This week’s Magick Monday is one I wanted to look at because it’s oddly a topic that can be quite divisive.
Do you really need to cast a circle when you do spells and rituals?
Before we go further, let me note that we’re talking about a circle in the Neo-Pagan, Wiccan context. The idea of circles and other ritual boundaries can be quite different in traditions like high magick, ceremonial magick, and some left-hand path traditions.
What is a circle?
A ritual circle is a temporary energetic barrier that is intended to contain energy and protect those within in the circle from anything that might come to do harm. The space within a circle is seen as being “between the worlds” or “between time and space” and being a place where spiritual energies can be contacted and magickal workings happen more easily.
The typical way of casting a circle includes calling on the elemental energies to lend protective energy and to aid the work being done in the circle. Because the circle is an energetic or “psychic” boundary it can’t be seen with your eyes but can almost always be felt with our other senses. (Some people actually can see the circle but they’re seeing it clairvoyantly, not physically, even though the description may seem like they’re seeing something physical.)
The size of the circle varies, through in Wicca the traditional size is either nine or thirteen feet in diameter. In truth it only needs to be large enough to encompass the ritual space. It should be large enough to accommodate all the people participating in the ritual while having room for any ritual movement, like walking around, ritual dancing, etc.
The circle casting bookends a ritual. The circle is cast first and then the magick or ritual celebrations take place within the circle. At the end when the work is complete the circle is released or “taken down.”
That’s about where the “typical” aspect of circle casting ends. The specifics, from the order things are done in, the way they are done, who and what is called on, and so on can vary greatly from tradition to tradition. We’re not going to get into the “how” of circle casting here but let me know in the comments if you’d like to talk about that in the future!
Why cast a circle?
Circle’s serve two purposes; they are used to keep harmful energies or disturbances out and contain the energy raised within.
Your intentions and the energies used to create the circle, like any elementals, spirits, or wards called to guard the circle at the cardinal positions (aka the four corners), will be able to keep lower level energies out of your space. This means keeping negative energies, malevolent spirits, and anything else that could call harm at bay.
A circle also helps to keep the energy raised for your spell or ritual in once place until you’re ready to release it. Since energy moves freely and doesn’t stay self-contained, the circle helps to keep it in one place until you’ve completed your work and are ready to gather it and let it go.
Another reason to work with a circle for a ritual or spell is to keep distractions from the physical world out of your space. In my experience the more proficient you become with circle casting over time, the more helpful circle casting becomes in blocking out distractions. In time you become more psychically and energetically aware through your practice so the circle becomes more helpful for this purpose.
With these ideas in play you can see that a circle acts like a magickal energy incubator. It helps to keep out anything that could negatively impact your work, allows you to be more selective in what you allow within your ritual space, and helps you control and release the energy you’re working with how you wish to.
Do you need to cast a circle?
The long and the short of it is no. Unless you feel you need to.
When I was first learning Wicca way back in the 80s, I came away with the impression that it was vital to have a circle any time you did anything, from meditation to a full ritual. I held that belief for many years until I was in my 20’s and started working with an eclectic Pagan group. We had practitioners from many traditions and everyone shared their rituals and wisdom with the group. This provided a great environment for learning different ways of doing one thing. Circle casting was one of those.
While the Wiccans and Pagans all cast circles for all magickal work, the Druids and Asatrurs in the group didn’t. They both had their own rituals for opening a rite but they were quite different and with different intentions. I also found that, at least out of the non-Wiccan practitioners that I met, they didn’t cast circles for spell work or meditation. They might do it for specific larger rituals, but not every magickal or spiritual thing they did.
I eventually came to a personal understanding of circle casting as something that served me best for four specific things:[list style=”style2″] [li]Large rituals or ceremonies like sabbats and esbats (for me the circle process gives a feeling of energetic attunement and invokes a feeling of witchiness that adds to larger rituals and ceremonies)[/li] [li]Spells that might be seen as “darker” in nature, so anything around binding or hexing (anything that might draw unwanted negative entities that could cause problems) [/li] [li]Out of body work (when you’re going out into the astral it makes sense to me to leave your physical body as protected as possible)[/li] [li]When there are a lot of distractions (when it’s loud at home or outside but the magick needs to happen)[/li] [/list]
The power of belief is important. If you feel you need to cast a circle before doing magick, you should do it. If you feel that circle casting helps keep you safe and that rituals or spells done outside of a circle could be either dangerous or possibly ineffective, then cast your circle! But I also feel you should experiment.
Do some work with a circle and record the whole experience and your eventual results. Then do the same thing, or something very similar, without a circle and record and review the results. How did they both work out? Did you notice a difference between them? How did the use of a circle add to one over the other?
You will also notice over time through experience that your own aura knows when to kick into protection mode when working magick. Sometimes you might feel a spontaneous circle form around you. When you work with a group of other witches without a circle cast you’ll likely notice the same thing happens. You’ll feel that you’re working within some kind of energy bubble without creating it intentionally. I like to think of this as our Higher Self working its own magick on our behalf.
To sum it up…
You don’t have to cast a circle every time you do magick, ritual, meditate, do devotional work, or even do a reading.
It’s a good idea to know how to cast a circle, however. There will be times that you’ll want one and at those times this can be an invaluable tool to have under your pointy hat.
Learn different circle casting techniques and use the one that feels most effective for you. Over time if you feel your circle casting method is no longer work for you, try something new!
Circle casting also doesn’t need to be lengthy and complicated. The important part is the energy aspect. If you feel a long process takes away from your focus then try something a little simpler.
Always trust your gut. If you don’t feel you need a circle, then don’t cast one unless you want to go through the process. Sometimes you just have a short working to do and the circle casting is going to take up more time than the work itself. If you feel you don’t need the energy of a circle for that work, then you might prefer to pass on it.
How do you work with circles?
Tell me about your thoughts on circle casting. Do you always use them? Do you only work with them in certain situations? Or do you work within a tradition or practice where they aren’t even part of your magickal landscape? Share your experiences and thoughts down in the comments!