Picture it. It’s a dark night in the middle of the woods. There is a roaring fire in the center of a large group of people. A long haired Priestess steps out from the crowd. She is carrying a sword, the shine of the blade getting lost in the folds of her dark skirt. She stops near the fire, pointing the blade towards the flames, as if calling the power of the fire into the metal of her sword. She then lifts the sword, pointing the tip towards the direction of North and draws a pentacle in the air. Moving in a clockwise circle around the space, she repeats this pattern three more times, facing, East, South, West. All the while she speaks the words of magick. Finally, the blade is held above her head, pointing to the heavens. Then the blade is plunged into the earth.
The circle is cast, we are between the worlds, and what happens between the worlds, changes all the worlds. So Mote It Be.
I’ve seen this scene before. Shoot, I’ve been the Priestess in this scene. It’s beautiful to behold and because of that, it might look like a performance, but it can’t all be for show. Casting a circle needs to have some teeth.
Why Do We Cast?
We cast circles for two reasons.
- The first, is to create a container for the ritual or magick we are about to perform. The container will hold all of the power and energy we want to conjure up until we are ready to release it.
- The second, is to keep out anything unwanted. Spells, rituals, and magick act like a light in the darkness, calling forth all manner of “moths” to the energy we are building. Some entities aren’t invited or wanted, and a circle is an energetic barrier to keep them out.
When I was new to magick, I would recite rituals word for word out of books. I didn’t really understand what was supposed to be happening energetically. Because of this, the circles I created were performative. I didn’t feel anything happening because I didn’t know how it should feel. This is one of the challenges of learning only through written media. I don’t really know if those circles “worked” or not because I didn’t really understand the power of what I was doing. There is more to it than just walking the perimeter of your space and reciting some special words.
When casting a circle you are doing energetic magick using your body as a conduit. Ideally, you pull energy up from the earth or another source, and through you. Then you push that energy out and around you, creating a barrier.
What If I Don’t See It/Feel It/Experience It?
Lots of practitioners don’t “see” the circle and you might never see it with your eyes. If you don’t feel it or experience it in some other way that’s okay, practice! Sensing energy doesn’t come natural to everyone. Some folks need to work that muscle until it becomes easier to discern the energetic shift.
Ideally (and eventually) you should have some sort of experience with the boundary of a circle. Perhaps you feel a subtle difference at the edge of the space. Perhaps you see a shimmer or a fuzziness at the edge of the circle. It could manifest in a million big or little ways, but something should shift.
Don’t feel bad if that doesn’t happen. Try again, and then again.
Calling it a circle casting is really a misnomer, because you aren’t really making a circle, but a bubble around yourself and the ritual space. This bubble may only extend around you, or your altar, or a nine foot circle, or an entire room, or an entire forest, you know, whatever you need. The circle extends around you and then above you and below you. Like an energetic hamster ball.
Disturbing the Boundary
There are times when the edge, or boundary, of a circle gets disturbed. This could be from someone walking through it, a weak area from a wonky casting, or a disturbance from an outside force. If you notice a weakness or opening in the circle, after it has been cast, this will need shoring up. I imagine this like patching a hole. You need to fill the hole with energy and seal up any weak areas. Voila! Good as new.
Circle Casting Details
The words spoken, the tools used, and the directional associations during a circle casting vary from tradition to tradition. There isn’t just One Way to do it. If you aren’t affiliated with a specific tradition, you have the opportunity to try different things, read how other folks cast circles, and discover a way that works for you and has the most impact.
When I teach circle casting in my classes I often suggest people act as if. For folks new to the idea of energy work, sensing a circle boundary may be really difficult. So, what if? What if you could feel the boundary, what might it feel like? What if you could see, smell, feel, hear, sense, the edge of the circle, what might it be like?
This isn’t to make circle casting into a game of make believe, but rather it is a way to take down some of the barriers for those of us who have a hard time connecting into the magickal, energetic, otherworldly, and subtle. Again, sensing a circle is energetic work and we have to use those muscles in order for it to become easier. Keep going.
I’ve said this many times, this is all a spiritual practice not a spiritual perfect. Don’t expect for everything to come naturally or easily. Don’t get frustrated when it doesn’t work. Try again. Do it again. Keep going. You’ll be glad you did and your circles will be stronger for it.