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 A Look at the Mechanics of Circle Casting

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jkarrah
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PostSubject: A Look at the Mechanics of Circle Casting   Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:47 pm

Aurelia, while over on Dragonity.org, asked about the mechanics of circle casting. Not necessarily the "recipe" of do this, add that and "poof" a cake!... er... circle. What she wanted to know was what is needed to be called and why, what energies work best and do they differ for different kinds of circles, tools that are NEEDED vs tools that are good to have but not a necessity, etc. So basically, This is not so much about “cookie cutter” directions, following a recipe, but the actual mechanics of casting a circle.

Again, this is just how I view things, how it works for me. This is not to be seen as any kind of absolute or that I am claiming this is the only way of looking at it.


Do you even need to cast a circle every time you want to work magic?

You'd be surprised at how many people practice magic all the time without ever casting a circle. They are kind of like the magical equivalent of locking your doors and windows on your house. They provide an additional level of security and protection, but people have gotten along perfectly fine without them. I'm going to let you in on one of the big secrets of magic that most people don't want anyone to really know: There is nothing that is "necessary" to casting a magic circle. Nothing. No specific tools, no special energies, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The big goose egg.

Well... that's not entirely true if someone wants to get picky. There is one thing you need to cast a magic circle: You are the only tool you need. Other than that, everything else applies. A magic circle cast by simply closing you eyes and calling it into being is just as effective and potent as one that is "three times cast" with a thrice blessed athame, cleansed sea salt gathered from shores of Avalon, and the censed with the finest frankincense and myrrh money can buy. The strength and efficacy of a magic circle depends on the strength of Will and energy manipulation skill of the person casting it, not necessarily on the tools or methods used in the process. The only time tools matter is if the caster truly believes that they matter. Otherwise a pointed finger is just as effective as a $1500, jewel encrusted wand.

Now, what are the mechanics of casting a circle, how does what you do in the physical realm, corresponds to what is happening in the magical? One of the best books I've come across for explaining all of that from a traditionalist point of view is The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water & Earth in the Wiccan Circle by Deborah Lipp. She breaks the entire process of casting a traditional Wiccan circle down step by step, and explains how each step in the process corresponds to specific elemental energies. For people not quite new to magic, but also looking more for the why's instead of just learning the how's by rote it's a good book. Of course you know I'm going to have my own perspective on this, but if my point of view doesn't seem to "jive" for you, I would recommend checking out that book.

So let's get to it, shall we? I'm going to base this discussion on the circle casting ritual I have on my website, and break it down. As I mention on the website, the purpose of casting a circle is two-fold: first, to keep the energies you are raising contained until you are ready to release them, and second, to keep out any unwanted energies and/or entities that may be attracted to your magical workings. As you know, "Circle Casting" is something of a misnomer. You are not creating a two dimensional, flat circle, but actually a three dimensional sphere that extends as far below you as it does above. The "circle" is the defined by the intersection of that portion above you and that below you.

What is needed to be called and why? What energies work best and do they differ for different kinds of circles

From the circle casting ritual on the website we have ”Step 1: Begin in the East, if possible, using the tool of your choice move around the circle South, West, North and back to East visualize red/orange Dragon fire erupting from the tool to form a flaming perimeter around the circle.”

Why the East? It’s strictly based on personal preference, to be honest, or because “that’s the way I was taught.” Some people start in the North for the same reasons. I start in the east because it is the direction of the sunrise and represents beginnings and new endeavors. North is the direction of strength and stability. South would be for creativity and passion. West would be for emotions and endings. Most people pick a favored direction and simply stick to it. But it is perfectly acceptable to study the symbolism and associations of each direction and place your starting point according to the directional correspondence.

What is the energy you are using to cast the circle and where does it come from? What it is, initially, is simply raw energy and it can come from one of two basic places: 1) from the witch, or 2) drawn from the ambient local energy then channeled by the witch.

This second method is preferred because it doesn't leave the witch's personal energies drained. Think of this ambient energy like standing in thick fog. When you inhale you breath the fog into you where it is transformed into something you can use by exhaling into a balloon or blowing onto hot coals to start a fire. When casting a magic circle, if you are smart you draw in the neutral ambient energies that surround you, channel it through your body where it mixes with just enough of your own personal energies for you to be able to bend it to your needs, and finally direct it out through either your hands or any tool you happen to be holding. Your concentrated and directed will "programs" that energy in the process so that it will do what you want it to. Think if it like mixing water and soil to get malleable clay that can then be shaped by your hands to correspond to what your mind sees.

Now, you may be wondering why I said "if you are smart?' You can completely cast a circle using your own personal energies, and I actually know many people who do exactly that. Then afterwards they are exhausted and damn near completely drained, like they just sprinted 5 miles. While that method will get you where you want to go, it's not very efficient. Also, our personal energies are not unlimited. Just like physical energy, personal magical energies can run out and leave us pooped. And how effective will the rest of your magic be if you have dumped so much of it into casting the circle? Why run 5 miles when you can bike it? The bike is the neutral, ambient energy around you. You pull the bike up and ride it, using just enough of you personal energy to get it moving and direct it to where you want it to go. When you get there, you still have enough personal energy to accomplish your primary goal as opposed to burning up a good chunk of personal energy by running on your own.

When you cast your circle in the back of your mind you will most likely be already thinking of your purpose for casting the circle in the first place. Deliberately thinking about this purpose while casting the circle is what programs the circle’s energy. This is what determines what energies will be allowed to pass through the circle and what will be blocked or filtered out.

Okay, how about salt, water, and incense? Are these necessary to casting a circle?

Nope. But I bet by now you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? The function of using salt water to sprinkle the circle and incense to smudge or cense the circle is to remove or banish any energies that are not compatible or helpful with what you are working to accomplish from within the confines of the circle. This way you increase the chances for your spells to work like you want them to, and it greatly reduces the risk of having your space infested with magical “pests” while you are trying to meditate or commune with your gods and guides. But you can accomplish this on your own utilizing your own energies without the added assistance of the salt, water, and incense. Just as you can clean your clothes without the use of laundry detergent, using the detergent makes it easier.

You can also do it on your own by channeling huge amounts of ambient energy to basically overwhelm and unwanted energies but again that’s working harder not smarter and our goal is to work smarter.

(continued next post...)

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jkarrah
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PostSubject: Re: A Look at the Mechanics of Circle Casting   Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:48 pm

What about calling the Quarters? Do we need to call them? No. But it can be very helpful.

When you cast a circle, you have created a space between the worlds of the physical and the spirit. It exists without direction and without time. Calling the quarters helps to anchor the circle and gives us points of orientation and direction. Like floating weightless in a space station with no gravity, traditional directions have no meaning. When the station starts rotating to produce artificial gravity, towards the front of the station becomes north, and towards the back becomes south. Facing “north” puts east on your right and west on your left. Now that you are oriented you can more easily work and live on the station because you know where things are. Calling the quarters allows us to magically and spiritually orient ourselves to the physical while still standing between the worlds.

As with most things magical, calling the Quarters is helpful but not absolutely necessary. You can work “weightless” if you want, and for simple tasks that’s perfectly fine… even fun. But for serious rituals or major workings, it is generally a good idea.

So, who are you calling when you call the Quarters? The elements are just that: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. When you are casting a "traditional" circle, which is based on the physical and energetic geography of Western Europe and the British Isles, you are drawing on the energy of each element and setting them to act as directional anchor points for your circle and to help keep the energies balanced. There is no conscious being directing or controlling those energies for you.

When you invoke or call the Elementals you are calling in the assistance of a consciousness entity, the “spirit” of the element in question. You draw upon the energies of the elements, but you summon Elementals. Elemental critters are Salamanders for Fire, Undines for Water, Sylphs for Air, and Gnomes for Earth. You have to be careful with Elementals, though. While conscious beings, they are still primordial forces of nature and can be difficult to control, to keep them focused on *your* goals instead of their own. It can almost be thought of like asking a child to help you make something. As long as you can hold their interest and keep them doing what you want it’s good. But if they get bored or decide they’d rather be doing something else, you could have problems. This is why most people do not actually invoke Elementals, but instead call on “Guardians of the Quarters” or Guardians of the Watchtowers.

Guardians are also conscious entities, but they are more akin to us than elementals. There are many ways of calling Guardians. On my Clan of the Dragon website I have people asking for specific and willing dragons, skilled in channeling and controlling the energies of the specific element to come and stand watch, to help anchor the circle for me while I work. In other traditions, people invoke the Archangels, or specific nature spirits (fauns, dryads, fairies, etc.), or totem animal spirits or whatever. The point is to have a being as spiritually evolved and intelligent as we are, if not more so, who is willing to offer their assistance for a time to come help.

Again, there is no need to invoke these beings if you feel that you are capable of anchoring the directions on your own. That said, there are certain rituals where the more “people” you have assisting you, keeping an eye on things can be extremely helpful, especially if you are working alone. By asking the assistance of these guardians you can direct all of your attention and energy into the task before you without having to keep one magical eye out for possible problems.

Finally, what tools are needed? Again, none are needed. Tools are helpful, definitely, but not necessary. Which is more effective, wand vs. athame, Staff vs. Sword, all depends on the person using them. I prefer a wand. To me nothing says "magic" more than the wand. It's the one thing that nearly every kid with an imagination has picked up a stick and turned into the most powerful magical artifact in the world at some point growing up. That association is still there in the depths of the subconscious for most of us. Plus, a wand is the easiest of the magical tools to make yourself. Others prefer the athame because they like the symbolic danger and high drama of working with a fancy knife. Staff vs. Sword pretty much falls into the same categories.

Keep in mind there are all sorts of spells and rituals where formal circle casting is not necessary. There are those where you may want to cast a circle, but don’t feel the need to go all out and smudge, cleanse, and call the Quarters. Then there are going to be situations where you are going to want to pull out all the stops. Let your instincts and needs guide you.

I hope someone finds this helpful or at least interesting...

_________________
Check out what's new at

Shop at My Online Gift Shop for great dragon merchandise.
Visit the Clan of the Dragon where magic soars on dragon wings!
Read My Live Journal for updates, news, and musings.
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A Look at the Mechanics of Circle Casting
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