I don’t know what this thing I’ve made would be officially called by a mason, but I call it my Grand Compass. This is my magickal tool for drawing gigantic visible circles on the earth, that will later represent the casting of my energetic temple. This very functional, hand-made contraption is a most valuable tool of the Witching trade. Does it matter if a Witches’ circle is a perfectly 360 degree round masterpiece? No. But does it make my heart sing when my temple is also a work of magickal and mathematical art? Yes. Yes, it does.
I have an entire Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design, where I trained in both architectural drafting and making human spaces useful and beautiful. We’ll just blame this entire article on that earlier career. As a Priestess, I will tell you that my receptive Goddess side likes my group witchcraft to be aesthetically pleasing and dramatic, so when I create space for rituals, I make sure it is visibly understandable, as well as magickally delicious. I want it to evoke the proper emotional response for those who enter that temple.
My projective God side likes my circles to be precise and meaningful…I call it a Wiccan Orgasm when I’ve pulled the twine line taught, and am swinging ’round the circle puffing this gorgeous line onto the Earth, and the end and beginning of my circle line up exactly. Whoever said that math can’t be an ecstatic experience? I’m no mathematician, but that is some deeply satisfying geometry!
Items Needed for your Grand Compass:
- A Weeder Hand Tool, or a long screwdriver.
- Sturdy Gardening Twine, with no stretch at all.
- Measuring tape that goes up to at least 18 feet
- Restaurant Squeeze Bottle for Sauces
- Duct Tape and a Sharpie pen.
- Some type of biodegradable, powdery lining material, see options below.
Circle Lining Materials to choose from:
- Flour – Like Wheat or Rice flour. Hopefully you don’t need a gluten-free circle (just kidding) but I’d aim for organic and non-GMO flours because the last thing our natural magick needs is an unholy saturation in pesticides.
- Meals – Corn Meal is a favorite of mine during the three harvest Sabbats, but I’ve also considered how Bone and Blood meal might be (sparingly) used at Samhain. See below.
- Chalk Powder is often used in lining sports fields, etc. It will last a lot longer.
- Rangoli Powders, like the ones that are used in Hindu celebrations of Diwali and Holi and devotional artwork.
- Colored Sands, like used in Tibetan Sand Mandalas.
Outdoor Circle Considerations
When I’m laying out a circle on the grass outdoors, I need it to not harm the growing entities that live there in any way. In other words, NOT SALT. Salt is great for protection against malevolent forces, but it will also kill a perfect line in your turf and then the neighbors are gonna talk. If I were getting into the heavy-hitting occult magick indoors, I might choose to draw my circles with Sea Salt, and this grand compass would work just fine, save for needing someone to hold the center point still, as that Weeder Tool won’t be plunged into the floorboards of any building of mine. <cackle>
So, I’m out in the fescue, dandelions and violets of my backyard. Mostly I just need a visual line so that I can then set my tiki torches in the right places, and potentially decorate on top of that line with seasonally appropriate foliage and other magickal goodies that match the ceremony intention.
Start with a Head Count: C ÷ π = D
First thing I need to know is how many witches I’m trying to fit into this circle comfortably. I know that multiples of three are a witching standard and très magique, so why not? But I’m not slavish to that. 3 x 3 = 9, so the traditional witch’s circle is 9 feet diameter. If it’s just me or a few others, I’ll go for Gardner’s trad9. Otherwise, I have at least 1 foot diameter for every attendee as a general rule, then I might add up to three more feet for good measure. My math bears that out:
13 Witches, 13 foot diameter circle, then round up to the nearest multiple of three for more dancing room (15′). If there needs to be lots of big things in circle with us, like both an altar and a fire pit, I may go bigger.
Or, we can figure out the needed circumference of our circle first, and work back from there:
Our tradition always includes a ring of camp chairs inside the perimeter, so that we can choose to sit comfortably to drum, meditate, or rest while we each take turns in some ritual act. Once you go to all this trouble, might as well stay a while and enjoy the temple.
But we also need plenty of room for dancing and other shenanigans, because this ain’t church, neither is it a show. There will be plenty to keep us all moving at other times. So, as an example, let’s start with the needed circumference of the circle, then solve for the diameter.
Allow at least 30″ per chair. Thirteen witches x 30″ = 390″
Plus a 36″ gap for the gateway in, and a 48″ wide altar at the edge (as needed). 390″ + 36″ + 48″ = 474″
C ÷ π = D So, 474″ circumference divided by 3.14 = 151″ (12.57 foot diameter.) I’d round up to 15′ for wiggle room. Either way, I still arrive at 15′ for 13 witches, minimum. But that is just me.
Making a Grand Compass: 2r=D
- Mid-Point: Tie a loop in the end of the twine, and slip the Weeder Tool into that loop. This will always be your mid-point of your circle.
- 9′ Diameter Circles: Tie another loop (not a slip knot, but a loop large enough to fit around the top of the squeeze bottle) at 4’6″ from the mid-point. This radius will create a traditional 9 foot diameter circle when drawn.
- 12′ Diameter Circles: Tie another loop at 6′ from mid-point.
- 15′ Diameter Circles: Tie another loop at 7’6″ from mid-point.
- 18′ Diameter Circles: Tie another loop at 9′ from mid-point.
- 24′ Diameter Circles: Tie another loop at 12′ from midpoint.
- Label these loops with a folded bit of duct tape and a sharpy, or you’ll never remember which is which. No really. Just label them.
You can keep going out from there, but if you are seriously creating larger circles than that, ask yourself if you’re really in a coven, or a mega-church? This might be the time to dispense with circle edge decorations all together. I rarely will go to all this trouble when we are doing gigantic rites needing lots of land for Maypoles and bonfires and such and are expecting a huge crowd.
Using your Grand Compass
- Figure out your midpoint and sink the weeder tool into the earth up to the hilt.
- Uncoil to your preferred loop and do a test lap around just to make sure there are no obstructions. Adjust midpoint accordingly.
- Fill the squeeze bottle with your liner powder, and slip it into your preferred diameter’s loop. You may need to snip a larger hole on the squeeze bottle, just to keep larger grains like sand from clogging.
- You’re a witch, right? Witch it up! Ground, center, get that cosmic power flowing through your projective hand while holding that squeeze bottle.
- While keeping the twine pulled taut, start puffing the powder out in a line, as you walk backwards, drawing the circle on the ground. Sing a circle casting song or a chant that sets the tone. Mind you, this isn’t the energetic “casting” but why not live with purpose in all we do?
- Refill the bottle as necessary. For a 24 foot circle, I may have to refill 3 times.
- When you draw round the lap and that perfect line meets exactly to enclose the circle, scream Oh, GODS! YES! and enjoy the Wiccan Orgasm that will no doubt erupt in your left brain. You’re welcome.
Decorate the Compass Line
Now that the circle is drawn, I set my quarter tiki torches by compass direction, then cross-quarter torches, for additional light – plus that mirrors the 8 points of the Wheel of the Year. Then I lay seasonally, or magickally appropriate plants and other goodies over the line to decorate. When rites are to be held at night, I will lay strings of holiday lights along the line first, and then layer up the greenery on top. There will be a sparkle of light shining though which has an awesome visual effect, but also helpful for lighting the path. Solar Stake lights are also great for this.
Yes, lighting adds an “electrical” component. I know that some Traditional Witchcraft forbids electronics near magickal circles. However, I’ve never found this to be problematic. This is why I claim to be a “Modern” witch, not a “Traditional” witch. To each their own. <shrug>
Sabbat Tree and Plant Correspondences for Circle Decoration*
Imbolc: Aquarius Correspondences…candles. Grains, Reeds, Basil. Blackthorn, Cedar, Sycamore. I don’t usually have outdoor Imbolc Rites as it is too cold here.
Ostara: Aries Correspondences. Hay makes it look like an actual “Easter Basket” and amuses me to no end. Spring flowers like forsythia or even decorated eggs around the edge. Ash, Birch, Maple, Daffodil, Lily, Rose, Violet.
Beltane: Taurus Correspondences. Ivy, Spring Flowers. Especially the colors red and white. Ribbons? Apple, Cedar, Hawthorn, Juniper, Oak, Willow, Meadowsweet.
Litha: Cancer Correspondences. Corn Meal. Ivy, Summery sunflowers and other golden or fiery plants. Beech, Laurel, Oak, Chamomile, Heather, Lavender, St. John’s Wort, Vervain.
Lammas: Leo Correspondences. Corn Meal. Bright colors. Summer Flowers. Blackberry, Bramble, Grains, Acacia, Apple, Myrtle, Rowan, Oak.
Mabon: Libra Correspondences. Wheat Flour, Autumn tree foliage, pumpkins and other gourds, Pine Cones. Grain, Thistle, Aspen, Cedar, Hazel, Maple, Myrtle, Oak, Aster, Chrysanthemum, Ferns, Grape vine, Marigolds.
Samhain: Scorpio Correspondences. Autumn tree foliage, gourds, orange or purple lights, Pine Cones and Pine needles. Blackthorn, Pomegranate, Witchhazel, Yew, Broom, Mugwort, Sage, Garlic. The coolest autumn circle I attended, the host simply raked back a perfect circle, revealing a green, grassy circle amidst the fallen leaves.
Perhaps Bone Meal or Blood Meal from the garden center could be blended in sparingly with another flour and used to add that “Third Harvest” element of blood and bone to Samhain workings. This might be too on the nose for some, but they are natural fertilizers that add needed phosphorous and nitrogen that is good for gardens. However, I don’t know how much typical turf would need. Should you choose to add this to you circle marking powder, that may create a differently green circle in the growth of the grass…and again, the neighbors may talk. lol. I might save some back and sprinkle it throughout the yard afterward to lessen this effect.
Yule: Capricorn Correspondences. Evergreen boughs, Pine Cones, white lights. Chestnut, Fir, Holly, Juniper, Oak, Pine, Blessed thistle, Mistletoe.
I hope these ideas spark some creative and beautiful circles for your own coven rites!
* I pulled a lot of this information from Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences by Sandra Kynes in the Sabbat section.