Monday, January 14, 2013

Circle casting by Scott Cunningham

Preparing the circle and self

As with all other aspects of working magic and performing ritual, the process of casting a circle is highly individualistic. I cannot emphasize enough that there is no right or wrong way of doing things. As such, and in time, you will find there are many methods of casting a circle, and while one method may work for some, it may not work for others. You need to experiment and try different methods then improvise and do and use what works for you. By doing this you can then form your own method, unique and special to you.

Circle casting is heavily reliant on your abilities to raise power and the use of visualization. So if you are new to magic and circle casting you may wish to take time out here to read my article “What Is Magic”, in which I have explained both techniques.

Purification of Space:

If you are practicing at home as most people do, be aware that “astral garbage”, pockets of negativity and other non-productive energies collect in our living spaces. For instance, you may have had an argument with your husband or spouse, or scolded one of the kids for doing something wrong, or even received an unexpected bill and cussed the sender. These are all perfectly normal everyday happenings but all produce negative energies the residual of which hangs around and remains. As these energies can be disruptive to our “Sacred Space”, we need to ritually cleanse the area being used prior to the start of our workings.

Before lying out your physical circle and altar, clean the area physically with a brush, vacuum cleaner, or mop depending on your floor covering. Now we can clean up any negativity that might be present. There are several ways of doing this:

(1) If you have one among your tools, use the magical broom to ritually sweep away the negative clutter. This in effect is a symbolic action; the bristles of the broom need not actually touch the floor. Sweep rhythmically while visualizing energy sparks or flames shooting out of the broom, blasting all the negativity away. Know and feel it is doing so. You could also set up a rhythmic chant while doing this, using words like: “Sweep, Sweep, Sweep this place. Cleanse and clean my Sacred Space”.

(2) If you don’t have a magical broom, an alternative is to use a bell. Ringing a bell unleashes powerful energies, visualize its vibrations attacking and demolishing any negative energy. Start at the North point of the circle and work your way deosil (clockwise) through East, South and West and ring the bell at each point. Know and feel the vibrations cleansing the area. Any type of bell can be used, but if you can, choose one with a resonant tone.

(3) Another method is to simply burn purifying incense such as frankincense, myrrh, sage, thyme or rosemary (See - "Incenses"). Fumigate the area by walking deosil around the circle and visualize the smoke dispelling any negative energy.

Once the area has been ritually cleansed, mark out your physical circle and place your altar in the center, then lay out all your tools together with any other equipment necessary for your rite or magical work. Next you may wish to purify yourself with a ritual bath or shower, while at the same time preparing yourself mentally for the coming ritual. When you think about it, we are all bombarded each day with negative thoughts and images, from scenes of carnage and destruction on the T.V., and in the newspapers, to our own dark thoughts and negative reactions. Meditate for a while thinking positive things and purify your thoughts ready to begin your ritual.

Once you have bathed and the time to begin approaches, you will need to consider how to dress for your ritual. Many witches particularly those of the Gardnerian path, prefer to work “skyclad” (naked), with the body in its most natural condition. But ritual nudity isn’t for everyone, if you don’t feel comfortable working nude, even in private, then don’t, there are other options. Many wear specialized dress such as robes and tabards. These can be quite ornate or as plain and simple as you like. They can be purpose bought if you don’t mind the expense, or make your own if you are handy with cotton and thread, you can even personalized it with you own runic signs and symbols. Use natural materials and fibers such as cotton, wool or silk and remember also to consider its colour correspondences (See - "Colours").

If you don’t have specialized clothing to wear, simply wear some clean loose clothing of a neutral colour. It is normal to keep whatever you wear separate and wear it only for ritual and magic. The idea being that to slip into a garment used only for magic, lends a mystical atmosphere to your rituals by shifting your awareness to the coming proceeding and promoting ritual consciousness. Still, as long as you are happy and comfortable with what you are wearing (or not wearing) then that is fine, but you may wish to experiment and see what suits you best.

One other thing to mention here is "Music". Music and dance since ancient times has been incorporated into religious ceremonies and ritual magic. Not only does music enhance the atmosphere of ritual, it can also have a powerful effect on stimulating our actions and producing magic. Shamans of old (modern ones still do), used rhythmic drumbeats to induce trance like states in which to produce magic. Many modern day witches incorporate and use of music before, during and after their rituals. Pre-selected or recorded music can be played before the ritual to start and aid meditation and set the mood. During the ritual the steady beat of a drum may be used to set the pace of a dance or rhythmic rhyme of a chant. After the ritual has finish, joyous or celebratory music can be played while relaxing. Today there’s are a wide variety of pre-recorded Wiccan and Pagan cassettes tapes available, many are well worth investigating and trying. Alternatively you could simply record appropriate pieces selected from classical, ethnic, folk or contemporary sources.

The last and final thing to do is to make sure you will not be interrupted. Disconnect your telephone, close any open curtains and lock the doors if necessary. If you are working at home and have family, tell them you are not to be disturbed for sometime. Now you are ready to begin and cast your magic circle.

The Magick Circle

Enter your circle and light any altar candles you are using. If you are using quarter candles, start at the North point (or East if that’s your preferred direction) and light the four candles walking deosil (clockwise) around the circle. Return to the altar and light the incense. Before the start of any ritual, magical working or divinatory activity, a witch will first 'Ground and Center' to booster the self's resources by infusing 'Personal Power' with 'Earth Power' producing calm within the inner-self ready for the work ahead (see "What is Magick"). Now you are ready to begin.

Stand in front of your altar or the center of your circle if you are not using one and face your preferred direction. Concentrate and build your personal power within you (see "What is Magick"). When it has reached a fine pitch (you’ll know when it has with practice), hold out your projective hand (right if right handed) palm down at waist height and point your fingers at the edge of the physical circle on the ground (you could also use the athame if you wish). Push out with your personal power and see and feel the energy flowing out from your fingertips (athame). Visualize it as a bright light (coloured if you wish) and slowly walk deosil around the circle. Now form it with your visualization into a swirling circling band of magical glowing light the exact width of your circle.

When you can see the band of light swirling about you expand it with your visualization and stretch it over and around you in the form of a dome, it should encompass the whole ritual area. Now extend the energy down into the earth, see it forming into a complete sphere of pulsing glowing light as you stand at its center. Feel it solidifying into a living glowing reality all around you. Sense the edge of the circle and the difference in vibration within and without of it. You may even feel the temperature rise, as the air inside grows warm, charged with your energy and alive with power. When the circle seems complete and solid around you, cut off the flow of energy by turning the palm and clenching your fist pulling it back to your body.

This then is your magical circle, your sacred space completed. Time now to recoup your energies before starting the next phase of the ritual. Do this with a bite to eat or a sip of wine or water, while savoring the atmosphere you have created. What you do next largely depends on your ritual or the magical work you intend to perform. Some start by consecrating the salt and water held on the altar and using them to seal the circle. Do this with the athame; touch the blade to the salt saying something like:

“I consecrate and cleanse this salt that it be purified and fit to use in this my sacred circle. In the name of the Goddess and God, I consecrate this salt”.

Visualize energy flowing out of the athame and blasting away any negativity from the salt. Next do the same with the water saying:

“I consecrate and cleanse this water that it be purified and fit to use in this my sacred circle. In the name of the Goddess and God, I consecrate this water”.

Take up the salt and starting at the North (salt is symbolic of earth and represents North), sprinkle it around the circle moving deosil. Visualize it purifying and sealing the circle against unwanted influences and negativity. As you are doing so you might say something like:

“Here is the boundary of my circle where naught but love shall enter in, where naught but love shall escape from within. This I charge with the powers of earth.”

Completing the circle return the salt to the altar and take up the Incense. Repeat the same process with all the other elements starting at each appropriate direction. Incense for air representing East, Red candle for fire representing South (care should be taken here that it doesn’t blow out as you walk around the circle), and Water representing West. Change the wording of the verse as you use each element.

Next you may wish to invoke the rulers of the four quarters to protect and watch over your proceeding. There are various teaching regarding these rulers, some people link them as the “Spirits” of the elements, others see them as the “Old Ones” (anciently placed guardians or watchers of the four direction), still others think of them as the “Mighty Ones” (former humans who have climbed the incarnational ladder to perfection, thus allowing them to dwell with the Goddess and God). The Mighty Ones are mythologically linked to the four directions. Again here there are no hard and fast rules of which to use, so use what feels right for you.

Below is a basic method of calling the quarters rulers using the wand, however depending on the work and the forces you intend to call, a more powerful method of opening and closing the quarters is by using the invoking and banishing pentagram for added protection (see The Pentagram).

To call the rulers take up the wand in your receptive hand (left if your right handed). Stand at the North edge of the circle and hold the wand aloft saying something like:

“Spirits of the North, Old Ones of the Earth. I call upon you to attend my circle. Guard it with your powers Mighty Ones!”

Don’t just say the words; try to say them with meaning. Visualize the spirits arriving in a swirling glowing green mist, sense the earth’s energies cleansing and filling the north quarter of the circle with positive forces. Open yourself to them and invite them in, stretch out with your awareness, sense, feel, and know when they have arrived. When you can feel their presence, lower the wand and move to the East. Raise the wand again and say:

“Old Ones of the East, Spirits of the Air. I call upon you to attend my circle. Guard it with your powers Mighty Ones!”

Again don’t just say the words, believe in them and feel the spirits respond. See and sense them arriving on yellow wind blowing away any negative influences and filling the east quarter of the your circle with intellectual energy. When you can feel their presence, lower the wand and move to the South. Raise the wand aloft again and say:

“Old Ones of the South, Spirits of Fire. I call upon you to attend my circle. Guard it with your powers Mighty Ones!”

Visualize blazing orange flames of fire engulfing the whole area of the South quarter, burning, cleansing and protecting you from harmful forces. Finally, when you can feel their presence, lower the wand and move to the West. With the wand held aloft say:

“Old Ones of the West, Spirits of Water. I call upon you to attend my circle. Guard it with your powers Mighty Ones!”

See the spirits rushing in on waves of blue-green water sweeping away all doubts and negativity, filling the West quarter of the circle with the powers of life and regeneration. When you can feel their presence, replace the wand on the altar and stand still for a moment. Feel and sense the circle around you. Reach out to the spirits and welcome them, feel their presence and communicate with them. Know they are there. Feel the energies and visualize the circle glowing and growing with power. Your circle is now complete and ready for your ritual to begin.

Cutting a Doorway:

At times it may be necessary to leave the circle. Contrary to some teachings, pushing your hand into or walking through the magic sphere will not cause any undue damage. When you think about it being circular, if you stand at the very edge of the circle your head and feet will necessarily extend outside of it? At most walking through the magic sphere will give you a jolt of energy and dissipate its strength. Should this happen simply re-create it or strengthen it with renewed power.

To prevent this from happening it’s a common practice to cut a doorway through which to walk. Do this by facing Northeast and using your athame. Pierce the wall of energy near the ground and cut and trace an archway large enough to walk through. Move anti-clockwise in line with the edge of the circle as you are cutting and visualize that part of the circles energy being withdrawn into the athame. Finish back at the starting point thus creating a hole or void through which you can walk. Withdraw the athame and you are free to leave and re-enter without breaking the rest of the circle.

To close the doorway reverse the procedure. Point the athame at the lower Northeast corner of the archway and push out with your power. Visualize the energy you removed flowing out of the athame and retrace the archway by the moving clockwise. Feel the energy being replaced and converging with the rest of the circle. When you are happy the circle is complete again, cut off the energy flow and withdraw the athame. You can now continue with your rite or workings.

Closing the Circle:

Closing the circle is normally a reversal of the casting process with a few minor differences. Once the rite has finished and your magical work complete, thank the Goddess and God for their help if you have called them. Some may do this with a simple "Cake and Ale" ceremony, making offerings and toasts to the deities before they depart, some may prefer to do this after the circle has been closed, the choice of course is yours. Take up the wand and move to the North (or East if that’s were you started), and hold the wand aloft saying something like:

“Farewell, Spirits of the North, Old Ones of the Earth. I thank you for your presence. Till the next time Mighty Ones, go in peace with power”.

Repeat the same process for the other directions but this time moving “widdershins” (anti-clockwise) through West, South and East. Some people take offence at this believing that moving anti-clockwise within a circle creates negative energies. Because of this many witches now shun the practice even though it is based on orthodox teachings. Some however still use it for dispersing the circle. The choice is up to you, if you’re not happy to move widdershins, then move deosil as in the casting procedure. Remember to change the words of the verse at each direction.

Replace the wand on the altar and return to the North (or East) position. Pierce the wall of your circle with your receptive hand (or the athame if that’s what you used to create it). Moving widdershins (or deosil) visualize the circles energy and power being sucked back into your body (or athame). Feel the circle dissolving and shrinking as you pull back its energy. As you are doing so, sense the outside world regaining its dominance over the area as you finish back in the North position. Your circle is no more.

This brings an end to your use of power and energy for the time being, but while the power and energy raised during your rite or working may have been released towards its goal, residual traces of energy will still remain within the self. It is important to 'Ground and Center' yourself again and release the remaining energy back into the ground were it will safely dissipate.

All that remains now is to extinguish the quarter candles and put away your tools. Save any remaining salt for future occasions and pour any excess water outside onto bare earth. Likewise, any cake and wine left over or offerings you have made to thank the Goddess and God, should be buried outside in the earth together with the incense ashes. Next you can dismantle the physical circle and take up whatever you used to form it, also clean up any salt or other substances you may have used and scattered about during you rite. Some people leave the altar standing to allow the Goddess and God candles, as well as any working candles to burn down and out in their own time, though you may wish to move it from the center of the area.

Wicca, A guide for the Solitary Practitioner - By Scott Cunningham

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