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Thoughts on Casting Circles [magic and pagan stuff] - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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April 4th, 2008

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01:48 pm - Thoughts on Casting Circles [magic and pagan stuff]
A few days ago, I was talking with teaotter and Aaron about our various magical practices. Becca mentioned that she found the idea of casting a circle before performing magic to be rather odd. She also said that she has heard (as have I) a number of neopagans talk about how they cast a circle in order to effectively create a separate space where magic works. I'd never considered this idea in any depth, but am inclined to agree with Becca's assessment that people who do this almost by definition do not actually believe in magic and are casting circle as a way to help them reconcile their lack of belief in magic with the fact that they are performing it. I've also encountered a smaller number of people who always cast a circle in order to keep out potential threats which they were clearly quite worried about. While that certainly seems a perfectly reasonable activity if someone is performing goetic summoning or various similar activities where one is interacting with entities that are potentially dangerous, it seems to me somewhat paranoid when performing a simple blessing. I've never particularly understood the rationale behind this idea except as part of a belief-set where people feel that the supernatural is in somewhat inherently malevolent and threatening, which makes no more sense to me than the belief that it's all harmless. OTOH, I'm fairly strongly uninclined to paranoia.

This discussion got me thinking about how and why I use circles when I perform magic. I don't always use them, but for any significant ritual work, my standard is to cast a circle. I also start off with the LBRP, the Middle Pillar Ritual, and Circulating the Body of Light, but I mostly do this because I find them useful to do and doing them then helps get me in the mood for higher powered ritual work.

After I finish with these three, I cast a circle, call the quarters, and being work. In this context, the circle itself is more something I do to spiritually "tidy up" and prepare the area for ritual work. I'm a fairly fussy person in many ways and Aaron made the analogy of me being like a bowerbird that spent time carefully arranging the objects in and around its bower, which rather closely fits my own obsessive tendencies. For some reason, Aaron almost always uses bird metaphors with me, then again give the magical name I choose (Heron) perhaps he's onto something there :)

In any case, my own magical practice is primarily focused on making certain that I and the things in my immediate vicinity as I want them to be and that the people I surround myself with are happy and fit well into my life, and this sort of arranging of my life definitely fits with my arranging of my ritual space before a ritual, including casting a circle – I have no more interest in having something unwanted in my circle than I have tolerance for unwanted things in my life.

So, why do you cast a circle?
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(15 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
I fall in the same “tidying up” category: it’s much the same cooking with clean dishes, or vacuuming up the cat hair before your guests come over.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
I originally cast circles to get myself into the right mindset, to remind myself that I was going into a different state of consciousness. These days, I don't do it to cut my little circle away from everything else, but rather to invite everything else into my area. It is an evocation of numerous beings to right where I am--or an acknowledgement of the presence of those who are already there.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
This is something I've been focusing on in my own practice just in the last couple of weeks. I've never been much of a "caster." I'm primarily a mystic, and have always found it relatively simple to simply quiet my mind and connect with the Divine. Given that connection, casting a spell or doing ritual seemed unnecessary. (I'm very "low church.")

Recently, however, I've started to understand that being able to work with energy is a valuable skill, and I've started to approach circle casting very much in the way you describe: as cleaning up my environment and settling and centering myself.

Beyond that, I'm embarking on what is very much an experimental path. I've read dozens of books that explain how and why to cast a circle, but doing it as they described never had much value for me. I'm going to be trying different methods and paying close attention to the results, trying to discover what works and is appropriate for me and my purposes.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
It's about keeping in. The Circle serves as a "resonance chamber," if you will, a place where as the coven raises power, it remains contained and nicely controlled, building on itself while continuing to have more added to it before the Priest or Priestess running the power-building releases it in a single focused moment.

Ah, rather like the silver and half-silvered mirrors on a ruby laser. The eccentric Brit-trad-derived tradition I trained in used a somewhat similar idea, and I use something like that for group rituals (which I haven't done for far too long).

Every Working that is done there lends power to every Working that has ever been done, or ever will be done within a proper Circle. It isn't a matter of building a Circle, as I note earlier: it is "The Circle," and BTW witches speak of it that way.

That's an absolutely fascinating concept and not one I'd encountered before. I like it.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC)
I don't "cast circles" as such except in very specific contexts (in which case I usually need a physical circle present, in addition to a psychic one). But I do banishings and invokations before a ritual in order to prepare myself for the work to come. This isn't so much tidying up as hyping myself up for the operation.

I almost never call in angels and such (vis-a-vie "calling quarters" and the like) unless there is a specific need for those entities. I specifically *do not* call the Guardians of the Watchtowers unless I'm either working on those Watchtowers, or am working in my specifically constructed Astral Temple. To do otherwise, in my case, risks violating the contract I made with the cacodemons of those watchtowers.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
I only use circle casting with my coven, because one or two of them have spirit hanger ons that bother them, and this seems to make a nice safe place to focus on the work at hand rather than to give them room to pop in and annoy. My covenmate can't even do dream work without her ghost popping in to hijack it. This seems to give her space to interact with just the entities and deities we are purposefully inviting to join us.

At home, I have stopped doing it, my temple room already feels sacred as long as I have it cleaned and organized physically. The permanent altars themselves in various parts of my house seem to serve the purpose of designating sacred spaces. Also, I don't have an annoying hanger on, my friend says she sees a playful little boy with me, but really that sounds quite pleasant, I guess he is fine just hanging around and doesn't need to bother me when I am working.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
I haven't done a circle casting in years, either with a group or solo... Most of the people I know who circle-cast do so for the multitude of reasons mentioned above. What I figure, and have been told, most need the circle as a separation of sacred space from profane/mundane space, and, as Lupa mentioned, get them into the proper mindset.

For me, there is no difference between the two, the sacred is in everything, though is stronger in some areas than in others, and not-so-nice in some areas than in others, therefor there is no need to delineate space. There is nothing to delineate. The odd time I do cast a circle, it is to prep "space" because I have a particular focus in mind. I also, according to what friends have witnessed and told me, tend to "fill" the space with the requisite energy I need/want rather than delineate it.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, I should add, I'm not much for quarter calling. Heathenism isn't big on it, though I know some who equate various being with the directions. And if I require the assistance of someone/thing I'll ask.
[User Picture]
Date:April 5th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
For the same reason that I stretch before going to the gym - to warm up. Setting a circle helps me concentrate.
[User Picture]
Date:April 5th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
I don't cast circles. I perform banishings to get rid of anything nasty that may have come through (always internally generated, since I have a vivid imagination and paranoic tendencies).

But then, OTO people tradtionally don't cast circles.
[User Picture]
Date:April 5th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
I hardly ever do any formal Ritual Work anymore, so I don't have a need to Cast a Circle. If anything, "My Circle" has evolved very much into "My Space", which always necessarily includes my physical body and the extent of my physical reach. When I was a DJ, I had to energetically steer an entire club full of drunk people. I noticed when I DJ'd that I could literally dominate a Space, and that Space generally includes whatever Room I'm in. I have a very Projective Personality, so my Circle stays Centered on me. I know that part of this is from a permanent Invocation of a Mage Character who was specifically designed for such. He had the supernatural flaw of "echoes", and I inherited it from him. E.g., People often feel more "giddy" around me, people often report "weird things happen around (me) that don't happen anywhere else" (including the "Bats!" & "Spiderwebs!" phenomena of many a hallucinogenic trip). I've found my 5 dots in Blatancy has helped me immensely to not only perform Anti-Ritual Magick, but also to keep the Paradox away ;-)

I've never wanted to rely upon externalities, and so have largely focused the 5 main Intents of a Circle into 5 Energetic Safety Skills that are activated/cast via a simple one-breath Visualization and Gesture each:


I rarely even use all of these, but I certainly will Center myself if off-balance, Ground if I have an excess of something, Banish unwanted intrusions away from me, Shield myself from any further intrusions, and make sure to Filter in things that I Desire. Fenwick & I talked about these 5 skills in our Metaphysics, Mysticism, & Magick 101, and we taught it in our Energywork: A Practical Course in Subtle Energy Work. I'm actually hoping to be doing a much more advanced (Banishing 501?) version of this in a Workshop at the upcoming esoZone.

Having said all of that, I still do occasionally Cast a Circle. A few times a year, a problem will piss me off enough that I get out "The Big Guns" as I call 'em. It basically involves me saying my Magick Chant, "That's IT! I'm fuckin' through playing games with this bullshit! I'm getting out the BIG Guns, you (insert a cathartic several minute string of Curse Words)" as I march promptly to my Altar & Magickal Toy Box to fetch all the Magickal Weapons & Tools I feel that could add something to the Working I Create rather spontantously.

I think that most of what I have read above, I'd also agree with, particularly the opinion that a Circle can really help Amplify a lot of Energy.

So, I guess, there's a few different ways I do (or not) use Circles. Oh, you wanted the short version...
[User Picture]
Date:April 5th, 2008 08:44 am (UTC)
As many have mentioned above, as a kind of cleansing when I need it, though generally I add the LBRP for it. Also, for keeping energy in, sometimes, but that's pretty rare.
[User Picture]
Date:April 6th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)

Tidying up, maybe.

Getting myself into my usual frame of mind for magical workings. I have small rituals for a few other topics, like writing.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC)
Wait wait wait... you mean some people actually *prepare* before doing magic?

Huh. That's a weird concept. I mean, that would limit the number of very bad things that could happen, but how are you really going to learn without really bad things happening?
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
When I do things involving casting a circle -- which I do if it feels right at the time, more or less -- I think of it as "set and setting". A quick Google on that concept will explain pretty well. Blame having gotten into psychedelics and paganism round the same time... :-)

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