Day 8 - Magic Circle - The Power Of The Circle
The circle symbolize completion of a cycle, or anything else for that matter. It is 360º or 36 around 1 or 12 Around 1 X 3 (physical reality) = 36 - the Wheel of Time and Alchemy.
The circle represents the completion of a cycle of existence, coming full circle, completions, perpetual motion, progression through time, clockwork and formal structure.
The circle links with Zero Point and the number Zero linked to consciousness, the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Numbers.
The circle symbolizes the source of consciousness which creates this reality.
Circles have used in rituals and ceremonies, since the beginning of time.
You are the nucleus of the circle of which life is created.
Spheres, Harmonics, Qabbalah
The Magic Circle can be defined as one of the most basic of devices in Magical Art. It can be created physically or psychically.
Symbolically the circle can be said to represent the macrocosm and the microcosm. It also represents eternity, for a circle has no visible beginning nor an end. The moment one stands in the center of the circle one symbolizes the divine in the universe.
The circle upon the ground separates the material from the spiritual realms, that is beneath the circle is the underworld and above it the heavens - as is above so is below.
The Magic Circle in theory serves as a container for magical energies as well as helping to switch from the mundane consciousness of everyday life to that of a more magically minded one. In certain types of magical rituals, those described as black magic conjurations by the ignorant, the circle is used to keep out hostile forces and entities.
Agrippa in Three Books of Occult Philosophy
Aleister Crowley in Book 4, Part II :
A Magical Circle of about 9 feet in diameter is usually suitable for the solo practitioner, use your own judgement when determining the size for group rituals or rituals that require movement such as dance.
Since the dawn of time, human beings have gathered around the fire to make music, to dance, and to weave magic in the fire light. In the past fifteen years, there has been a resurgence in our Western culture for this type of ritual, a reawakening of the shamanic spirit. What is happening during the course of an all-night fire? After observing the ritual process for a number of years, and comparing stories and experiences with others, we have found that the alchemical model is a useful tool for understanding the all-night sacred fire circle ritual.
While fire circles and drum circles range from very informal social gatherings to all-night intentional magical workings, here we will focus on the style of intentionally created magical drum and dance fire circles that have been evolving for the past fifteen years on the East Coast, which have now found their way across the country to Fire Dance. One of the main differences in our rituals is the "container" which we create. In the alchemical tradition a container or vessel is often hermetically sealed to outside influences. At our fire circles the participants enter the vessel with the intention of doing their magical work.
Every fire circle ritual is different, but there are some elements common to all. In alchemy, the Magnum Opus, or "great work," is the creation of the philosopher's stone, which has many magical qualities. This philosopher's stone has the amazing power to turn all that it touches into gold, or to spiritualize matter. Basically, as we see it, we're using a pattern that we know works to change and grow more fully into our souls. We are turning lead into gold, on many different levels.
We see the primary goal of staying up all night, drumming, dancing and singing at a fire circle as an alchemical process. Each one of us is involved, on some level, in the great work. We accelerate the processes of personal growth by accelerating the fire of Nature, which transforms the lead of our lives into the gold of Spirit. One of the basic ideas behind many alchemical traditions is that of transmuting or purifying one thing from a "lower" form into a "higher" form. When we consider the history of Alchemy, we find many different traditions.
- Jeff Magnus McBride and Abigail Spinner McBride
The central aspect of many Wiccan rituals is the magick circle. Magick is spelled in this context with a "k" intentionally to differentiate this subtle force underlying the manifested Universe from stage-show parlor tricks and sleight-of-hand. The teachings relate that the original Celtic and Etruscan Witches, from whom a great deal of our learning comes, did not cast formal circles however, a working will generally create a circle of energy around the practitioners even if no formal circle is cast. The principle of the circle as used by modern Witches is probably a development stemming from this fact, as well as the tradition sharing that certainly occurred between Witches and Jewish mystics during the Burning Times. As with the other tools of ritual, the Circle embodies multiple layers of symbology. The circle is misnamed, however, as it is actually spheroid.
1. Altered States of Consciousness: This principle underlies all the others. Standing in circle causes an immediate alteration of consciousness which is requisite for any working of magick. The mind is taken out of the mundane and into the magickal.
2. The Temple: The circle acts as a temple or church wherein the Witch stands in the immediate presence of his/her Lord and Lady. It is a sanctified place fit for their holy presence.
3. Sacred Spaces: Similar to the Temple aspect, the circle serves as a sanctified fortress, useful for consecrating items or people, or simply as a refuge from mundanity.
4. Protection: The circle is a shield or barrier against all external forces that would cause harm to the Witch. This is especially important since entry into circle necessitates a dropping of everyday personal shields, leaving us otherwise psychically unprotected.
5. Magical Filter: The circle filters the forces around the Witch, allowing in only those forces that are most auspicious for the working and keeping out detrimental forces. This can apply to such things as elemental, astrological, solar or lunar forces, or Tattvic tides.
6. Power Concentrator: The circle keeps in energy generated by a Witch, helping to shape the energy into a concentrated and focused Cone of Power, until such time as the Witch releases the Cone.
7. Redefining Reality: Casting a circle is a redefinition of reality. In essence, we create an island that we designate as the only true reality, then assign directions to this island : north, south, east, west, up, down, in, out.
8. Space Between The Worlds: The circle is neither entirely in the world of form, nor in the world of spirit. Instead, it is intermediate between the two, acting as a bridge connecting the planes of being. It acts as common ground where those of form may meet with those of spirit directly.
9. Omnipresent Now: Because the circle acts as a bridge between the worlds, it allows us to take advantage of the omnipresent now, or principle of nonlinear time, while allowing us to remain in the linear time to which we are accustomed. This allows us an advantage in scrying and divination, as we are more in contact with this principle of timelessness.
10. Yggdrasil - Akashic Egg: The circle represents the womb of the Goddess and the eternal cyclic nature of the universe with neither a beginning nor an end. The ever-becoming, all potential of the Creative Force given form is represented in the circle.
11. Extension of the Personal Shield or Aura: The circle can be regarded as the projection or externalization of the personal aura as a ring around the individual in solitary workings, or as a combination of the auras of all participants in group workings. For this reason, it is important that all participants assist the HP/HPS when casting the circle.
12. Crucible of Chance: By its very nature, the circle changes all those who enter into it on a regular basis as well as the environment surrounding the individual. This occurs even in the absence of the formal casting of change spells and is directly related to the nature of the circle itself.
13. Alchemical Catalyst For Redefining the Self: The circle forces us to reexamine our selves as well as our true Selves we come to the realization of our abilities and limitations, and through that realization can attempt to expand and overcome them. We progress in what Aleister Crowley termed the Great Work, the alchemical transformation of the self into the image of the Self in essence changing lead into gold.
The circle is the energy of Ceremonial Order. It is an expression of the will which drives through into outer manifestation; it is that which embodies both the periphery and the point at the center. It is the will to "ritualistic synthesis," if I might so word it. It is Necessity which is the prime conditioning factor of the divine nature - the necessity to express itself; the necessity to manifest in an orderly rhythmic manner; the necessity to embrace "that which is above and that which is below" and, through the medium of this activity, to produce beauty, order, perfect wholes and right relationships. It is the driving energy which Being emanates as It appears and takes form and lives. It is the Will towards Expression. Today, as regards humanity, its highest expression is organization.
Tribal rituals, dances, are performed in sacred circles, the ceremonial hoop. Some dances involve holding hands while other are singular. Often joining hands in a circle with others seems to be a healing process and the beginning of a journey of self-discovery.
Today, thousands of groups all around the country are choosing to meet in circles. This is new. Just a few decades ago, you would have found the same groups sitting in a classroom format. Intuitively, people sense that the circle has something to offer them. People often comment that the circle helps them feel a sense of community, and that it reminds them of the value of equality-in the circle, nobody occupies a "special" position.
However, most groups that gather in a circle are not practicing Circle work. While Circle work may include a wide range of elements such as emotional healing work, discussion, physical exercise, and so on, it is first and foremost a spiritual practice that begins and ends with awareness of the center. This awareness of, and reverence for, the center as a place of sacred power is what distinguishes Circle work from other types of circle gatherings.
Circle work begins and ends with the intention of listening to the voice of the center, the voice of spirit-or, if you prefer, to the voice of our own deepest wisdom, of which the center is the universal symbol. Circle work deepens our receptivity and strengthens our connection to spirit. Like a giant ear, or like a satellite dish, the circle helps us tune in to vast resources of healing, wisdom and guidance. Many people have found Circle work to be a powerful agent of individual healing, transformation, and growth.
My own background is in dance, psychotherapy, Hindu mythology and Buddhist meditation. Therefore, movement and dance are important elements of my circles, as are meditation, chanting, ritual, storytelling, and emotional healing. I personally feel primarily called to lead women's circles, and to train women in circle leadership. However, Circle work can take myriad forms. Today, circles are forming in schools and hospitals, in businesses and in the corporate world. Young and old, men and women are beginning to reclaim the circle as a tool for healing themselves, their families and communities.
Circle work, as we practice it today, is both ancient and brand new. It's ancient in that humans have always gathered in circles to pray, celebrate, and seek spiritual communion. Throughout the ages, around the planet, the center of a circle has been revered as symbol of the universal source. At the same time, Circle work is new, because we know, in a way our ancestors did not, that we live on a small planet where all beings are interconnected. We know that we cannot survive unless we evolve into planetary citizens and agents of world peace. In addition, the increasing complexity of the human psyche demands that we apply all the insights and skills of modern psychology to the art of Circle work. In Circle work, we develop psychological and spiritual maturity simultaneously.
In the twentieth century, C.G. Jung was the first to acknowledge the power of the circle as an archetype of wholeness and integration. As he pointed out, the center of a circle is an ancient and universally understood symbol of God, Spirit, the Source, the One. He described the circle archetype as a much-needed medicine for the modern illness of psychological and social disintegration. Jung himself painted circular images called mandalas, and used mandala art in his work with patients. Circle work builds on Jung's insights, but takes them one step further by reclaiming the circle as a vessel for groups to experience healing and wholeness, not just individuals.
Each human being is both a unique, separate individual and a social creature. Therefore, we need both solitary and communal forms of spiritual practice. Because our society has for the last few centuries worshipped at the altar of individualism, we have gathered a great wealth of spiritual practices that can be done without a community. Meditation, prayer, visualization, and yoga are just a few examples.
However, we're impoverished in the arena of communal practice. Most communal forms of spiritual practice reflect specific religious doctrines. Thus, Catholics participate in the Mass, and Moslems in communal prayer. While these are rich, beautiful practices, they don't support spiritual communion between people of diverse religious faiths. Moreover, growing numbers of people no longer feel aligned with institutional religion. More and more people feel spiritually alone and disconnected. They yearn for spiritual community, but all too often don't know where to find it, or how to create it.
Circle work is a spiritual rather than a religious practice, and is not based on any particular creed. Therefore, it has the power to unite people who hold widely divergent religious and spiritual beliefs, or who have no particular beliefs at all. The only prerequisite for Circle work-the foundation that all members of a circle must share-is respect for life in all its forms, and a commitment to individual, social, and planetary wholeness.
Circle work represents a powerful tool for planetary as well as personal healing. As a form of relationship practice, it teaches us the ways of peaceful co-existence, skillful communication, and compassionate love of self and others. At the same time, Circle work hones our receptivity to spirit-something we urgently need to cultivate at this time in history. Our brains, miraculous though they are, are incapable of meeting the challenges we now face. If we continue to rely on them alone for guidance, we will no doubt go the way of the dinosaurs, taking thousands of other species with us. Circle work offers a non-religious way for people to gather in sacred space, and to access vast resources of creativity and compassion-resources that can help accomplish what none of our politicians have been able to do, namely to secure a livable planet for our children and our children's children.
In the ancient Celtic traditions, the Cauldron was the central religious mystery, the theme of regeneration within the womb of the Goddess. The shamans of Scandinavia made their soul journey to the Mighty Roaring Cauldron, source of life-giving waters at the foundation of the Earth. The Cauldron of Regeneration belonging to the Goddess Branwen became the Holy Grail as the stories were Christianized. The Welsh bard Taliesin received his wisdom from the Cauldron of Cerridwen. The silver cauldron found in a peat bog in Gundestrup depicted the Horned God, Cernunos. He was dismembered and cooked in the cauldron to rise again.
These ancient mysteries express the primacy of the cauldron as the archetype
for spiritual renewal and healing. In my own life, the potency of the cauldron
image came to me spontaneously, through my own experiences with healing,
shamanic journeying and ecstatic trance without much exposure to cauldron
lore from the ancient ways. In fact, I did not even know the legend of Ceridwen when I first took on the name.
When I participated in ceremonies I could enter a deep trance state only when I felt as if the circle was accepting, strong and secure like a large vessel, able to hold all the painful and chaotic energies inside of me. This enabled me to let go in a way that allowed Spirit to enter in a profound experience of ecstatic union. In ecstatic trance I felt a direct experience of Spiritual Reality physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I would shake and cry and dance, the energy moving me and taking me beyond my 'self' into another reality filled with great power and great joy.
In my own journeying I found myself whisked away by my animal allies to a clearing in the woods with a fire and a large cauldron. I was grabbed and thrown into the cauldron. I was both terrified and exhilarated as I spun around the inside of the cauldron, caught in a great energy vortex. There could be no resistance, only surrender and then came release and bliss.
As I became more aware of how cauldron imagery played a role in my most powerful experiences of healing and transformation, I began to seek a clearer understanding of the process so that I could repeat it for myself and for others. The cauldron was always in the back of my mind as I began teaching the Elements of Magical Community class. I knew that I wanted to bring together many elements to create a powerful ecstatic ceremony: voice, movement, and percussion with hands-on healing, prayer and shamanic journeying; but initially, I didn't know how all the pieces would go together.
After months of experimentation, the Healing Cauldron ceremony came into form: a consistently powerful, smoothly integrated process for directly experiencing Spiritual Reality through ecstatic trance. I would like to offer some of what I've learned about creating ecstatic ceremony through the model of the cauldron.
The components of ecstatic ceremony can be understood in terms of the elemental powers of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit in relationship to the cauldron. The cauldron is held over fire by a tripod resting solidly on the Earth. The three posts refer to our orientation to Person, Place and Time as we gather for ceremony. A well-grounded ceremony occurs in a known context which speaks to who we are, where we are and when we are. Who are we as a people who gather for this ceremony? Where is it that we stand on the land of the Earth Mother? What lies to the North, South, East and West? What is our relation to Earth and Sky? What is the history of this place and our relationship to that history? When are we in the cycles of time, the turning of Sun and Moon?
The posts of the tripod come together at a point above the fire from which hangs the cauldron. That point in the Air corresponds to the expressed purpose of the ceremony and the united intentions of the participants. The language and the metaphor for the ceremony must be simple and clear so that everyone is united in their purpose and can focus their energies together.
Below the cauldron we build a Fire. The fuel for the fire is the dead wood of our own personal barriers, identity structures and limiting beliefs which must be offered up as a sacrifice in order for the ceremony to have power. If everyone holds onto old familiar notions, staying 'safe' within old control patterns and ego structures, then there can be no fire and no transformation. The drumming, dancing and singing that we do serve as ignition to light the fire to start the burning and keep it going. As we are able to move and make sound spontaneously, focusing authentically on core energies inside us; we let go of the critical mind and the limiting structures that go with it and enter into a state of trance. Then the unwanted debris can catch fire and begin to burn.
In our ecstatic dance, as we release old structures, we can begin to feel the movement of emotions which may take the form of shaking and crying. We can make an offering of the liquid substance of our emotions, the Water element, as a gift to Spirit and to the cauldron. Within the cauldron of our acceptance, allowing our emotions to flow, the emotional energy can be transformed by the actions of Spirit. In the Great Mystery, the emotional energy released by any of the participants becomes nourishment for the whole circle and we find ourselves inside the cauldron in a field of energy glowing and vibrating all around and through us. And so we may partake of Universal Life Force as we dance our ecstatic dance, healing ourselves and each other, and offering up prayers for loved ones and the planet.
Prior to beginning the Healing Cauldron ceremony in the Magical Community class, we work in small groups to connect with our own bodies, centering and letting go of distracting thoughts. We open ourselves to the flow of Earth and Sky energy running through our bodies, through our hearts and out our hands to each other. After casting the circle and invoking Spirit, the ceremony proceeds spontaneously, beginning with the voice, adding drumming and movement, then healing, and then prayer. We offer each other healing touch, holding to the notion that in ceremony there is no giver and no receiver. We are both as we participate in the Grace that flows through us and around us. Our prayers come spontaneously out of our experience of abundance and gratitude. We end with a shamanic journey to integrate the energies and connect with our Spirit Allies, lying quietly on the floor listening to a steady drum beat. After sharing verbally with everyone in the circle, we move into pairs or small groups to share gentle touch for grounding and smoothing the energy field around each of us.
I think that it is important that leaders seeking to facilitate ecstatic ceremony, work to develop in themselves a high level of comfort and familiarity with the energies that get released and the action of Spirit in transforming those energies. We have all participated in ceremonies where the leader mistrusts the participants or the process. The circle feels constrained and stiff with control and the energy never gets cooking. On the other hand, participants can feel anxious and inhibited unless the energies are held. What's needed is a solid yet open kind of holding, a great Cauldron of awareness, invitation, understanding and acceptance. Spirit is called and welcomed deep inside us.
When we manifest a Healing Cauldron, we experience something quite wonderful and even miraculous in our ecstatic union and harmony with the Great Mystery. I believe this experience is something we all yearn for deep in our souls, and we suffer terribly it's absence from our contemporary society. We so often accept shallow substitutes which leave us feeling even more empty and separate than before. I hope that through my writing and teaching I can assist others in creating powerful ceremonies for healing and renewing us all in the Cauldron of the Great Goddess.
In this day of magic you are going to create a circle in which you will work.
Your circle can be made of stones, crystals, metal, anything that resonates as a power generator.
You can add things that you think might enhance your experience, such as incense.
You can create your circle outdoors in the energies of nature, or indoors.
The circle can be small, just around you or extend outward at a great distance.
You can do this alone or with a group of people standing or sitting in a circle in which you are the center.
Now sit or stand in the center of your circle. You may sit on a blanket or cloth. Sitting in the lotus position is usually best. If you are not comfortable in this position, use a chair.
Face in the direction that feels most comfortable. Most people face magnetic north. Your soul will guide this.
Once you have centered your energy, you will intuitively know you are in the right position.
Sit there for a few minutes, with your eyes either opened or closed, and experience the energies as they move around you. Sense the direction of the flow, the electromagnetic energy currents. A spiraling energy, clockwise or counter clockwise, shows a movement of consciousness.
It may take a few minutes to create an energy field. Be patient.
Now use your energies in any way that you feel guided.
You are going to draw a circle. Decide on which quarter to start drawing the circle. Usually this will be either east or west, while it is a personal preference, like all things in ritual there must be a reason for it.
For example one may choose to begin in the east as it symbolizes light, for it is from this quarter that day break begins. For what ever quarter one begins it, it must be for a clear and logical reason.
Choose a location for drawing your Magical Circle. The location whether indoors or outdoors should provide a sense of privacy. Take an object like a chair or lantern to serve as a fixed point so you may draw a circle using a suitable length of string, or alternatively have someone hold it down upon the ground. You should have a piece of chalk or other instrument at the other end with which to draw the circle with.
Go to the quarter you have decided to start at and perform any invocations/affirms or exercises you feel necessary. For matters of a constructive nature travel with the sun (In the Southern Hemisphere this is counter clockwise, in the Northern Hemisphere this is clockwise.) around the circle with what ever magical instrument you have chosen. This is usually the knife or the wand, the instrument used all depends upon the your choice of symbolism. If you do not yet have the necessary instrument decide on a hand gesture that to you symbolizes force.
As you travel around the circle, visualize energy blasting from the instrument (or your fingers) down towards the circle like a flame. This flame continues to flicker on the out line of the circle like fire as you continue around with the circle.
The whole operation must be done with total concentration, otherwise success is doubtful. When you have reached the point from which to started, visualize the circle in its completeness and mentally or verbally affirm its existence. It is important to stay on the inside of the circle at all times until finished with it, physically cutting across may render it useless.
Next it is usual to invoke the four elements from the four quarters. The following suggestions are for the Southern Hemisphere, for those in the Northern Hemisphere reverse the directions for fire and water.
Beginning in the East, invoke the element of Air. Traveling with the sun move around the inside of the circle to the South, invoke the element of Water, traveling with the sun move around the inside of the circle to the North, invoke the element of Fire.
Traveling with the sun more around the inside of the circle to the West, invoke the element of Earth.
Traveling with the sun more around the inside of the circle to the East, invoke the element of Spirit.
When invoking the elements, one can either use long and wordy conjurations similar to those used in medieval grimoires, short affirmations or somewhere in between the two.
It is important that however it is done that it be meaningful and rich in symbolism appropriate to the invoked element. Also visualize the element with as much imagination as possible, hear the hissing of the flames of fire, feel the coolness of water etc.
The elements may be personified as Archangels or Gods, or they may be viewed as impersonal forces. Whatever case, the important part is to make the visualization as deep and meaningful as possible.
Now the circle is complete. Do whatever it is you set out to do.
Once finished with the circle it is important to dismiss the elements. If you have personified the elements be sure to thank them for their service and farewell them.
On the other hand if they are impersonal then visualize them withdrawing and affirm that they have gone back to whence they came.
Next visualize the energy of the circle itself dispersing. Those that wish to do a banishing rituals should do another one after this.
Finally record your experiment in a journal. It should go without saying that all the details of the rituals should be well thought out before even attempting to draw the circle. Invocations and dismissals along with the details of the whole affair should written down and committed to memory before doing anything.
Barbara G. Walker - The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
Witchcraft & Wicca
Twelve Days of Magic Index