One of the most basic parts of Wiccan ritual is the casting of the circle. Many Wiccans also cast them when performing magick outside of ritual, and some even cast them to meditate in. Casting a circle is one of the easiest things you can do to grow in your practice of Wicca. Circles serve a few purposes and it is important to know and understand them in order to give this rite the attention and devotion it deserves.
A circle is a Wiccan church, only built with energy and visualization instead of wood and stone. It is the creation of sacred space. It is a place where the physical and the non-physical and the material and the spiritual meet. It is where we work magick and commune with the God and the Goddess in a special way and where we celebrate the festivals of our religion. A circle is a symbol of the Goddess, like the cauldron or the chalice. Circles can be a great aid to meditation for this reason, especially guided meditations or journeying of any kind, or work like drawing down the moon.
Circles are protective. Not from demons or negative spirits or anything like that, but from the negative energy that can linger from a fight with your spouse, a rough day at work, or just everyday thoughts and stresses. They are a place where you can truly cast all of that off and, for a while, be outside of time, safe and protected. Because of this, it is often suggested that you take a bath or a shower before casting a circle, to get yourself in a sacred mindset and “wash off” all temporal concerns for a while. I personally don’t do this before every circle I cast, but I do keep to it before rituals. If you are using a circle for a short candle spell or meditation, it would likely be helpful but don’t feel it’s necessary.
Circles are a container. Just like water is contained in a pot to contain the heat raised and bring the water to a bowl, so the energy raised during ritual and during magick is contained in the circle. It is kept in until you are ready to direct and release it. No sense raising that energy only to have it all dissipate before you’re ready! This aspect of a circle is something many Wiccans physically feel- it is not unusual to be much warmer in a circle.
Preparing to cast a circle:
Cleansing the space- Most Wiccans prefer to somehow cleanse the space before casting a circle. This includes physically cleaning the space. We’re not talking an in-depth job here, just some basic tidying up. The purpose of cleansing the space is to both rid the area of unwanted energy and to focus the mind. There are many ways you can cleanse the space:
- sprinkling salt water
- burning sage or other purifying incenses in the area (some examples are dragon’s blood, myrrh, or eucalyptus)
- using a besom (a broom) to cleanse the area- you sweep, without the bristles touching the floor
- using visualization- picture a light of whatever color seems cleansing to you descending on the area, pushing out the bad energy. Or you can visualize wind or water sweeping it away.
My personal preference is to use both salt water and burning sage. I sprinkle salt water in a counter-clockwise, or widdershins, circle, saying “By water and earth, I purify this place of all negative energies.” Then I will carry the sage around the same circle, saying “By air and fire, I purify this space of all negative energies.” I don’t have the sage burn strongly, because I prefer to use other incenses for ritual and magick, but you don’t need a lot. A thin stream of smoke is all you need. I turn counter-clockwise because widdershins is the direction typically turned when banishing or getting rid of something. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, just turn clockwise. You can’t “screw this up”, so stay relaxed!
Grounding and centering- Take a moment to ground and center, using whatever methods you prefer. If you don’t feel comfortable with grounding and centering yet, just take some slow, deep breaths and try to let your mind relax and focus on what you’re about to do. If you don’t know what grounding and centering is, or if you’re looking for techniques, go here.
Casting the Circle:
There are a couple of different ways to do this, and no one is more “right” than the other. The thing that both methods have in common is that you visualize the circle you’re casting. Some Wiccans use a physical object (string, a circle of salt) to mark the barriers of the circle. I don’t do this but some find it extremely helpful. If you do this, make sure you give yourself enough space to work in. You can “cut out” of a circle when necessary (I’ll cover this in a little bit) but you should avoid it if at all possible, and reaching in and out of a circle for the things you need disrupts the integrity of the space.
Keep in mind that you’re not really visualizing a circle as much as a sphere. When you cast a circle, you’re not doing so just upon the physical plane, but the non-physical plane (also called the akashic plane) as well. A sphere symbolizes this better, as well as fitting the purposes of a circle (sacred space, containment, and protection) better.
Some Wiccans call upon- I prefer the term invite, and so that’s what I’m going to use- the Elements to aid in the casting of their circle. People who do this either have representations of the elements in a + shape on their altar, one in each of the four directions, and they turn to each direction in a clockwise pattern, starting with the East (sometimes North, but East is most common) and or they may take each elemental representation and carry it in a clockwise circle, while visualizing the circle and saying something like “Spirits of the _________ (name the direction), Element of _________ (name the element), powers of ________________ (name something you associate with that element, such as “passion and purification” for fire), please take part in and watch over my circle.” There are MANY formulas for this, no one is better than another; there is not one “Wiccan elemental invocation”. I will say that I think formulas that speak of inviting or calling are much more appropriate than summoning or commanding. The elements are powerful, however you see them, and I personally feel that it is more respectful as well as more accurate to ask rather than command. But don’t panic if you’ve been doing it another way.
Personally, I invite the elements separately from casting a circle. You can cast a circle without inviting the elements, for one thing. Another is I think it is easier to visualize casting your circle just in and of itself, and not trying to visualize both casting a circle and the powers of the elements at the same time. This is much simpler. You take a tool (athame or wand are both traditional for this; I use my athame), and starting in the center of my desired circle area, I face the East and point my athame outward, while turning in a slow circle and saying: “In between space and time, I cast this sacred circle. Here the Ancient Ones may manifest, here is a container for the energy I shall receive and raise. Here is a safe and holy place.” when I have completed the circle I will point my athame at the ceiling then at the floor while saying “As above, so below”. Then I say, while facing my altar “The circle is cast. I am between the worlds.” I wrote this one myself, but there are many other versions out there- or you could write your own as well! At the end of this post I will include some examples of different circle castings and elemental invitations.
After my circle is cast, then I will invite the elements by turning to each quarter (again starting in the East) and speaking the invitation I have chosen, while visualizing the element’s presence at my circle. This is something you can do in whatever form appeals to you. You can visualize the different elemental spirits that are typically associated with each element (gnomes for earth, salamanders for fire, sylphs for air, and undines for water). Others may visualize something at each corner that represents each element (a bonfire for fire, a river for water), or may simply visualize a ball of light colored in the color specific to those elements (yellow for air, red for fire, blue for water and green for earth). It can be as complicated or as simple as you want. What matters is that it solifidies your intention and is meaningful to you.
Opening the Circle:
This is very easy to do. Whether or not you cast the circle with the help of the elements, or you invited them in later, this is done in the same order. Simply turn counter-clockwise, starting with North, traditionally. Typically, “last in, first out”. This doesn’t only apply to the elements, but also when you evoke the God and Goddess. Traditionally, the Goddess is evoked last, and therefore she is thanked and granted her farewell early (I will not call it dismissing the God and the Goddess. Like I have the right to order them around!). As you turn to each direction say something like “Spirits of the East, Element of Air, thank you for your aid in my circle. Go if you must, stay if you like, hail and farewell.”
When this is done, face the North again, and turn in a slow circle, using your athame or wand. If you like you can picture the energy being “sucked” back into your tool, like an energy vacuum. As you turn, you say something like “The circle is open but unbroken. May the grace of the God and Goddess be ever in my heart. Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again!”
Your circle is open.
If, during the ritual you need to leave the circle, what is traditionally done is to cut a door into the circle. You take your arm, your hand, or your tool and “trace” the door at the edge of the circle. Then when you come back in you re-trace it to close it. Things happen, like forgetting your lighter in the other room, or having nature calls that just can’t wait during ritual. But try, when the circle is cast, to remain within until the end.
This all sounds more complicated than it actually is. At first, it’s going to be awkward, but with practice you will get comfortable with it. When you’ve done it a few times, these things you are saying and visualizing will become living realities to you, and that’s where the magick really begins! Remember, you are building your own sacred place, in a “time that is not a time and a space that is not a space”. It is worth the effort it takes to do it, and the time it takes to learn it.
Different circle castings and elemental invitations:
These are just ideas for you to use. You can use these, or the ones earlier in the article, or write your own, or find a variety of others on the Internet. I will credit the ones when I know who wrote them.
“This is a time that is not a time, in a place that is not a place. Here I stand at the threshold between the worlds, before the veil of mysteries. Here may the Ancient Ones manifest. Here may they bless their child.”
“Here is the boundary of this circle. Naught but love shall enter in. Naught but love shall emerge from herein. Charge this by your power, Ancient Ones!” (Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner)
“Here I create a sacred circle, in perfect love and perfect trust.”
“I cast this circle as a boundary between the worlds, a container of the power I raise, and a guardian and protector of all who stand herein.”
“Three times around I cast my blade, that this circle shall be made. Sacred space within this circle lies, protected from unwelcome eyes. Let no one enter in who has not been made welcome, so mote it be!”
“I call upon the element of air to bless this circle. May it take my prayers to the God and the Goddess as I perform my work.
I call upon the element of fire to bless this circle. May it grant me inspiration as I perform my work.
I call upon the element of water to bless this circle. May it grant me inner sight as I perform my work.
I call upon the element of earth to bless this circle. May it protect me with grounding force as I perform my work.”
“I call upon the Ancient Spirits of the East, Power of AIr. Where the sun rises in the morning. Powers of wonder and imagination, clarity and communication. Laughter singing, breezes blowing. I invite you to this sacred circle. Hail and welcome!
I call upon the Ancient Spirits of the South, Power of Fire. Where the sun is high in the noonday sky. Powers of passion and determination, courage and transformation. Light, energy, flames leaping, fire burning. I invite you to this sacred circle. Hail and welcome!
I call upon the Ancient Spirits of the West, Power of Water. Where the sun sets and our ancestors dwell. Powers of loving and dreaming, compassion and healing. Womb, water, oceans flowing, rain falling. I invite you to this sacred circle. Hair and welcome!
I call upon the Ancient Spirits of the North, Power of Eart. Where the mystery dwells. Powers of fertility and creation, rebirth, strength, and manifestation. Seed, mountain, forest knowing, fields growing. I invite you to this sacred circle. Hail and welcome!” (Phyllis Curott, “Wicca made Easy”)
“Spirit of the Earth, Guardian of the North, You ground me and feed my connection to the earth. Be with me now to be witness and guardian to this ritual.
Spirit of the Wind, Guardian of the East, You fuel my imagination and give me creativity. Be with me now to be witness and guardian to this ritual.
Spirit of Fire, Guardian of the South, Your power leaves me in awe, I am comforted by your flame. Be with me now to be witness and guardian to this ritual.
Spirit of Water, Guardian of the West, you are my pathway to the Goddess, you bring me peace. Be with me now to be witness and guardian to this ritual.” (found at https://apagantapestry.blogspot.com/2008/10/invoking-elements.html_)