A space of no place

Last week I had the honour to conduct a handfasting in Dumfries, for two of the most wonderful people it’s been my pleasure to meet here in this region (or, indeed, anywhere). The whole event was amazing, but the venue: that was spectacular. It was a Spiegeltent, a construction of wood and canvas, reminiscent of a circus tent, but designed to hold entertainments of all kinds.

The entrance to the Spiegeltent

Spiegeltents originated in Belgium, and were built between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. As well as a stage, they have a large circular performance or dance space, which is where our ceremony was held.

Creating the altar on the day before the ceremony

This circular space is surrounded by booths, lined with mirrors and topped by stained glass:

The booths surrounding the space.

The only natural light in the entire space comes from the clouded windows in the front doors, and through the filtering colours of the stained glass. The effect of this combination of occluded and coloured light, the lighting rigs in the ceiling, and the mirrors all around is of a space which could be anywhere – literally anywhere.

Yet in this enclosed, inward-facing space I still had a strong sense of what it was, in and of itself, even as it could have been anywhere. It was a space set aside, a space of artifice and glamour, of performance and spectacle; it was a portal into another world – a world of our own creation.

It reminded me rather of the TARDIS, in that it was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, and it felt as though it could transport us to any point in time or space. I would not have been surprised to open the doors to find myself in another country, or on the Moon, or in another solar system entirely.

In retrospect, it also strikes me that the Spiegeltent functioned rather like the kind of circle that Witches and Mages cast for ritual and for magic(k)al workings. It kept out anyone unwanted, both in person, as guests had to show their invite at the door, and through preventing prying eyes from seeing what was happening inside. It contained the working in the approved of circular form, through the wooden and canvas and glass facts of its construction, and contained the attention of those taking part, by focusing them towards the centre of the space.

I have mixed feelings about casting a circle. It’s a trigger for my brain and my mind to go into ‘ritual mode’; but my goal is also to treat each daily occurrence as a ritual of creation, maintenance or destruction. It creates sacred space where there was none before; but my goal is also to remember the sacredness of all things. It trains my focus inward towards my goals and desires and offers me protection from unwanted visitors; but my goal is also to be open to the life of the more-than-human world around me.

Experience tells me that the portal of a cast circle, just like the portal of the Spiegeltent, has its appropriate place and time: those occasions when I seek to go outside of, or deep into the mystical heart of space and time – occasions when my attention, mind and animal instincts need the trigger, the boundary, the focus, and the sense of privacy and safety that a circle provides.

Do you mostly cast a circle – or use some other form of ritual intention or focus – as the setting for your spiritual work, or do you mostly go out and about in your local environment? I invite you to try an experiment: whichever is your usual modus operandi, try the other for a week, and let me know what you notice.

About Elinor Prędota

Elinor Predota was born in London in 1970, and was raised in England’s second city. Her hippy parents took her on endless, wonderful visits to birdwatching hides, Iron Age hill forts, Medieval Castles and ancient stone circles across Britain, which kindled her longing for green hills. She finally moved to the country in the year 2000, where the land has taught her more magic than any book or human being ever could. She is a priestess, a poet, a scholar, an accidental comedian, and lives in southern Scotland with her partner, a very big dog, and a vast range of more-than-human neighbours. She can also be found online at elinorpredota.com.

  • http://www.franriley.com Fran

    Hello Elinor, thanks for sharing your work and passion. You are inspiring, I’m an arts therapist about to expand into celebrant work, based in Cumbria so it’s great to link up with you.

    • http://www.anewadventureeveryday.com/ Elinor Predota

      Hi Fran, thank you for commenting, and I’m glad you found inspiration here. Working as a celebrant is amazing – fulfilling, moving, joyful; even the painful rituals, like funerals, fit that description. Perhaps we could meet up some time? I’m not that far away :-)

  • Anne

    I have had this thought for a while, and it is something I teach to my students. There are simply places where the sacred is so prevalent, that no circle is needed. For example, every year, our group heads up to a place called Rose Valley, here in Southern California. It is a small out of the way campground, with a short hike to the top of the falls, with a smaller falls and pool a bit below it. It is here and the second falls that we hold ritual, and honestly, there is never a reason to cast circle. Our Imbolc is to celebrate the first signs of spring, not to raise power or anything like that. We have also created sacred space in our temple for Samhain, but again, there is no need to cast circle since a lot of the spirits are moving in and out of our ritual and feast and this is the time of year that they are welcome. Anything on the mischievous/bad side gets stopped by the property wards anyway :)

    • http://www.anewadventureeveryday.com/ Elinor Predota

      Anne – absolutely, but I do find in those places that it’s easy for me to get ‘pulled away into Faery’, so at the very least, excellent grounding, shielding and some good, solid, very human food is a good precaution!