Cast a circle
There are several ways to do this, and I can’t say one is more ‘right’ than the other. What ‘tradition’ you belong to might have a say in the matter, but first and foremost, what’s right is what works for you!
Another thing I want to say is that when you read about rituals in different books, it often says that you should do it ‘this way’, or use this or that thing, but everything isn’t as necessary, – it’s only there to add to the ritual.
If you had to wait until you had all the ‘magical weapons’ or paraphernalia which is listed, you would never get to do a single ritual in this lifetime (or at least not until you were pretty old). But some things are however more essential. You should always have salt and water on the altar, if it’s possible.
The athame (the black shafted knife of a witch) is what you normally use to draw the circle, but you can also use a wand or staff, and a couple of fingers works just fine!
When you’re going to perform a ritual, the first thing to create is a ‘sacred place’, a holy and different room or place, a place which is cleansed protected and suitable for meeting the divine powers.
You can do this as simple or as complicated as you wish, – the intention is what’s important!
But to get the optimal effect it’s smart to make it different from what you normally do. That’s why many like to take a shower or bath first, to symbolically cleanse them selves, and then preferably dress in something other than what they usually wear, or be naked or ‘skyclad’. You also remove wrist watches and such, because when you enter the circle, you also move into another time dimension than the ‘normal’ one.
It’s common to have an altar in the north (some have it in the center), it’s the Goddess’s direction. On the altar you often have a symbol of the Goddess and a symbol of the God (f.ex. a couple of figures, or a shell and a stone or a cone, or whatever you feel like using.)
It’s also common with symbols of the four elements: a bowl of water, incense, candle, pentacle (disk, slate) or a bowl of dirt. Salt is also an important ingredient.
Many also decorate the altar with flowers, leaves or branches with berries according to season. Most put their athames on the altar when they’re not using them, and often crystals or other objects which they want to charge or consecrate, so after a while the altar will get to small, no matter how large you make it. On the altar or close by, you should have a cup of wine and some cookies. (If you don’t have it, use what you’ve got, f.ex. water/tea and bread.)
You also mark the place, the circle, with a candle in each direction (at the border of the circle).
Ideally you should have a bonfire in the middle, but a cauldron with candles in it is just as good (when you do rituals indoors). (When you work alone, you can spread a small scarf in the middle, put a crystal there, and a candle and/or some flowers and some incense, and the altar is finished. – Everyone finds their way to do it.)
You start with a witch brushing the circle with a broom to get rid of all negative influences and vibrations and to clean the place physically. Then you purify the place with salt and water and also mark the border of the circle with it.
This can be done the following way. Hold your athame over the water and say something like:
‘Great Mother, bless this water, so that it in your service can help to cleanse this circle. ‘
Then hold your athame over the salt and say:
‘Great Mother, bless this salt of the earth, so that it in your service can help to cleanse this circle.’
Then mix some of the salt in the water and say:
‘Remember that as the salt cleanses the water, so does pain the soul.’
Hold the bowl with salt and water in front of you and say:
‘I greet you power of this earth, salt and water united. I call you forth in joy and respect for you to cleanse this circle.’
Walk deosil (clockwise) and sprinkle the water along the outer rim of the circle (start in the north). It’s also common to cleanse the participants of the circle with the water (woman on man, man on woman, or if you’re alone on your self). This you can do by sprinkling some water on them or anointing your forehead with it.
Walk around the circle with the incense (lift it a bit in the four corners), and then cleanse the participants or your self in the same way as with the water. (Hold the incense in front of every participant and fan the smoke in front of them/on them.)
Then you draw the circle (you walk along the outer edge of the circle and ‘draw’ the circle in the air with your athame, wand or hand). You start in the north, but you don’t say anything until you’re in the east. (Symbolic meaning: North/winter, the God and the Goddess are invisible, both in the underworld.) Raise your hand or athame a bit where you want the opening in the circle (where you go exit and enter the circle when you have to), in the north east, – or where it suites the terrain best.
Say something like:
‘I invoke you, oh Circle of power, for you to be (a meeting place for love, peace and joy, a defense against all evil,) a
borderland between the human world and the Mighty Powers’ domain, a protected place for the power we want to raise in your midst, whereupon I bless you and consecrate you in the two names ………… and ………… ‘ (God and Goddess.)
When the circle is cast, it forms a border, visible or invisible, as a wall, which you don’t just tread on or cross. If you have to exit the circle after it’s drawn, you make a symbolic opening, and seal it when you’ve re-entered the circle again!
Next follows the invocation of the four elemental guardians. You start in the east and end in the north. You can invoke the guardians without using names, or you can personify them.
Stand at the outer border of the circle at the eastern candle and say something like:
‘I (we) invoke you mighty guardian of the in east (south, west, north), ruler of the element of air (fire, water, earth), and ask you to come and guard this circle for us and witness our rituals. Merry Meet and Welcome!’ (You do the same for the other three directions.)
After this you can do the Witches’ Round. When you dance around the circle hand in hand while you chant/sing and build a ‘cone’ of power.
Next you invoke the Goddess and the God, and ask them to come into the circle. You can also ask them to enter a specific priest and priestess. This is more common when celebrating a Sabbath, and most often a priestess invokes the God, and a priest invokes the Goddess. (Different names are used depending on the season and the aspects of the deity you wish to invoke.) You can also invoke the God and the Goddess through collective singing/dancing/drumming a.s.o.
A fixed and important ingredient at all meetings is the feast. You celebrate life and death, the gods and your self (selves).
When the Sabbath ritual is done, and/or you’ve finished what you planned to do (healing or other workings), it’s time for cookies and wine. Your can say anything you want to bless the cookies and wine, as always it’s your choice. The wine is to lift the spirit and the food is to strengthen the body.
The blessing of cookies and wine can also be done as a symbol of the union of the masculine and the feminine:
If you’re a couple, the priest holds the chalice filled with wine. The priestess holds her athame between the palms of her hands, dips the tip in the chalice and says:
‘As the athame is a symbol for the man, the chalice is a symbol for the woman, and united they bring blessing.’
Nest, the priest presents the plate with cookies to the priestess and says:
‘Oh, most secret queen, bless this food for our bodies, so that it gives health, wealth, happiness, strength and peace, and love’s fulfilllment which is eternal bliss.’
The priestess touches each cookie with the tip of her athame.
You can of course do this in a simpler way, by saying something like:
‘May the Goddess bless these cookies/this food so that they/it gives strength and health to our bodies! ‘
‘May the God and the Goddess bless this wine/drink so that it gives us happiness and lifts our spirit! ‘ The wine and the cookies are passed around the circle and given to the next person with a kiss. During the feast it’s common to sing, drum and dance
It’s a good idea to draw the circle with chalk or something to be able to see where it’s at afterwards. You can also use the pattern of a carpet. Furniture can be placed as a marking of the border of the circle. The only circle which is important is the one which is drawn before each ceremony with either an athame or a sword (properly dedicated).
The circle is often 9 feet in diameter (2.7432 m), if it isn’t drawn for a very special purpose. There should be two outer circles with 6 inches between the lines (15.24 cm) so that the outermost circle has a diameter of 11 feet (3.3528 m).
1. Choose a good spot, take a boline, a scimitar or an athame and stick it in the center of the circle. Fasten a string to it which is 4.5 feet (1.3716 m) in length. Draw the circle with the hilt of the sword or the knife with the black handle. Always leave a door to the north. Make three circles as described and write powerful names between them.
2. Dedicate salt and water: Touch the water with the athame while saying: ‘I beseech you, creature of Water, to throw out all impurities and contaminations, so that they won’t hurt me.’ Touch the salt with the athame and say: ‘Bless the creature of the Salt, and let all evil and hindrance be thrown out. Let all good enter, because without you, you can not live. Therefore I bless and beseech you to help me.’
3. Put the salt in the water.
4. Sprinkle the circle with the water.
5. Light candles and say: ‘I beseech you, creature of Fire, that every type of spirit may leave you, and become unable to harm or deceive in any way.’
6. Warn any partners, enter the circle and close the doors with 3 pentagrams.
7. Declare what you’re going to work with.
8. Walk around in a circle 3 or more times before you start to work. 9. Invocation: ‘I summon, stir and call you up. Mighty ones from the east, south, west and north.’ Greet them and draw a pentagram with the sword or the athame. Start from the top and down to the left.
Closing the circle
When you’re going to close the circle, you take a walk around the circle and address the guardians again. This time it’s natural to walk widdershins (counter clockwise), but many do this deosil. Start in the north.
Say something like this:
‘Mighty guardian of the north (west, south, east), I (we) thank you for coming here and guarding this circle for me (us). Thank you and farewell.’
This often follows:
‘The circle is opened, but not broken. Be wise and blessed and welcome back!’
You can of course do this alone as well.
Is you’re more than one, it’s often the priestess who does ‘water and salt’ (the female elements), and a priest who walks around with the incense and any candle (the male elements). The invocation of the guardians is often done by a priest, and sometimes a priestess joins him and holds the symbol of the relevant element.
But it’s always a priestess who draws the circle (when your not a man and alone). But anyhow – in my opinion – everyone should try everything, and everyone should also make a circle alone by them selves!!! And there are no rules which say that you have to do it the way that’s described here!
Those who are in the circle join and take each other’s hands, chant the verse below three times, quiet at first and then you build it up.It’s usually easier if you’re working with others, to get the ring effect when you spin up energies. If you’re alone you can still chant this three times, and for example move around in a circle while you do it.
‘Eko, eko Azarak Eko, eko Zamilak Eko, eko Kernunnos Eko, eko Aradia’
Making a door in the circle
Some times you have to exit the circle. This is perfectly OK, but if you cross the borders the circle is dissolved. To avoid this, you have to make an opening.
Turn towards northeast. Hold the athame so that the tip points downwards close to the ground. See and feel the circle in front of you. Pierce the energy wall of the circle and draw an arch high enough to walk through, and move widdershins around the circle about 1 m (3 feet). Move the tip up to the mid point of the arch and down the other side until it’s close to the ground.
While you do this, visualize that this part of the circle’s energy is pulled into the athame. This creates a void which allows you to exit and enter the circle. Pull the athame out of the circle wall. You can now move freely out of the circle.
When you’ve re-entered the circle, close the door by placing the athame at the lower northeastern point of the arch. Draw the parameter of the circle clockwise. As if you were drawing that piece again, visualize a blue or violet energy which flickers out from the blade and melds with the rest of the circle. And it’s done!
A Flower Circle
The magic circle can be formed with a wreath of flowers dedicated to the Goddess and the God. As an alternative flowers can be spread around the outer border of the circle.
The corner stones can be surrounded with fresh flowers and herbs which are relevant to the elements. For example:
North: corn, cypress, fern, honeysuckle, wheat, vervain
East: acacia, bergamot, clover, dandelion, lavender, lemongrass, mint, mistletoe, parsley, pine
South: basil, clove, cedar, chrysanthemum, dill, ginger, heliotrope, holly, juniper, marigold, peppermint
West: apple blossoms, camelia, catnip, daffodil, elder, gardenia, grapevine, heather, jasmine, orchid, lemon balm
Fresh flowers can be use to decorate the altar. If none are available, you can use green tings as fern.
When you cast a circle around a tree, you can (if you want to) use fruit, nuts, leaves or flowers to mark the circle. All these can be used in addition to the rope and the stones.
A Circle at home
Magical plants which grow outside in containers can be placed around the circle or on the altar for a ritual. If you primarily work indoors, choose an odd number of holy plants and grow them in your ritual area. If they need more light, you can move them and then move them back when you need them for a ritual. Give them energy and love, and they will help you in your homage and magic.
All non-poisonous plants can be used, but these are recommended: African violet, Red geranium, Cacti (all types), Roses, Ferns (all types), Rose-scented pelargonium, Holly , Rosemary, Hyssop, Ti plant (Cordyline terminalis), Palms (all types), Wax Plant (Hoya carnosa).
Put fresh flowers and herbs in your hair (and on your body, if you want to) during the rituals. A wreath on the head and similar is always suitable for spring and summer rituals. Use oak and pine for winter rituals.
You might want a necklace of herbs and seeds, for example; tonka beans, whole nutmeg nuts, star anise, acorns and other seeds and nuts thread on natural fiber. Strings of small pine cones can also be used. For full moon rituals, which are held at night, wear night blooming, fragrant flowers to fill your self with lunar energies.
If you don’t want to use wine, which has been used for a long time in magic and religious rituals, there are many other drinks which can be used to make a toast to the Goddess and the God. Among these are:
Sabbath: apple juice, grape juice, grapefruit juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, black tea, light mead, guajava nectar, cinnamon coffee, ginger tea, hibiscus tea.
Esbat: lemonade, apricot nectar, mango nectar, pear nectar, papaya nectar, peach nectar, jasmine tea, peppermint tea, rose hip tea, milk.