In your practice of witchcraft, you will often want to cast a circle for ritual, to create a safe space for your craftwork, and sometimes for meditation. As you learn and grow as a witch, you will become more adept, and tweak your circle casting to your liking.
After years of practice, I can cast a circle in mere seconds simply though focused thought.
Let me explain. In Yoga, you learn a technique of breathing your mind and body into relaxation. After some time at practice, simply beginning the breath will trigger the relaxation response. Likewise, when meditating, the place you meditate, the position you take, lighting a candle, playing music—anything you do every time you meditate, signals your body to slip into that calm state.
Because I have cast so many circles I can now create the energy of a protective circle with nothing but thought and focused intention. If I find myself in a situation where I need an especially protective boundary, I can cast one quickly and virtually silently.
Below is an example for casting the circle, followed by an outline of steps for ritual preparation, though circle casting, magical working, to ending with the opening of the circle and releasing energy.
Stand before your altar, indoors or outdoors. Envision that you and your altar are the center of a circle. Begin by facing North and call the elements one at a time in deosil. As your practice grows, you should be able to do this extemporaneously, guided by what you are feeling at the time and the purpose of your ritual or other work. As you call each element, face in that direction and hold your arms up and out. If you use a ritual athame, hold it in both hands and point the blade in the direction of the element as you call.
(Face North) Hail North, element of Earth, energies of the physical world, of all living things, of grounding, foundations, security, and stability. I call upon Gaia, nurturing Mother. Attend my rites.
(Face East) Hail East, element of Air, energies of thought, intellect, ideas and inspiration, the breath of life. I call upon Air. Attend my rites.
(Face South) Hail South, element of Fire, energies of passion, courage and action, the fire of might and transformation. I call upon Fire. Attend my rites.
(Face West) Hail West, element of Water, energies of all emotion, of love and hate, of compassion and fortitude, of bravery and fear. I call upon flowing water that washes me clean and quenches my thirst. I call upon Water. Attend my rites.
*You may light a candle at each direction before you call each, to light their way. Again, this is not necessary. You could also place a crystal at each directional point and in the center. You can cast a circle with absolutely nothing but yourself. You can sit in a cast circle with a single candle, and communicate with your guides. Choose what enhances your rites for you, and what feels right at the time.
Above me, below me, before me, behind me, around me like sphere the circle is cast. (Face your altar) This sacred circle is cast in a place between worlds. May all who enter come in love and trust to aid me (us) in my (our) workings, and may the boundary protect all those within from any who would bring harm or ill intent.
*If you practice with deity or spirit ~ I call (fill in identifier) into the circle (add any qualities or aspects). Example: I call Great Spirit, the creator of all things into my circle. (etc.).
*If you are going to be working with a specific deity for any of your rites, you would call to them at this point, in the same manner, naming them and acknowledging their aspects, especially the aspects you are seeking in your magic, such as protection, strength, compassion, etc. Example: Hail Hekate, guardian of the triple crossroad, I call you into the circle and ask for your wise guidance in my workings, for you see all worlds and all times.
After you have cast the boundary of the circle and called in those you wish to attend, proceed to offering of libations. Hold up the cup with drink. You can offer a portion to Spirit, a deity, or simply to the universal collective or higher self. I offer this drink to (fill in). May none thirst. Then drink from the cup yourself. If you are in circle with others, pass the cup (deosil) and say, May you never thirst. They drink and do the same. When all have partaken, pour any remaining drink onto the ground, into the fire (or if indoors an offering dish).
Repeat the process with the food. Hold it up and say, I offer this food to (fill in). May none hunger. Partake for yourself and pass to others, saying may you never hunger. Give any remaining food to the ground, fire or offering dish. If using an offering dish, it should be placed outdoors after ritual.
When you have completed the offerings, move onto any craft work, meditation, communicating with Spirit, deity, guides – drumming, dancing, however you choose to honor the purpose of your ritual. Though ritual and rites are two words often interchanged, I feel that ritual is all of it, from preparation through feasting—and the rites refer to the specific workings done while in circle.
Along with creating a protective boundary, the circle also serves the purpose of containing the energy of the magic you work, the energy of your intention. You can you sound and movement to raise that energy to higher levels, waling or dancing around the circle, singing, clapping, drumming, spinning (don’t get dizzy).
When your ritual, craft workings and raising energy are complete, open the circle in the reverse order that it was cast. First bid farewell to any specific spirits/deities you called up, then to God/dess. Bid farewell to the elements from Water to Earth, in widdershins direction (counter clockwise). If you lit candles blow each one out, one at time, after you bid farewell.
Farewell (deity/spirits) and all beings who entered the circle and joined in my (our), rites. I (we) thank you for your presence. Blessed be and journey well.
Farewell West, element of water. Thank you for your energy of purification, fluid movement, quenching and hydrating (add general energies that apply, especially those specific to the ritual). Blessed be and journey well.
Repeat for the remaining directions/elements.
If others have joined you for ritual, you can join hands before saying ~
Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again. The circle is open but never unbroken.
Whether holding hands or alone, raise your hands up swiftly toward the sky, releasing the energy and magic that was contained in the circle, out to the universe to do it’s work. A little vocalizing never hurts, do what you feel—shout, sing, try making a unique tribal call! If this isn’t coming easy, start with Magic, do your work!
Ritual work can leave you feeling spacey, even a bit shakey. Proceed to feasting to ground and center. You can also, literally, touch the ground with your palms and visualize absorbing Mother Earth’s grounding energy.
- Gather all altar supplies, tools and offerings.
- Supplies and tools should be cleaned and consecrated to your work. Ideally, your tools are most often in this state and ready to be used. Read about cleaning, consecrating, and charging tools here.
- Self purification. A ritual bath or other cleansing method.
- Set up your altar using representations for elements, spirit/deity, candles, etc.
Cleanse and Consecrate Your Space:
This can be done with herbal smudging, incense, or sacred water. Read about making your own pagan holy water here. Circle around in a deosil direction (clockwise movement), allowing the smoke or sprinkling the water in a boundary around the circle. You may want to speak words of clearing and blessing, such as. “I clear this space and these tools of all negative energy and bless them for my sacred work.”
Ritual garb is an individual choice. Wear whatever feels appropriate, but having special garments only for ritual (a simple gown or robe) for ritual adds to setting the energy. After you have prepared yourself, prepare your space and altar. It is not true that ritual must be performed sky-clad (nude). Do so if you’re comfortable, don’t worry about it if not.
Your altar can be quite simple, with a representation for the four elemental energies—Earth, Air, Water, Fire. This is important, the essence of witchcraft is understanding and working with nature, and is governed by the laws of nature and the laws of physics. (For deeper research, look into string theory and witchcraft).
If you practice with deity or the premise of an all powerful Spirit, you should have a representation of that present. It can be a printed image, a figurine or statue—it can be a rock you have consecrated to hold the energy of your deity.
Cast the Circle:
- Call directions/elements
- Call deity or other entities as per your beliefs and purpose of your working.
- Speak to the purpose of the ritual (A sabbat, a special honoring or request, etc)
- Honor the energies/deities/others
- Express gratitude for all that has been given
- Ask for what you want (if nothing specific, ask for continued blessings and guidance on your path)
Offering ale and cakes, or libation. This can be any beverage and bite of food you desire. It can be a deity’s favorite, it can be your favorite shared with deity. It can be the same thing every time if that’s what you want—wine and bread, milk and cookies, water and fruit . . .
Any special crafting or workings, such as making a seasonal corn dolly, mixing up an elixir, creating a spell jar, or simply putting your crystals or other tools in the circle for consecrating to a specific purpose (protection, abundance, etc). You can use this time to communicate with your guides or deity (just listening counts). You can sing, dance, drum, pantomime, recite verse. This is the time to honor your craft and all the workings thereof.
Give Thanks and Open the Circle:
Give thanks to all beings and energies called into the circle. Do this in the reverse order that they were welcomed – God/Goddess, other deities and beings, elements/directions.
It is best practice to ground after holding ritual rites or participating in them. This is easily done with physical movement, and food and drink. Thus, the traditional feasting after opening the circle.