How to Cast a Circle for Pagan & Witchcraft Rituals
In the metaphysical and pagan communities, we are told it is crucial to cast a circle before rituals and sabbats. But why do we cast a circle? It is just some magical hoo-ha? Casting a circle isn’t just a silly tradition, it has purpose. That purpose is to protect us spiritually during our pagan rituals, and the circle contains raised energy until it is ready to be released. A circle is sacred space made wherever you deem necessary. A circle can be cast in your living room or backyard. Cast a circle while you’re taking a cleansing herbal bath in the tub. You can even cast a circle when you’re out in public and need extra protection and comfort.
How to Cast a Circle for Daily Use
When you need a quick circle for protection in public places, here’s how to cast a simple circle:
- Relax your body and mind as much as possible.
- Cleanse your body with 5 deep breaths and allow the tension to leave your body.
- Close your eyes (if you can) and visualize a bright white light bursting from the top of your head.
- Continue visualizing – this white light now showers over your body, forming a circle from head to feet.
- Hold the image of an impenetrable, shining white bubble. This circle protects from energetic intrusion. Hold the image as long as you can and it will protect you for the day.
Do You Have to Cast a Circle?
Casting a circle is part of traditional coven work, as well as ceremonial magic. Not every witch will cast one before every spell and ritual. Some choose to cast a circle only before lengthy and involved rituals, esbats, and sabbats. And sometimes it is definitely helpful to protect yourself if invoking elements or deities you’ve never called on before. But it’s certainly not a requirement for every witch. Some witches don’t ever cast a circle. The great thing about witchcraft is it’s truly up to you how you practice. Whether you encircle your magick or not is your business.
What You’ll Need to Cast a Circle
Depending on the pagan rituals or workings performed determines how elaborate the circle casting will be. If you’re performing a ritual or sabbat outside, you can include things like an altar, altar tools, offerings for gods, candles, herbs, salt, etc. If you’re in public and need a quick circle for protection, nothing is needed except for your mind.
Representing the elements at the four corners of the circle, you’ll need:
- Bowl of herbs or salt for earth
- A candle for fire
- Incense or feather for air
- Bowl or vase of water for water
Again, this depends on your preference and the ritual performed. In addition, some use a wand or an athame to cast the circle, but your finger and mind do fine without tools. Some choose to outline the circle physically with branches, salt, flowers, rocks, candles, etc. This is all up to you.
Cleansing and Preparing the Circle
- First cleanse the space with smoke from a smudge bundle or incense. Or use a besom to sweep away bad energy in widdershins (counter-clockwise) direction.
- Gather your tools. Set up your altar where the middle of the circle will be. The circle, once cast, should be anywhere from six feet and up.
- Make sure ALL tools are on the altar and ready for use (you don’t want to cast a circle and realize you left something outside of it).
- Find the directional points and mark each with a representation of the elements. (For example, in the North is the element of Earth. Set a large stone or bowl of earth to mark the North point. In the East is Air, incense or feathers represent air. In the South is Fire, represented by a candle and its flame. And in the West is Water, a bowl of water is perfect.)
How to Cast a Circle for Pagan Rituals (AKA Calling the Quarters)
For pagan rituals and sabbats, after cleansing and preparation, proceed:
- Stand at the North point of the circle (have your wand/athame ready, if you use one.) Turn and draw a circle with your wand, ending where you are standing in the north.
- Then, take a breath and envision a cave of impenetrable crystals encircling you.
- Face the north, raise both arms, and say, “I call on the element of Earth. Nourish and protect us this magical night.”
- Walk towards the east. Envision a powerful, illuminated wind encircling you.
- Face the East and say, “I call on the element of Air. Inspire and guide us this magical night.”
- Turn from the east and walk towards the south. Envision a fire that ignites passion and power from deep within you.
- Stand facing the south and say, “I call on the element of Fire. Ignite our spirits and empower us this magical night.”
- Now turn and walk towards the west. Envision a gentle rain falling all around.
- Stand facing the west and say, “I call on the element of Water. Give us powers of dream and intuition and purify us this magical night.”
- Next, stand in the middle of the circle and visualize a white bubble of light where you walked the circle. This circle isn’t just one dimensional – it reaches above your head and below your feet forming a perfect sphere.
- At this point, you may call the ancestors or gods of your choice (this is optional).
- Say, “The circle is cast. Let no one enter or leave the circle until it is released.” Proceed with the ritual.
Variations in Circle Casting
Keep in mind, if you wanted to physically cast the circle with salt, ashes, branches, or flower petals, do so while walking the circle during casting. Still others draw a circle on the floor with chalk or temporary paint. Change the invocation quotes above to your preference. Leave out the four element representations at the four corners, if you’d like. Use your finger as a wand or athame. Other variations include invocation of the guardians of the watchtowers, elementals, angels, ancestors, or certain gods and goddesses. Some practitioners wait until after the circle is cast to invoke their gods and ancestors, but the choice is yours.
The Elements Vs. The Guardians of the Watchtowers
Some people prefer to invoke the elements when casting a circle, while others call on the guardians of the watchtowers. What’s the difference between the two? When the elements earth, air, fire, and water are invoked to cast a circle, we are calling those elements specifically and the energy they bring. When the guardians of the watchtowers are called, we invoke the highest beings that watch over each directional point and related element. These are sometimes seen as gods and goddesses, sometimes seen as angels. This depends on tradition and personal belief. To add another layer of complexity, when we invoke “elementals” we are invoking a different kind of being than the guardians or the elements themselves. Elementals refer to beings from the fay realm such as gnomes for Earth, sylphs for Air, undines for Water, and salamanders for fire. Who you invoke in your circle is totally up to you.