It is almost impossible to think about Wiccan ritual practices without mentioning the most common ritual practice — the casting of a circle.
Casting a magickal circle is an ancient and respected practice. There are two main types of circles. There are those used to protect the practitioner from the energy that he or she might raise. The second type is meant to create sacred space. It is this second type of circle that is most common in Wiccan practice.
Indoors or Outdoors?
Typically, the magick circle is used to define ritual space. In today's world of indoor rituals, it has become a basic of most Wiccan rituals. Unfortunately, many Wiccans no longer practice outdoors, for fear of being seen.
While outdoor ritual is still the best option, it may not be viable for everyone. For example, if it's the dead of winter, and it’s below freezing outside, an indoor ritual might be more practical. And then there are those pesky neighbors. In the end, it is sometimes more practical to hold a ritual indoors.
The Purpose of the Magick Circle
The circle serves to define the ritual area, holds in the energy raised, and cuts off any energies that might interfere in rituals.
When properly cast, the magick circle serves to bring the practitioner closer to the Goddess and the God, and it can be an invigorating experience. The circle is seen to represent the Goddess, the earth, and a connection to nature.
How to Cast a Magick Circle
There are many ways to cast a magick circle. However, for most practitioners, simple is usually better.
Most often, the circle is cast with the wand. However, the athame, or even an index finger will work just fine. When the circle is cast, personal power is visualized as streaming from the body, through the wand, and drawing the circle of power. This circle becomes a sphere when completed, encompassing the entire ritual area.
If one is sensitive to the energies in the surrounding area, they may be able to feel the difference between the circle and the area around it. When someone truly devotes themselves to casting a powerful circle, it is possible to have a great deal of trouble crossing the boundary of the circle. The casting of magick circle is much more than a symbolic act, it is a truly magickal thing.
How to Set Up a Magick Circle
The boundary of the circle is usually marked on the ground in some fashion. This can be done in any number of ways. It is quite common to use a cord, chalk, salt, or sand, or even flowers or stones. Some practitioners even use tarot or oracle cards, and a few use small bones.
Traditionally, the circle is nine feet across, since nine is the number of the Goddess. But occasionally, more space might be needed, or a smaller space must be used because of location limitations.
The directional points, north, east, south, and west, are usually marked in some fashion. Sometimes lit candles are used, or colored flags, but increasingly popular are the use of ritual tools to mark the quarters. There are many options here.
The north is the quarter of the earth, of fertility, physical strength, and stability. The pentacle may be placed here, or a bowl or earth, or even a bowl of salt. In Irish traditions, a large crystal is often used to represent the mythical La Fal talisman, the stone upon which the ancient kings of Ireland were crowned.
The east is the quarter of air, of intelligence and knowledge, communication and spirituality. A censor with smoldering incense, feathers, or sometimes flowers could be used. Irish traditions tend to use a sword, representing the Sword of Nuada.
The south is the quarter of fire, of passion and change, of health and success. Some would use an oil lamp or other representation of fire in this quarter. There are practitioners who use a staff, which is representative of the Spear of Lugh from Irish mythology.
The west is the quarter of water, of emotions and love, of psychic powers and healing. Commonly found here is a cup or bowl filled with water. Many place their cauldrons there, and if they follow an Irish tradition, this represents the Cauldron of Dagda, which, in Irish mythology, was associated with abundance and healing.
There are many ways to set up a ritual space before the casting of a magick circle. There are just as many ways to cast a circle. What’s most important is that the practitioner discovers which methods work best for them. It’s about what feels right.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.