Setting up a Wiccan Altar
When you cast a magic circle, you are preparing it as an area in which you wish to invite the Deities to appear in. It is also the space created between the physical world and the spiritual. As in a "time and space out of time and space". It is also a safe environment for practitioners in which to convene in the manner in which they choose safe from outside interference as they set it to be. And it is used to help focus the magical energies that is built within it so that it can be released in one single burst.
Is there a difference in how you cast a circle depending on what you are using it for? Not really. You might change the words a bit while casting it if you wish to designate it to be for one purpose or the other only, but you can cast it with words that includes all of these purposes. What is important to remember is that for most Wiccan practitioners and some Pagans and witches, it is important to cast that circle before you begin your ritual or magical workings. One of the reasons is because it is believed by some that when you raise energies, which you are doing when doing ritual or magic, that it attracts other entities, some good some harmful. So, casting your circle could be very important.
Is there any particular preparation you should to do for yourself before casting a circle and doing a ritual? Yes. You should start with a ritual bath. I'll cover that in another article. You should also spend a bit of time in meditation before you start. But before you start preparing yourself you should set up your altar and area for the ritual first. The altar and all the items you wish to have on it. You don’t want to be in the circle starting your casting and discover you forgot something like matches. If you need to move furniture and such, do it now. When you have everything set up to start, then you can do your ritual bath and meditation. Many will wear a ritual robe or go skyclad (naked) for their ritual though others will simply wear clean street clothes. Now you should be able to go straight from that to cleansing and casting your circle.
Is there only one way or a best way to cast your circle? No. Just like all other aspects of your practice as a Pagan, Wicca or Witch, how you cast your circle is up to you. Use whatever method that works best for you and provides you with your desired result. Remember that all aspects of magic start with your mind and how it best focuses on its goal. What someone else has written down may not quite fit what you work best from. You may wish to use some of what the other person has written and then change other parts of it to suit yourself or write your own casting all by yourself. Having said that, here is a simple circle casting and releasing that you might wish to use or rewrite to serve you. This is how I use to cast a circle. Now days I have had to modify it a bit but I will cover that in another article. As I said there are many ways to do it. I present this as one way and as a basic outline. I hope it helps you to develop your own way of doing it.
Items used to cast a circle:
bowl of water
bowl of salt
4 candles or objects to represent the 4 elements
candles or objects to represent the Goddess and God
candle holders if using candles
matches or lighter
other items you use for your ritual and/or magic
Casting a Circle
1) Cleanse area with a besom. To do this simply start at the center and use a sweeping motion with the besom. You don’t actually touch the besom to the floor. Just use the sweeping motion till you have cleared the area that you will be using. Don’t forget to concentrate on what you are doing. As you are doing this say words such as: "I cleanse this area of all that is baneful so that I might perform this ritual in safety and with the blessings of the Goddess and God."
2) Set up your altar as you see fit.
3) Set out 4 candles or objects at the 4 cardinal points
a) North - Earth - Brown or Green - Stone
b) East - Air - Yellow - Feather
c) South - Fire - Red - Red Candle
d) West - Water - Blue - Sea Shell
4) Light the incense and candles
5) Pick up athame and touch it’s point to the salt and bless it in the name of the Goddess and God with words such as: "I bless this bowl of salt in the name of the Goddess and God that it may be used for good in this ritual."
6) Now add a pinch of salt to the water. Take the athame and touch the bowl of water with the tip of the athame and consecrate it to the Goddess and God with words such as:"I consecrate this bowl of water to the Goddess and God that it may be used for good in this ritual."
7) Now take the athame and starting at the East if you prefer, pointing the athame to the ground where you would have the boundary of the circle and visualize the energy flowing from the athame to the floor and slowly walk clockwise (deosil) toward the South as you create the sphere. Be sure to go all the way around and end where you started in the East. As you do this say words such as: "This is the boundary between the Worlds outside of Space and Time. Let it be a protection against all that is baneful. Let this space within this circle be sanctified to the Goddess and God"
8) Now take up the Salt and lightly sprinkle it at the edge of the circle, starting from the East, going clockwise (deosil) ending at your starting point saying the same as before as you walk the circle. Remember that you don't need a solid line of salt. First, if you are outdoors that heavy line of salt will kill the plants it falls on. Second, if you are indoors it will be quite a mess to clean up later. A light sprinkling is all that you need. A little salt goes a long way.
9) Next take up the Water and lightly sprinkle it at the edge of the circle, starting from the East, going clockwise (deosil) ending at your starting point saying the same as before as you walk the circle.
10) Last carry the smoking incense, starting in the East, and ending where you started saying the same words as you walk the circle.
11) Now go to each cardinal point as you go starting with East just change the order of these words, and saying words such as: "I call on the spirits of East, the element of Air that you may attend this circle."
12) Next go to the Southern cardinal point and say: "I call on the spirits of South, the element of Fire that you may attend this circle.”
13) Now go to the Western cardinal point and say: "I call on the spirits of West, the element of Water that you may attend this circle."
14) Finally go to the Northern cardinal point and say: “I call on the spirits of North, the element of Earth that you may attend this circle."
15) The circle is now cast. At this time the Deities maybe invited to your circle and you can continue with your ritual and/or magic.
Cutting a Doorway
If you have a need to leave the circle, then a doorway may be cut in the circle/sphere by using your athame. Cut the doorway at the northeast section of the circle, starting at the floor and cutting as though you are cutting a door shape, height and width. Be sure to seal it once you reenter the circle by tracing the circle's line with your athame.
Releasing or Opening the Circle
1) First say to the Deities that your rite/ritual or magical spell is done and that you thank them for attending and helping with it. Say then that They may leave if they wish. Remember to not command Them to leave. Always be polite.
2) Now go to each cardinal point, starting with North and release the elements saying: "I thank you Earth, element of North, for attending this circle. Go if you will, stay if you must. Blessed be."
3) Repeat this for each cardinal point going counterclockwise (widdershins). So, you go next to West, then South and finally East saying similar but appropriate words.
4) Now starting in the North walk the circle with your athame pointed down, drawing into it the energies of the circle. Walk counterclockwise (widdershins) saying words like: "The circle is now open though always here." Remember to end where you started in the North.
5) The circle is now open/released.
Remember that if you don't own an athame that you can use your hand or finger. Also, a wand can be used except in the case of cutting a doorway. In which case use your hand. Also you can start your casting from either the North or the East and likewise you can take up your circle from either North or West. This is up to you and your path.
Something that you need to keep in mind as you are casting your circle is that what you are casting is actually a sphere that not only rises above you but below you as well. So yes it goes through not only the floor but through walls and the ceiling as well. The sphere can be any color you wish. Some say it is transparent while others will say it is blue or purple. It isn’t really important what color you visualize it to be.
There are those that will tell you to never walk your circle in a counterclockwise (widdershins) direction as that is the way those of the Left-Hand Path walk. This I have found to not be true for me at least. It seems only logical and natural when you are finished with your ritual or magical act to draw up the circle walking counterclockwise (widdershins). Also, there are those that feel that those who live in the southern hemisphere should walk their circles in the opposite direction as those that live in the northern hemisphere. This is due to the fact that many feels that the energies in the southern hemisphere move in a different direction than they do in the north. On the other hand, the Sun and Moon still rises in the East and moves to the West where it sets. But it's up to you how you do it.
If you wish you can ask the Guardians or Spirits for protection as well as to be witnesses to your ritual. If you can't burn an incense, then you can put a scented oil onto a cotton ball and use that. Having incense isn’t totally necessary, it simply helps you to focus on what you are there for. You should be casting your circle and speaking from memory. So use words that fit for you and that you can remember. It is hard to cast a circle effectively if you are concentrating on trying to read from a script. Also, you don't need to spend a lot of money on the items used in casting a circle. Your kitchen and the discount or dollar store can provide everything quite cheaply. Magic and Wicca shouldn't cost you and arm and a leg to perform it. When starting out on your path you don’t need to have everything at once. It takes time to find what suits you and your practice and you may find that over the years even this will change. What is important is that you are sincere with your worship and focus on your magical intent. The cost of your tools don’t make they more powerful or useful, they just empty your pockets faster. Remember this is your practice so make it personal to you.
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