This article describes how to cast a circle and what it is used for.
What is a Circle?
A circle when cast is a a boundary between you and everything else. It’s purpose is to create a barrier from anything coming in from the outside so that you working is unaffected by anything you didn’t expect, and to contain the power you raise during the working so it doesn’t go off in an unexpected direction before you do something with it.
Under ideal circumstances, a circle (really a sphere) should be a multiple of three feet in diameter, or possibly a power of three (such as 3 or 9 feet, or 33 or 27 feet). However, it doesn’t have to be circular, though it should still include above and below, and it doesn’t have to be that exact size. The reason for the circle and the power of three is that circles are a perfect shape, and three is a sacred number (three faces of the Goddess). It will work perfectly well if it’s the shape of your room(s) (I like to include the loo), which also means it’s the size of your room. And if you’re outdoors, you may have to take into account sidewalks or creeks. If you prefer to have a perfect sphere but would like to include the room you’re working in, just make the sphere larger than the room, but make sure it won’t interfere with, for instance, the kitchen in the next room!
Casting the Circle
To cast the circle, decide where you want it. Draw in energy from the world around you, either just from everything, or from a specific element if you work with elemental energy. When you feel full of energy, focus it through your athame, your wand, or your finger, and let it flow out to the boundaries you envision. Visualise the stream actually forming the walls of your sacred space. Start in the East and draw clockwise (deosil) around until it meets in the East again. Some witches draw once, some draw three times around. If you use elemental energy, try visualising the circle in the colour of the element; i.e., red for Fire. When you have completed the walls, draw above and then below to complete the space. If you draw the walls three times, do so with the top and bottom as well. Then stop the energy flow so you’re not “leaking”.
Another way to cast a circle is to draw in the energy as before, and form a small ball in the center of your being. Let it expand outward and outward to the boundaries you envision. Again, it can be the colour of the element you used, or it can be your personal colour or the colour of your aura.
Leaving the Circle
If you find you need to leave your sacred space during the working, cut a door (with the same tool you used to create the circle), usually in the northeast, but you can move it to suit where you need it. Place your (for instance) athame at the floor at the left of the door. Draw up and over and down, and then along the floor to the original place. This outlines your doorway. Visualise the energy pulling back into the rest of the circle, leaving the doorway open. When you come back, close the door by drawing the athame across the floor from left to right (once or thrice) and putting the energy back into the space. You never want to leave a door open for very long, and try not to leave it unattended, for security reasons. If you must leave it, check your space carefully when you return to ensure nothing has entered when you weren’t there. If negative energy from outside has entered, sweep it out as you did when you were cleaning the space psychically during your pre-circle preparation. Then close the door.
Closing the Circle
When your working is done, the purpose of the circle is also done. Close the circle by a) drawing the energy back into yourself through the original tool and then grounding the energy for someone else to use, b) pushing the energy outward to break up and dissipate, or c) cutting it, using a slashing motion with the athame, for it to dissipate for another purpose. Method c) is the fastest. Only in rare cases is a permanent circle cast, and usually only in coven workings where the working area is used just about all the time and never for anything else. Maintaining circle energy indefinitely is a drain on the caster(s).
A Very Powerful Circle
If you need a really strong circle, or if you’re working in a coven and will be needing to contain a great deal of energy, use several castings: one person with incense (Air and Fire), then one with water and salt (Water and Earth), and a third with athame or wand. Actually walk around the boundaries of the circle while casting this way to make a really strong circle, and visualise the three castings meeting at top centre and bottom centre as you walk the boundary, because it’s hard to cast a top and bottom with the incense and salt water. This type of circle is usually cut to open it, and usually with three slashes.
To sum up, the purpose of the circle is to contain power and keep out what shouldn’t be there. It creates a temporary sacred space for you to work in, whether spellwork, meditation, or divination. You may cast a circle whenever you need to, and always take it down when you’re finished.