Wiccan Lore: Casting a Circle
Circles neither begin nor end. Their resemblance to infinity makes these shapes a primary sacred symbol in most religions. Pagans use this symbol to represent the Goddess. Circles also appear in the Wheel of the Year and the pentagram.
Circles protect, and such protection is an integral part of any Wiccan ritual or spell casting. The standing stones of Stonehenge looms as the ultimate magical circle, where every witch dreams of performing a ritual. However, most of us must make do with our backyards or living rooms.
Fortunately,you can cast one anywhere, anytime that you need one. You should cast one when you wish to perform a ritual or cast a spell. Your circle will surround you with positive energy while protecting you from negative energy.
This casting can be simple or complex, depending on the circumstances and your needs. Take the information presented here and adapt them to your own unique circumstances. You may use this information as given or use it to form your own ritual.
Photo Credit: By http://www.flickr.com/photos/e_phots/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/e_phots/199886140/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
You may want to use some of these tools when you cast your circle. Handmade tools work best, but store-bought tools will work fine. Just remember -- the most important tool you bring is your self.
Photo Credit: Monika Weise
- Magical Broom -- a broom that you have blessed and dedicated to Goddess
- An Athame or Wand -- for "drawing" your circle. If you don't have either, your finger will suffice. You can also use a twig or long branch from a tree.
- Other optional materials -- sea salt, sage incense, herbs (sage or thyme), blessed water, candle
Garb - Dress the part
Clothing is optional when performing a casting. Some Wiccans prefer worshiping naked ("sky-clad" to Pagans), feeling that clothing separates them from Goddess and Nature. Others like to dress in robes.
Any type of clean clothing, or none at all, is appropriate. Use your own common sense, personal preferences, and local statutes to guide you.
If you do opt to wear a robe, increase the efficacy of your ritual by picking a color that corresponds to your working. For example, wear a silver or white robe during full moon rituals Those colors correspond to Goddess and the moon, the two essential elements of full moon activities.
The First Step
After casting your circle, you should not leave it unless absolutely necessary. So you need to gather everything that you need for your ritual or working.
Think ahead about every thing that you may use. Don't forget matches for lighting candles. You also may want to include your Book of Shadows (BoS). Many witches enjoy adding to their BoS while still in the circle. Remember to bring a pen.
Wait until after your ritual bath (if taking one) to arrange your altar or sacred space. You want to be in a sacred frame of mind when you do set up your materials.
Photo Credit: Monika Weise
Book of Shadows
Many have the mistaken idea that the shadow portion of the Book of Shadows stands for something evil. However, the shadow in this case refers to that which is unseen.
For many years, witchcraft was a crime, often punishable by a torturous death. So witches kept to the shadows. Spells were cast in secret.
Up until the 20th century, witches rarely wrote down their spells. Most people didn't know how to write and even if they did, putting something in writing could provide evidence used to sentence the witch to a horrible death.
Now, in some parts of the world, Wiccans are free to practice witchcraft and many witches choose to record their spells and rituals in a Book of Shadows. Using a BoS is a personal decision and not required for the practice of Wiccan witchcraft. Some witches use a journal type of book; some even keep their BoS on their computer.
You will never find a spell to summon demons or to curse a human or other living thing in a Wiccan's BoS. Such workings trigger the Rule of Three -- "Bide ye well, the Rule of Three. What ye send forth comes back to thee." In other words, an evil working will come back threefold to haunt the witch casting such a spell.
Wicca focuses on the values of love and light. While we recognize that the existence of light means the existence of darkness, we prefer not to dwell in the darkness. The BoS is a personal record of a witch's spiritual life, nothing more, nothing less.
This BoS is very similar to the one I use, which I love. I feel so close to Goddess every time I write in mine.
This beautiful journal would make a great BoS and also a great gift.
The Ritual Bath
The Second Step
Your ritual bath cleanses your body and removes negativity prior to performing your ritual. I like to bathe in the tub, but a ritual shower is perfectly fine. The ideal ritual bath would take place in a natural body of water, like a lake, but most of us will have to settle for our own tubs.
Prepare your bathroom with a candle and incense if you like. Playing music is fine. Create an atmosphere of peace where you can center yourself and clear your mind of all negative thoughts.
I prefer to use a sage soap for my ritual bath. Choose a soap that you like. You can align the composition of the soap with herbal correspondences for your upcoming ritual/spell or just wash with soap that makes you feel peaceful and calm. Use bubble bath or bath oil if the mood strikes you.
During your bath, visualize your self washing the negativity from your body. Focus on banishing negative thoughts from your mind. Do some rhythmic breathing or whatever other techniques that will help you to relax and put you in a sacred state of mind.
Once your mind and body are clean, you are ready to proceed to the next step. Dress in your robes (or not, as you choose) and start cleansing your sacred space.
Sage is a cleansing herb. Use this soap to wash the negativity from your body.
If you are pressed for time, this kit contains everything that you need for your ritual bath.
Cleansing Your Space
The Third Step in Casting a Circle
Clean the space where you plan to hold your ritual. Dust, vacuum, wash -- do whatever is required. Some witches prefer to do the physical cleaning prior to the ritual bath, others do it after. Do this part whenever you want.
Once soap, water, and elbow grease have been applied to both your body and space, you are ready to do a magical cleansing. Take your broom (if you have one) and "sweep" the entire area to remove negative energy. The broom should not touch the floor as you sweep. Picture the negative energy being swept out -- I like to visualize them as little black dust bunnies that run away from my broom.
You can also chant or say an incantation while you sweep but stay focused on the task at hand. One simple chant that you can use is "The negative, I sweep. The positive, I keep." Feel free to compose your own incantation.
When you feel that your sacred space has been cleared of negativity, proceed to the next step -- arranging the elements of your ritual.
Since I live in an apartment with limited space, I use a small broom for cleansing.
Let me be clear -- this is not an "official" witch's broom, but it will work. If you like it, use it!
Arranging Your Sacred Space
Step Four in Casting a Circle
Some people like to do this step right after the physical space has been physically cleaned but before ritual cleansing. I prefer to set up my altar and materials after the space has been ritually cleansed so that I am in a sacred state of mind while handling and placing my tools. Do what feels right for you.
Bring everything that you might need to the ritual space. Generally, rituals will center around a witch's altar, but this is not always the case. Set up the altar as required for the ritual or spell.
Double-check to be sure that you haven't forgotten anything. While it is possible to leave and re-enter the circle once a ritual has started, you should avoid that if it all possible. I find it helpful to make a list before hand that I can check off.
Once all ritual/spell materials have been set up, you can proceed to the actual casting of the circle. Your circle will keep you protected from negative energy while you spend time with the Goddess and ply your Craft.
Photo Credit: Monika Weise
Some Things You May Want In Your Circle
All rituals and spells require certain components. Make certain that you don't leave anything out as the circle should not be broken if at all possible.
What you bring into your circle depends on what you are trying to accomplish. The products featured below are part of most ritual and magical workings.
Sandalwood incense can be substituted for another incense in a pinch.
A pentagram is always on the altar during a ritual or spell. This tile is a nice size if altar space is limited. I use it on my own altar.
Casting a Circle
The Final Step
Each witch has his/her own way of casting a circle. You can use a simple or complex method as befits the occasion and your need. The ritual detailed below is the ritual that I use for the majority of my circles.
Stand in the center of your sacred space, facing East. Take your athame or wand (I prefer the athame for this) and hold it, extending your arm in front of you. Slowly turn while holding your magical tool and visualize a bright white light streaming out of the tool to form a circle as you turn.
Continue this until you have made a full circle. You can chant an incantation while turning if it does not distract from your visualizations. You can say something as simple as "I conjure thee, magic circle" or use something more complex from a book or website.
I like this method, because it allows me to extend the circle further than I could with other methods. Some other methods involve walking the circle around the ritual space. You can sprinkle salt or herbs while you walk to define the sacred space, or even carry a burning stick of incense.
Finally, in a pinch, just stand in the center of the sacred space, point your finger, and turn. Whatever method you choose, once the circle is cast, you can proceed with the next elements of your ritual.
Photo Credit: By Nyo (Own work) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Learn More About Casting Circles - From My Own Personal Library
I constantly recommend this book to beginning practitioners. This book is on my own bookshelf and I refer to it frequently. Scott Cunningham has a clear writing style and explains the basics of Wicca in an accessible manner.