time and maybe some of you who are experienced in Wicca will also laugh at this because they too might have experienced this. People have often asked me whether or not the Circle is real and if it simply is just psychology making you believe that it is there. Personally I strongly believe in the magic Circle because of other reasons than this, but by far this was the funniest, I kind of felt bad afterwards.
I had someone new to Wicca wanted to come to one of my Open Circles that I host every so often for those who are interested, he was very skeptical about Wicca but he wanted something to believe in. He felt drawn to Wicca and wanted to have a connection with it because it made sense to him but the idea of the magic, faeries, dragons etc. Was a little far fetched for him. He was raised Catholic and he wasn’t sure how to feel or how to be. After this little experience he had with the magic circle after mocking it he soon became a believer in Wicca.
He giggled during the ritual– which is normal you don’t see it everyday– and we had a good chat after the ritual was done. He admitted that we looked like role playing rejects which I laughed at too. Sometimes we present ourselves that way and not mean to be, but over all he really liked the ritual. He thought it was very poetic and it still intrigued him. At this time the Circle was not broken and I was teaching him Grounding techniques and explain the Circle to him. So after he mocked the Circle he claimed he wanted to go pee, so I turned my back to reach for the sword to cut a doorway for him but before I could turn around all’s I heard was a loud thump!
I turned around quickly and there he was on the floor on his ass confused!
I was also confused than he looked up at me and he said, “I hit the invisible wall.”
The Circle isn’t quite finished yet, although it could be left this way if you would like, the Quarters (sometimes called Cardinals or Quadrants or something else) are every important in Wicca because of what they represent. There are generally four (but sometimes five) which a magic circle is divided into four quarters by the cardinal points: north, south, east, west.
Each point is associated with an element, an elemental, and in some traditions, a watchtower.
The elements represent the forces of nature that make up the material world of the cosmos. Although we understand that these aren’t necessarily real elements but we understand their effectiveness and their powerful symbolism in our faith. Elements are the creatures of the elements, and if left unrestrained, can sometimes cause a lot of trouble. The elements are therefore controlled by higher spiritual beings called the Lords of the Watchtowers; their names vary from tradition to tradition.
Whatever their real names are, all Wiccans traditions who acknowledge these beings approach them with the utmost respect and understands their importance in the Circle and also in this world as a whole. These Lords of the Watchtowers are known as Mighty Ones.
After casting a Circle, you need to invoke the elements (elements need not be summoned). If you are summon the elements you do not need to summon the Watchtowers (I do anyways because they are old friends) however if you are working with elements you absolutely need to summon the Watchtowers. Without them, the elemental forces will take control. Watchtowers aren’t just those who keep the elements under control but they can also keep out unwanted forces and influences as well. Here is the thing in Traditional Wicca the Mighty Ones aren’t typically summon for anything other than dedications, imitations and other important rites of passage because the God and the Goddess are protection enough. If you do not feel the need of the Watchtowers don’t use them. In my tradition they are only used if we are using elements or rites of passage because they are very powerful entities. The God and the Goddess are enough, and those who claim otherwise in Wicca really know nothing of the Arts.
Back to the Watchtowers however, there are many ways of summoning these powers, sometimes drawing from other magical paths and cultures, such as Nordic, Egyptian, and yes even Judeo-Christian Kabbalah. There i no right way or wrong way to do it; the important thing is that it works for you!
However, there are common elements to summoning the Watchtowers.
It was said that the Watchtowers are protectors of the Goddess and in so you need to first awaken them. Take the bell from the altar and ring it three times at each Quarter.
Return to the altar and ring the bell two times. Set the bell aside.
Before we get into the actual invocations of the Watchtowers I would like to to talk quickly about the correspondences:
From left to right this is how it will be introduced quickly, Quarter, Element, Elemental, Watchtower Lord, Color and Magical Tool.
This is from my tradition. Adapt it as you like.
With the pentacle, walk deosil around the Circle, holding it up to each quarter, if others are present you may want them to kiss the pentacle as you pass them, saying:
I call upon the element of
earth to bless this Circle.
May it protect us with
its grounding force as we
perform our works tonight.
Carry the smoking censer from the altar deosil around the Circle. If others are present, waft the incense under their noses, say:
I call upon the element
of air to bless this Circle
May it take our prayers to
the God and the Goddess as we
perform our works tonight.
Pick up one of two altar candles (if the presence lamp is available use it) and carry it around the Circle deosil, holding it up at teach quarter (if others are present you may wish for them to feel the heat of the flame) and say:
I call upon the element of fire
to bless this Circle.
May it grant us inspiration
and passion as we perform
our works tonight.
Take the bowl of salted water and walk around as before, splashing drops of the water around the edges of the circle, when you come to someone already in the Circle draw a Celtic cross or pentacle on their foreheads and continue, when you are finished do the same for yourself, say:
I call upon the element of water
to bless this Circle.
May it grant us inner
sight as we perform
our works tonight.
These are the basics of call the elements to you. I will not talk about elemental right now. Maybe later.
SUMMONING/BANISHING THE WATCHTOWERS
Whether or not you actually summon the Watchtowers is completely up to you. They are the guardians of the four directions. Hence, the Mighty Ones. Some Wiccans find that summoning the elements is sufficient, and that the protection of the God and the Godddess are enough, however for those like me who love very ritualistic magic you may wish to incorporate them into your workings. Taking from Ceremonial Magic, the Watchtowers are summoned with the athame (no other tool!) by drawing special invoking pentagrams in the air. The North is always summoned first and is always banished last. Again, this is because North is associated with the God and the Goddess. Whereas the elements and elemental may be summoned at either North or East.
Here is the banishing pentagrams of the Watchtowers:
After the ritual the Watchtowers must be banished!
It is essential that the spirits are thanked and dismissed, and the Circle is dismantled properly. This is good for psychic hygiene for if traces of magic are left, strange things tend to happen and these aren’t always very good things. I have seen horrible things happen to Wiccans who forget to dismiss the elements, elementals and the Watchtowers. Doesn’t matter if we obey Wiccan Laws, energies that are left rampant cause chaos and havoc. They absolutely must be banished.
The same way is to summon the Watchtowers is done the same way to banish them.
The only real difference is that you are using a banishing pentagram and you are going to go east, south, west and north is always banished last.
As you do such say something similar to as:
(lord of the watchtower), Lord of the (direction), and
the watchtowers of the (direction), thank
you for your presence and
protection tonight/today. As this Circle
is closed and you return to your
realms, may be there be peace between us,
I bid you a kind farewell.
And that really is all to it for Circle casting. Invoking the Gods, ritual, spell casting, sabbat cakes, dancing, singing are done further on in the Circle, but this is the basics to get you started.
*NOTE! Grounding. This is very important. Rituals and visualizations can leave us feeling spaced out or with to much magical energy. This can be very bad for our health and psychological and emotional state of being. To carry on in either condition is potentially harmful. To ground yourself, sit on the floor and connect yourself to the earth via your palms, feet, and bottom. Feel thee energy of the Earth below you– it is strong, slow, and steady. Pull that energy into your body through your contact points, and feel it working its way around your whole system. Eventually, it flows back into the earth again, taking with it excess energy, tiredness or negativity that has been found within you. Do no rush grounding. It must be done properly, and if you don’t believe me you soon will if you do not perform grounding properly. When you feel it is done, thank the earth and have something to eat and drink. Grounding should be done before and after every ritual. It will help keep you centered and focus.
THE WATCHERS’ HOUND
I wanted to talk about this for a moment. This is an influence brought to me by my own Tradition. My family are hunters, we have a strong affinity for animals and we make use of falconry and dogs in our hunting. It only made sense that a hound of some sort was introduced in my family Tradition. Not every Tradition uses the Watchers Hound in fact I am pretty certain my family is one of the very rare few who do. To be honest I am not exactly sure where it comes from. It is something that has always been used in my family Tradition and will continue to be. I wanted to talk about the Watchers’ Hound because it means something very special to me personally. The Watchers’ Hound is very rarely ever summoned in Circle for very good reason. It is a spectral hound (some say it was given by Apollo others in my family say Hecate) which prowls the borders of the Circle. It is the ultimate protector. The Mighty Ones (the Watchtowers) are the ones who control the beast. It isn’t a fluffy little puppy who will lick your face, no it is a beast. The Watchers Hound is also called the Watcher or the Guardian in my Tradition. It is ultimately a weapon and a protector at the same time. In my Tradition the hound can only be controlled, restrained and sent into submission by the aid the Watchtowers, not even a High Priestess or High Priest can hold it down. It is for this reason that the Watchtowers are often called in our Circle to keep the beast under control. Wicca isn’t all about the Light and has many Dark elements to it. The Watchers’ Hound although a protector will has been known to attack those within the Circle. This is either because the High Priest or Priestess have neglected the Watchtowers assistance or someone has left the Circle. Once the Watchers’ Hound has been summoned in ritual no one, and I mean no one, leaves the Circle. Sometimes we see it flickering around the border line and that enough is to send you into fright. So why summon it? Because it is Traditional in our family and also because it is the ultimate protector. It guards the Circle from any intruders (physical and spiritually speaking). The Watchers’ Hound has a special connection to our Summoners. Summoners are people who protect the members within the Circle, he (because usually a male) draws the Circle as well and is also the one who calls on the Lords of the Watchtowers and therefore ultimately controls the Watchers’ Hound. This is just some of the many differences between Traditions and I thought I would share this with you. A special bowl is placed outside the Circle containing foods of delight for the hound so that it may eat. There are generally four bowls placed at the quarters but only one is necessary (the food to keep it happy ). In North is the food, in the West is a bowl of water, in the South is fire (for substance) and in another is specially made incense to give the hound form. The sword is the tool that keeps the creature under control. Although any High Priestess and High Priest can control the Watchers’ Hound by acquiring the assistance of the Watchtowers but it is the Summoner, however, that should do this. It is his or her responsibility.