Many of the religious and spiritual traditions that have graced this wondrous planet have common elements, not the least of which is the concept of sacred space. Whether this is seen as a consecrated church, a synagogue, a river, or a grove of trees, sacred space is a place of communion, a place where one can touch the sacredness of the Divine, and in doing so, experience the sacredness of being.
My religious tradition, Witchcraft (the [re-constructions of] pre-Judaic shamanistic traditions of ancient Europe) recognizes that while the Earth in Her entirety is sacred, a specialized sacred space can be created/recognized when desired.
The foundation for the rituals known in Witchcraft stem from what is perhaps the oldest symbol known to humankind. In Paleolithic times, primitive wo/man drew and painted circles to represent the womb of the Goddess, who was the primary deity, due to Her ability to give birth to the world. Later, this ancient symbol was seen to represent eternity, the moon and sun, the cycle of the seasons, the world, protection, and the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. “Casting the Circle”, is a term that is used to describe the setting up of ritual space, a space that has been psychically ‘cleared’ of extraneous energies, and that has had protective boundaries erected.
When we gather in a circle, we face each other and are able to maintain eye contact. The obvious hierarchy existent in the ‘mainstream’ religions does not appear: We are all equal, there is no central figure who preaches their way to the masses. Also, when we are within a Circle, our psychic abilities are more readily, and safely, controlled.
During a ritual, especially one in which magick is done, the circle is used to contain the power, so that it may be focused and released when it has reached its apex. Many of us form a Circle prior to meditation, or before performing psychic exercises. Using a circle enables us to “fine tune” our own psychic potential.
Below, I give a very basic formula for the casting of a circle. You don’t have to be a Witch to benefit from the energetic shifts that this exercise can produce. Practice with it. See how it feels. Feel free to elaborate on it, or even change it completely, at your discretion.
Casting the Circle
The circle itself need not be marked out on the floor, although many find this an enjoyable method. Take a small bowl of sea salt (representing Earth, our bodies) and put a few grains on your tongue. Next, take a cup of spring water (representing our emotions) and pour some into the bowl of salt. Sprinkle some around you. Feel the water on your face. Light some incense (Air, our minds), and light a candle (Fire, our will) thus charging yourself with the four elements.
Beginning in the north (or another direction that seems appropriate), and holding your hands outwards, palms out and down, begin to cast the circle by visualizing a blue flame, emanating from your hands as you slowly turn clockwise. (You may wish to simply visualize these steps while you are meditating, see what feels right to you.) Visualize the flame leaving a trail on the floor, to mark the circle. See it begin to gently hover in the air, until it creates a luminous “egg” around the area, . When you can “feel” the egg around you, you may wish to make a definitive statement, like:
By stone and wind,
by flame and sea.
This circle is raised.
Feel the last line as a statement of fact, an affirmation. Feel the power of the elements in your body. You have now created a psychic “safehouse”, a space where you are more in control of your psychic abilities.
It is important to point out that once the circle is cast, no one should enter or leave. To do so would break the circle, and would allow the energy to be leaked away. If someone does needs to leave, however, an opening can be “molded” by visualizing a sturdy opening forming on the surface of the egg, and shaping that with your hands. Re-seal it in the same fashion.
The circle will remain until it is grounded or dispersed.
Grounding the Circle
When the ritual is ended, the ritual space needs to be grounded, re-balancing your energies and that of the area. This can be done by turning counter-clockwise, while pressing your hands into the edge of the luminous egg. Visualize and feel the energy as being gently directed into your 3rd chakra (your power center, located at your solar plexus), and then downward into the earth, grounding the energy into your body, and connecting you to Mother Earth. Address the four directions and say:
By stone and rain,
by flame, and wind.
The circle is open,
And forever unbroken.
It is done.
It is important to experiment with different methods so that you become accustomed to the flow of energy. Try using favorite poems or songs to raise energy into the Circle. See if you can “feel” the boundaries of the Circle when cast. You may want to raise a circle when you feel worried, or stressed-out. You can imagine it filled with light of any color, to give you a boost of energy, or to keep you calm when necessary. The important factor is that you are able to maintain a feeling of “safe-space”, and a feeling of personal power. Remember: if it feels right to you, it’s right. Blessed be.