Further reading

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Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: Putnam, 1967. Crowley, Aleister. Magic in Theory and Practice. 1929.

Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1976. Flint, Valerie I. J. The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe.

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Harvey, Graham. Contemporary Paganism: Listening People,

Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press,

1997.

Luhrmann, T. M. Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England. Cambridge: Harvard University

Press, 1989.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. Magic, Science and Religion. Garden

City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1948. Seligmann, Kurt. The Mirror of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948.

Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.

magic circle A sacred and purified space in which rituals, magical work and ceremonies are conducted. It offers a boundary for a reservoir of concentrated power and acts as a doorway to the world of the gods. The magic circle is an archetypal symbol of wholeness, perfection and unity; the creation of the cosmos; the womb of Mother Earth; the cycle of the seasons and birth-death-regeneration. Within the circle, it becomes possible to transcend the physical, to open the mind to deeper and higher levels of consciousness.

Circles have had a magical, protective significance since ancient times, when they were drawn around the beds of sick persons and mothers who had just given birth to protect them against demons. The remnants of stone circles in Britain attest to the importance of the circle in ancient pagan rites.

Sacred circles used in contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft are derived from Western ceremonial magic. There are similarities, but some important differences.

In ceremonial magic, the circle represents a sacred space in which the magician conjures and commands demons and spirits that are dangerous and difficult to control. The circle provides protection against them and must be cast carefully. The magician must never leave the circle during a ritual nor even inadvertently swing his arm outside it, lest a conjured demon grab him and strike him down, or something unpleasant happen.

GRIMoiREs and other magical teachings give detailed instructions for casting the circle with consecrated ritual tools, such as a dagger, sword or wand, during certain astrological conditions and hours of the day or night. The circle is drawn on a floor that has been carefully cleaned; SALT may be sprinkled around its perimeter to reinforce the boundary.

The magician's circle is nine feet in diameter, or a double circle of eight feet within one of 10 feet. The circle is inscribed with magical symbols, words and NAMEs of power. In casting the circle, the magician moves DEo-siL, or clockwise, the motion of the sun, MooN and stars through the sky. For negative magic, the magician moves wiDDERsHINs, counterclockwise. He leaves a small opening, then steps inside, closing the opening very carefully to prevent unwanted presences from entering. The magician consecrates the circle with the four elements, Earth, Air, Water and Fire, and invokes the guardian spirits who watch over the four quarters of the sky (the cardinal points) and the four elements. The circle is entered in anticipation of uniting with the gods and the forces of nature in a harmonious relationship, not to conjure or

Ceremonial magic circle and Pentacle of Solomon (FRANCIS BARRETT, the magus, 1801)

control spirits. The deities are invited to witness and participate in the rites; all spirits are treated respectfully.

In contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft, circles are cast according to available space, size of group and purpose. They may be traced on a floor or measured out with cord, or may be established by walking the perimeter. Circles outdoors may not be perfect circles.

Negative energy is banished prior to casting a circle. In wiCCA, it may be symbolically swept out with a broom by the high priestess. The consciousness of participants is prepared through meditation, visualization, breathing, drumming and other esoteric methods.

The altar and ritual tools—such as a wand, pentacle, censer, cauldron, scourge, athame, chalice, cords and other items—are placed inside the circle area. Witches and Pagans working alone may have fewer tools. Candles, stones or other objects are placed on the floor or ground at the four quarters, or cardinal points.

The circle is ritually cast DEosiL with an athame, sword or wand. As the circle is cast, a field of psychic energy is visualized. The working space of the circle actually is a three-dimensional sphere. Participants are invited inside through a gate, which is then closed. The circle is consecrated with the four elements or symbols of the elements. The guardians of the four quarters and elements, called the Lords of the Watchtowers (a Freemasonry term), or the Mighty Ones or the Guardians, are invoked. If the ritual takes place outdoors, nature spirits are invited to participate. God and Goddess are invoked through ritual. Offerings of food, stones, crystals, flowers and so on are made. The purpose of the ritual—such as magic working, a handfasting, or seasonal festival—is stated and the work is carried through. The circle may be opened at any time for exit or entry, then closed again. At the close of rites, food and drink is consecrated, offered to the deities, and shared by all (see CAKEs-AND-wine). As a final release of energy, the spirits and deities are bid farewell, candles are extinguished, and the circle is ritually banished. It is important to close a circle in order not to leave the ritual space psychically active.

Circles can be cast for protection, for example, to ward off psychic attack or protect a home against intruders. Magic circles do not last indefinitely; protective ones must be periodically recharged through ritual.

The term circle also refers to Wiccan or Pagan meetings. Some Wiccan covens offer training circles for individuals who are in training to become witches and be initiated into the coven.

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