SpellCrafting: Spells and rituals

November 1st, 2015

Circle Casting

Merry Meet!

A common practice in many pagan traditions is casting a circle, which defines a space where the ritual will occur and makes it both safe and sacred. There are as many ways to do this as there are pagans; by sharing some variations, this article invites you to think about why you do what you do and to perhaps try something new.

Typically, you’ll want to cleanse the area, by tidying it up and vacuuming, and then by wafting incense, using a broom ritualistically, smudging, ringing a bell, or sprinkling salt or salt and water – all while envisioning unwanted energies dispersing. Stomping and clapping are also used by some.

At my first ritual, the circle was cast with an athame pointed outward. In doing this, he was drawing on Goddess energy, visualizing Her energy mixing with his own energy and directing it down his arm and out the tip of the blade. I’ve learned to visualize that energy forming the outer boundary, and then I swing my arm back, up, forward and down as I visualize the circle becoming a sphere formed around me in which the ritual will occur.

When I began meeting with a group of women who gathered in a women’s temple many of them had helped build, we’d call the quarters, but the only circle was the one we formed as we sat in BackJacks on the floor. Anything more formal never felt necessary; much like walking onto a church or a synagogue, walking into this building it was clear the space was sacred and already defined.

However many pagan rituals are held either in spaces that also serve other functions or out in nature, which, I think of as already sacred. In either place, casting a circle will define a piece of it that will hold the magic, keeping in the desired energy and keeping out the unwanted energy. The circle, then, is said to be between the worlds, suspended in time and space. It is possible to both sense and see the edges of a circle. I mostly feel its energy and notice a physical change when it is opened.

Some always trace the circle three times; for others, once is enough.

While athames are perhaps most common, the tool used to cast can also be a wand, a sword or any other object, including a finger and a staff. I’ve been in circles where a wooden spoon and a pen were passed person to person to cast the circle.

Some traditions will measure and physically mark the outline of a perfect circle on the ground or floor using salt, candles, string or chalk. Rocks and pine cones also work well.

For a group ritual celebrating Lughnasdah this year, I used a basket of dried petals from bouquets of flowers that had been on my altar since spring. Walking around the outer perimeter of the where we had set up on the grass, I scattered them as I recited these words:

Let these flowers define a place

Suspended in both time and space

Between the worlds we do here stand

All that is harmful I ask be banned

Forces and powers around us do spin

If thou are good, I welcome you in

This circle I cast with love and light

Let it hold our magic throughout the rite

It’s Lughnasdah and this circle ‘round

I seal thee now from sky to ground

A sacred space within it lies

Protected from unwelcome eyes

As I decree, so mote it be

With another group of Goddesswomen, we have been known to cast a circle hand to heart. The person who begins reaches out with the right hand, taking the left hand of the person to the right and bringing it to their heart, saying, “I cast this circle hand to heart.” The person to the left takes the left hand of the person who just spoke, bringing it to their heart and repeats, “I cast this circle hand to heart.” This continues around until everyone is connected.

In other circles, we have just clasp hands, one at time, with each person saying in turn, “I cast this circle hand to hand.”

In both of those cases, I enjoy singing, “There Is No Time” by Veronica Appalonia. The words are:

There is no time but now

There is no place but here

In the sacred we do stand

In a circle hand in hand.

I have gathered for rituals where a room or an area was smudged or otherwise cleansed, and then people invited to enter the space in perfect love and perfect trust before a circle was cast. Other times, a circle might be cast by a high priestess and then individuals invited to enter, again, in perfect love and perfect trust.

Likewise, some traditions call the quarters before casting the circle and others cast the circle and then call the quarters.

I invite you to post a message sharing how you cast your circle.

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

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