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Circle Casting

Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:26 pm

By Bonnie on Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 04:06 pm:

I'd like to share my experience for what it's worth to anyone starting out.


Circle Casting & a Beginner's Magic S.N.A.F.U.
(Situation Normal, All Fouled Up)


I had my first experience of the reality and power of the circle in 1998, a few years before I'd learned anything of the Craft, although I'd been a practicing medium since the '70's. I was visiting a local new age shop. One of the owners is a woman I'd gone to grade school with. One of the "regulars" there, Craig, invited anyone interested to join him in an impromptu drumming. About 8 or 9 of us followed him into a back room of the shop. I had no idea what to expect and was open-minded, feeling playful & curious, a volatile combination.
I'd never met any of the others except for Craig, who had given me a Tarot card reading at another visit. We sat on the floor in a loose and lopsided circle & spent a few minutes on introductions. A few had rattles borrowed from the shop shelves & Craig had the drum. He beat a slow, steady tempo & the ones with rattles kept time. My hands were empty. We could close our eyes or not, and mine were open so I wouldn't miss anything.

After just a few minutes, I began to feel uncomfortably warm. The room had been chilly and I was surprised that it had become so hot. I felt I needed to get outside for a bit of air & made as if to get up. I placed one hand behind me on the floor to keep balance as I meant to stand up, but I felt my hand-to-my-elbow plunge from heat into ice cold air. This surprised me. The temperature in the room quickly cooled as if a window had opened, but there were no windows. I learned later that my breaking the circle had drained off the energy. How embarrassing.

Craig, who had kept his eyes closed, opened one baleful eye and gave me a reprimanding glare, but never stopped drumming. I realized that I had unintentionally committed some breach of etiquette and settled back cross-legged. No one else seemed to have noticed. The drumming continued and spontaneous chanting was added which sounded like "Eh-yayay-Ya, in time to the drum. The temperature built quickly, and again I felt overwhelmingly hot. I thought Craig was nuts to continue but I was determined to tough it out, even as beads of sweat popped onto my forehead & ran miserably down my back. Just when I thought I couldn't stand it any longer, Craig yelled "Ho!" and the drumming, rattling and chanting stopped all at once & in one breath. The room temperature very quickly dropped back to chilly, doubly so with my damp shirt.

It was another 2 years before I was led to read about the Craft. I recalled the above experience when I first read about the circle and cone of power. I knew from this experience that the energy that forms a circle is very real. I began to practice, just visualizing the blue light circle of energy I'd read about and calling the quarters, but not feeling I was succeeding.

I dreamt one night of a woman instructing me on the way to cast Circle. She said I should sweep the area where I would work to "cleanse" it. I should quiet myself, then feel the energy pulling up through my feet from the Earth Herself, and down through my head from above. The two streams of energy should pool at my belly, the seat of the Will. I should visualize this great pool of raw energy swirling, then with my desire and will, draw it down one arm and point at the ground; visualize the power scorching into the earth, blasting a line as I drew a circle starting north, east, south, west and returning north. North, she said, was from where the rays of the Earth flowed. She said I could start the circle at any of the 4 directions, attuned to the purpose or element I might be working with, but when in doubt I could do no harm beginning in the north. She warned sternly that a witch should be ever mindful of her power.

I followed the dream's instructions and my castings began to take on a better feel. In time, I began to occasionally see a fuzzy blue wisp of energy laying like smoke on the ground, and when I raised it up to form a sphere, I would sometimes be surrounded with a smell of ozone, like the air outdoors in a lightening storm. I also practiced forming an energy ball between my hands until I could see the blue smoke and knew I was cooking. In all these practices, I grounded the energies into a plain, flat rock from my garden when I was done. In that way I'd always have that energy on-tap if I should want it.

I used the Gardnerian altar set up and correspondences for a framework to begin. North corresponded to the Earth element and Pentacle altar tool; East/Air and the Wand; South/Fire and the Athame; and West/Water and the Cup.

The tools were very simple at first: I didn't have an athame yet. I used a Femo-brand modeling clay Pentacle I made myself, a willow stick wand stripped of bark & sanded smooth, a sea shell as incense burner, and a yard-sale find ceramic bowl for my cup. And a candle. I used the kitchen broom for sweeping. I poured my heart into the hand-made items and totally enjoyed myself. The lumps and bumps gave them character.

My first attempt to send the energy is comical. I think I shot from the belly instead of my hands. At the exact moment I released the power, a glass votive candle cup shattered with a loud "Pop!" I screeched out loud & dove for cover, laying still as a stone for a few frightened heartbeats. When I peeked through my hands covering my eyes, nothing else had happened. I then realized that I had not instructed the energy to accomplish a specific task, but had just let it go. When my heart started beating normally again, I swept up the glass & examined the debris. It had been a fresh candle in the cup and had not burnt down very far so I don't think a hot wick falling onto the glass can be the cause of the breakage. The candle was on a table at belly height.

Since then I always take a moment to pull the feel of the energy into my hands and count to three before release. I do this by thinking it so. I also make sure I remember to instruct the energy to carry out the task for which it was raised. No more blasted candles have occurred (whew).

I've learned to couch a sending with the instruction that it is done for the good of all concerned and cause no harm, and in addition, to never (absolutely, positively never) send the Circle's energy in anger. Strong emotion can easily overcome the intellect.

The Cone of Power that is created in Circle casting is spiral shaped. I've noticed magic also works in spirals, curling back on itself before proceeding to the goal, and that it takes its own sweet time in being carried out. Its "timing" is truly between the worlds.

Oh my typos! the year date in the opening line should read 1989 not 1998.

I just want to point out that in these circle practice sessions, I did not summon the Quarters/Watch Towers or Guardians, nor did I invoke deity. I was just practicing to get familiar with energy. Later, when I felt ready to do a full ritual, I included the summoning and invocation. I learn better if I break things down into small steps.
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:27 pm

By Louise on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 03:57 pm:

Bonnie this makes sense to me, without stealing all your ideas can you give me any pointers as to what you do from start to finish when casting a circle, and then how you call the quarters. One big problem I have is remembering words to a ritual and that has put me off, I want to find my own simple way of doing it. Also when you physically draw your circle do you just point where the circle edge goes, or do you touch the ground and "draw " the line?
One more thing, you have obviously been doing this for a long time now in some form or other, did you work on your meditation first, or did you go for it and work on each act - casting, meditation, spellmaking etc. as you went along?
I don't want to be a pest, I just feel like I am at the brink of something and just need a little extra to help me along.
Blessings to you.
Louise xxx
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:27 pm

By bonnie on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 05:33 pm:

Louise, I'll be happy to write out a detailed description & post it here in the next day or so.

Although the sequence of casting is open for discussion,(do I cast the circle first or call the quarters 1st? We don't have to call 'em at all. Dilemma.) It depends on what "tradition" one follows. Metaphorically, I think of the quarters as being the corner stakes that hold the tent in place. A circle establishes a sacred space into which we may safely and joyfully invite the God/dess for a particular kind of personal encounter. But don't let that throw you - They don't drop in with luggage.

As for remembering rituals - once you understand the meaning and intent of a ritual it's easy to ad lib, & thus there's not much to memorize. When there is memorization, it helps to make it rhyme. When I was learning, I wrote things in big print on typing paper and taped them to the walls. And why not?

In drawing the circle, if I'm outdoors, I would actually touch the earth and draw a real line if the ground is soft enough to mark (like sand at the beach). Some folks lay down a colored cord (I used the garden hose once.) Otherwise, I know the circle is there whether I see it etched into the dirt or not. It's the visualization that is the real circle, not the etching, which is really just there so you don't accidentally walk outside the borders.

Indoors, I just point & visualize. I'll hold my finger, athame, wand or staph at a comfortable level, which for me is about at my waist. I like to go high enough to go over the furniture & still have to imagine a cut through the chimney. If this were etched it'd be squiggly and lopsided. I just think it "round". Occasionally depending on my decorating scheme, I have a 30" circular throw rug I stand on that reinforces the image in my mind.

The short answer to your question of whether I learned meditation first or as I went along is that I was meditating before I came to the Craft. Once into witchdom, I got comfortable with the circle casting before trying spell work.

The long explanation is I began meditating back in 1970. I took to it like a duck to water as a wonderful way to get instantly refreshed between classes (who gets enough sleep in college?) In 1972 I became a trance medium so meditation was a natural bonus there too. I channeled a teaching entity for a couple of study groups over the years & we were taught astral visualization to effect desired change - what a witch does in spell casting with sympathetic magic. I didn't come to the Craft until 1989. I didn't even believe in magic - are we laughing? - because I didn't realize that what we'd been taught was what others called magic. It just seemed natural to me. Prior to reading about witchcraft, I had not read a single thing on the subject. I didn't know it existed...kinda naive, I know...or incredibly dense. Whew! Too much information!
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:28 pm

By Louise on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 09:31 pm:

Bonnie, thanks, already very helpful. I think I'll be happier going with the no tools aspect. I'd like to think that when I become more experienced I could cast a circle anywhere, and lugging tools around could be a bit suspicious, specially with the "dangerous weapons" law etc. I am also becoming more shockingly aware of how intolerated the word "witch" is in not only general society but in nearer company, which makes me realise how much more careful I need to be when talking about things that I am comfortable with and others aren't!
I don't want to be a pest Bonnie, but for all the reading, and I have done lots and have much more to go, it is still more helpful to hear how others go about the Craft, knowing that it is all very personal and what works for one etc. etc. So I would really appreciate your help! Any tips on meditation would be good too, I am collecting them up and trying them out as I go along. It is very hard! Finding peace and quiet is the hardest!! I can understand how people went out and away from everyone to find themselves!!! Oh to be able to run away!
Thanks once again Bonnie, I look forward with anticipation to your post, do you mind if I print off your thoughts?
How's the weather out there? We even had snow tonight and we're on the South Coast of England!!
Take care, blessings :)
Louise xxx
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:34 pm

By bonnie on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 10:42 pm:

I was taught most of this in a dream. Keep in mind that it can take longer to read through this than it takes to DO it. What follows is the generic portion of ritual.

Light the Altar candles 1st so you have light to see by. If you opt to have 4 quarter candles, either light them now or later as you get to them. Many people will have 4 quarter candles plus 2 or 3 on the altar. My indoor work area is too small for a lot of flames. I opt to place appropriate symbols of the elements on the altar.

When casting circle face North (some trads start east), take a minute to stand quietly & follow the path of your breath until you are centered, that is, when you are comfortable with who you are & why you’re standing there. Imagine that energy is moving upward from the Earth, from your feet to above your head. Then, imagine stellar energy from above pouring down upon your head out your feet. Let the earth and stellar energies merge at your belly; see the swirling pool of energy like a galaxy in your middle (solar plexus). When you feel the force, you’re ready to begin.

Sweep the area in which you will be working in a clockwise (deosil) direction. Use a broom or just make sweeping, smooth motions with the flat palm of your hand as you walk deosil. The belly energy is pushing away astral debris while the broom (if used) is sweeping the earth.

Now, with your 1st & 2nd fingers extended, & the rest curled into your palm (a hand position common to religious statues), or with your athame/wand/staff, trace the line of the circle deosil. Imagine power is pouring out from the belly pool to whip-flash down your arm & out. You may actually see it.

(Optional) As you walk, say:
“I conjure thee, Circle of Power, to guard all magic made this hour.
Old Ones, Wise Ones from the past, be witness here & guard it fast.
On my word, the will is free. An’ it harm none, so mote it be.”
End where you began facing North again & lay your tool on the altar.

(Optional) Step backward to the center of your circle. Extend your arms & continue visualizing the circle of energy as resting on the ground, then slowly pushing energy out of your belly, raise your arms & mentally command the flat ring of energy to rise into a sphere, extending equally above and below ground, so you are contained within a bubble.

Your circle is cast. You have created a space apart from the mundane world. Now it must be purified & empowered.

Representing Earth and Water, you consecrate salt mixed with water or burdock root & water: “I consecrate thee, spirit of salt/root and water, casting out all impurities that lay within that you will purify & make sacred this space.”

Walk deosil, starting and returning to North, sprinkling the blessed water. Say: “I purify and bless this space, removing all negativity and only love remains.”

Purify yourself either with blessed water or oil, saying: “I am cleansed of all negativity and only love remains.” (A see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil gesture was used by the late Lady Sheba, Jesse Bell)

Incense represents Air & Fire. With them you will create an inviting place for your guests. Light incense and walk the smoke around the circle, N-E-S-W-N

As you walk deosil with the incense, greet the Elements in their quarters, taking time to connect with each in whatever fashion has meaning to you, acknowledging the Nature of each. You might say:
@North: “I greet the Earth, that builds my body & bones” & imagine grains and fruit
@East: “I greet Air, that fills my lungs” & imagine hilltop breezes
@South: “I greet Fire, that empowers my will” & imagine campfire, lightening, lava
@West: “I greet Water, flowing in my veins” & imagine your pulse & the surf are one

(Optional) You may invoke a specific God/dess form. Speak from the heart and invite Them to witness and empower your rite. This is personal & should be in your own words but if you’re tongue-tied: “Lady of the Earth, Moon and Sea, Lord of the Greenwood, come dance with me.”

Return North and state the purpose (why you’re there): Sabbat, Esbat or Magical Intent.

Now your Temple is complete. Proceed with your purpose. (These vary, of course.)

If you will be sending an ethical intention you raise the cone of power in the same way that you raised power to cast circle, visualizing it like a spinning vortex above your head. Raise Earth energy, not your body’s. You are the conduit it flows through, not the Source. I like to clap, starting slow & gradually going faster, until energy is ready to pop & my gut aches with it.

If this is a spell, then that is the moment of truth. If your rite is for a Sabbat, give the energy to the God/dess. See your goal in your mind as already done. I was taught that, in your mind, you must stand at the moment in time that your goal is completed. Name it (one or two words are best, like “healing”). Let go the energy from the belly, draining it all to the last drop. Sit down (if you did it completely, you may need to sit down). Ground & reconnect yourself to the Earth to refuel yourself.

Many opt for cakes and ale as a means of thanking the God/dess for their blessings…not, repeat not just to refuel your tank. Bless the beverage and food relevant to the celebration and season. Your own words of blessing and thanksgiving are best. Use this moment to remember the God/dess as our source of Life.

If you skipped cakes & ale, remember to now give thanks, otherwise once you’re re-earthed, bid a pleasant farewell to the God/dess: “If go Thee must, be it in love and trust.”

Re-walk the circle deosil & bid the elements depart: “Guardians of the North, East, South and West, go Thee now unto thy rest. May there ever be peace between Thee and me.”

Just walking out of the circle will disperse it or you can draw the residual circle energy into your Athame or Wand. Snuff the candles, clean up and you’re done. (whew)


Now if that wasn’t enough, some trads call the quarters 1st, then cast and purify the circle, then invoke Deity. Some don’t even call the Quarters, feeling that pestering the elements is too much of a ritual magician’s domain. Others summon the Guardians of the quarters to be witnesses and oversee the process. No one ever explains why they use a particular order, but as I ponder the whys and wherefores of it, tyring to find my own way to comprehension & rely upon my intuitive understanding, I posit that calling the quarters “squares the circle”. In metaphysical-speak, this is to create order out of chaos, or to give form to un-shaped substance that is represented by the natural elements. To give form to substance is to materialize one’s will … and that’s magic. Casting the circle and calling the quarters sets up the energy pattern you want to have followed, just like sympathetic magic in which you symbolically enact what you want to have done.

1. Calling the quarters before casting circle puts the circle inside the square. That is to invoke Will from without, to enclose chaos and impose order, and seems to be male energy. 2. To cast the circle and then call the quarters places the square inside the circle to transform chaos into order from within, and this would seem to be female energy. So if you understand what you’re doing, you can make an informed choice as to how you want to work.

Invoking Deity aligns our human will with the Divine Will that empowers magic. It’s more than that though – it’s a loving working relationship & trust. Properly enfolded within the love of Deity, you will know if your desire is unworthy & can stop & regroup; or otherwise proceed with confidence, love and trust.


Re meditation: Don't just go to the rare quiet spots to practice; put yourself in the tough spots. If you can learn to meditate in an airport you can meditate anywhere! Always start with focusing upon your breathing. That's a short cut to turning off paying attention to anything else.

When we meditate we do not shut off our ability to respond to external threats or stimulus. If there's a sudden fire, we are 100% capable of getting the H*** out of the way.

Meditate with a cat on your chest. They move, get up and leave, then come back when you least expect. But they also purr like mad when you hit Alpha. Don't have a cat? Use a fist-sized rock instead, just don't expect it to purr. :)

Expect interruptions. The point of meditation is that interruptions do not disturb you. You become like water flowing around a rock. Every book that tells you to go to a quiet place to meditate had to have been written on the moon or mars ... oh wait, there's traffic there too. :) We can't get away from interruptions, but interruptions do not need to be disruptions.

Meditating is focusing...like I've been doing in writing this, because I could've gone home 90 minutes ago! I'm outta here!
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:34 pm

By Louise on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 08:21 am:

Bonnie thanks everso, I really appreciate your going home late!
What you have written is really clear and easy to follow - can't wait to give it a go, sadly I have to go and teach horrible 6 & 7 year olds today!
Have four cats, of which two will probably oblige! Your feelings on meditation are helpful, so many say to find quiet, peace etc. but to be able to do it any where would be so much better, and when I give it some thought I can actually get quite mesmerised by noises, the car, trains, one of the best is the MRI scanner!!! I can do this to the exclusion of other noises, so perhaps with more concentration I can do it more easily; maybe constant sound is the trick? Hence chanting, drums, music etc.
I managed to visualise a rose quartz heart last night, something I saw in the shops over the weekend. I was able to turn it in may hand and see the crystal imperfections inside it, but before long I was getting interrupted by the thoughts in my head!
Oops better go, time is ticking on, hope your day is going well!
Blessings to you,
Louise xxxx
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:35 pm

By bonnie on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 02:43 pm:

I found my biggest hassle in learning to meditate was in not having planned ahead to have something to focus ON. Just being quiet wasn't enough bcs then the mind wants something to do.
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:35 pm

By Louise on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 09:51 pm:

OK, I said I was teaching today...
I found myself outside in the playground with only a handful of children during the transition time before playtime, so I thought why not...
The sky was a beautiful blue, the trees were frothing with white blossom and a lovely fresh breeze was blowing. I shut my eyes and tried to visualise my rose quartz heart, it came straight to me and almost instantly I felt this tightness across my nose and cheeks, very strong. I opened my eyes and it faded. Repeated the "meditation" and the tightness came back. Did it again - same.
Is that normal? I've never experienced it before, maybe I was tensing, but I didn't feel tense. I can turn the heart over and over in my hand now, so I must be fairly relaxed to do that. I just tried it again, the visualisation is there, but I got a tingle, like a numbness in the end of my nose.
Just like me to have weird reactions!!
What do you think??
Louise xxx
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:36 pm

By bonnie on Monday, March 1, 2004 - 02:46 pm:

Louise, normal is what's right for you. If you're not holding your breath or gritting your teeth (which might cause tingling)then this could be a sensation you get when those muscles are relaxing as you visualize. Since you're visualizing a rose quartz heart, try focussing on the buzz & moving it to your chest. If it just won't move, then my guess is that the buzz is caused by an increase in blood flow as you relax. If it does move then is etheric energy.

I wanted to add a few things about circles from Rae's book.

In her book “Hedgewitch” in the UK & “The Wiccan Path” in the US, Rae casts circle in the following manner:

-Invocation of the God/dess
-Sweep the work area widdershins
-Consecrate the altar candle; She has a cauldron in the center and the altar set at the north rim, but begins and ends east.
-Casting the circle with the Athame, going three times around
-Invitation to the Guardians of the quarters to witness and protect. Take each of the following element symbols once around the circle and then leave the symbol at its quarter: incense for Air & East; a 2nd candle lighted from the altar candle for Fire & the south; plain water left at the west, and a stone for Earth left at the north (presumably on the altar). She gets in touch with the substance of each element with visualization.
-Insert ritual observance at this point, the details make up the rest of the book.
-Thanksgiving to the God/dess with blessed wine
-She closes the circle deosil, starting and ending east, giving thanks to the Guardians and returning the incense, candle, & water to the altar. The stone will already be there & shouldn’t be forgotten.
The circle fades when we cease thinking about it.

She also explains that the reason witches do most of their work within a cast circle is that it’s easier to enter the magical frame of mind and the circle creates a space between worlds which protects us from unwanted influences while working. And having said that, she also gives a method for working without the circle but says you have to be pretty good at visualization and moving energy for it to work, and those are skills learned within the circle.
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Re: Circle Casting

PostAuthor: TheWiseHedgewitch » Fri Oct 01, 2010 12:36 pm

By Louise on Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - 10:30 am:

Thanks Bonnie,
Haven't had the sensation since, but if I do I'll have a go at moving it...
Blessings to you,

Louise xx
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