Rediscovering Sacred Space
((Chapter Two of our Ultimate Guide to Making Magic with the Sacred))
Traditionally, casting circle is an important part of Wiccan practices. Most cast circle to create sacred space, to create a container to hold raised energy, and to create a protective barrier to keep negative energies out.
In the Ara Tradition, we cast circle not to create sacred space but to discover or rediscover the sacredness of the space we inhabit. The process of casting circle awakens the divinity within and creates a temple for the divinity that surrounds us.
Before we discuss HOW, it’s important to understand the WHY.
Why a circle?
All energy moves in a circular manner, that is, in a spiral. We represent energy as moving in waves, but a wave is a 2-dimensional image of a 3-dimensional configuration.
By working within a circle, you are working within the greater model of how energy moves in the universe. From the invisible quantum level of subatomic particles whirling in their orbits, to the glory of galaxies spinning in theirs, the universe moves in circles.
When you engage with energy within a circle, you are working in harmony with the organic flow of all energies. That’s how magic works – you learn from Nature and accept the natural flow of energies in the universe. A circle symbolizes infinity, for it has neither a beginning nor an ending. When we say that “our circle is cast and we are between the worlds,” this means that our circle is a nexus joining the worlds of spirit and matter, divine and human. It is the point of connection between the two. A circle joins the infinite with the immediate – and shows us the meaning of the old occult maxim, “as above, so below.”
We cast a circle because we live within the eternal circle of life – the cycle of the seasons, the Moon, the Sun, the tides, and the cosmos moving above us. Working within a circle helps our psyches attune to the natural rhythms of divine energy that animate and regulate the order of the natural world. As we work within the circle, and as we study Nature, we see how its cycles relate to the cycles of our own lives, and we begin to recognize divine patterns of change and transformation at play.
When you take your place in a circle, the physical shape – the roundness – literally and immediately changes the energy dynamics with which we have been conditioned to approach spirituality. When we come together in a circle, we create a new model of social relationships. Everyone is equal in a circle – there is no hierarchy between you and the divine.
The shape of the circle also places each person within view of each other, and so just by participating in this simple organic form, we create an immediate intimacy, connection, and sense of community. And indeed, the physical shape of a circle facilitates the movement of energy – a circle distributes divine energy equally, though each of us responds in uniquely personal ways.
Functions of a circle
There are many layers of meaning and purpose within the act of casting a circle. Let’s take a deeper dive into the question of why witches cast and work in circles. With this understanding, you can tap into the full power and potential of this important spiritual practice.
The circle as the embodiment of divinity
Perhaps one of the most important reasons we cast a circle, and its greatest power, is that a circle is an embodiment of divinity. Circles are indeed cauldrons to contain energy – they are the cauldron of rebirth, where you engage with magic to change yourself and your life. The energies of new life flow through you as you are immersed in the infinite potential from which all life springs.
Casting a circle is an important spiritual practice in which you learn to take responsibility for your growth, your transformation and magic. It is a place to encounter your own holiness, to welcome divinity into the world, and to discover the magic that dwells between the worlds.
The circle as personal sacred space
A circle is also your temple where you make magic. A circle can be created anywhere – your home, your garden, even your workplace. Working in Circle teaches you that the temple exists within each of us and is everywhere around us.
Circle as a tool for altering consciousness
Casting a circle has another remarkable function — it alters your consciousness. Casting a circle allows you to see what is usually hidden. The Ara tradition is devoted to living our lives as our magic, and so we constantly seek the sacred in life, in ourselves, others, and the world. Our primary magic is paying attention as divinity expresses itself in our lives. But given the distractions and pressures with which we must also live, we all need techniques to help us pay attention. One of the most powerful ones is casting circle.
Casting circle helps you craft yourself as a witch because it shifts your consciousness from being distracted by ordinary, everyday matters to perceiving non ordinary reality, that is, the presence of divinity. the more you cast, the more you will become attuned to the presence of Divinity. In this state of heightened consciousness, you will make and experience the most effective magic.
A circle is also a portal that allows your energies to move about the universe in entirely magical and utterly real ways.
The circle as a sacred place for communion
As a sacred space that unites the worlds of spirit and matter, the circle is a temple where divinity dwells.
In the Ara tradition, the circle represents our intuitive faculties and the square created by becoming present to the four elements represents the intellectual and analytical faculties. And so, the square and the circle are joined in the process of casting circle, as our intuition and intellect, spirit and matter, divinity and humanity.
Becoming present to the elements, as opposed to calling the directions, is a practice where the Ara tradition of shamanic Wicca and the ceremonial traditions tend to part company. We feel that how we interact with and address the elements is critical.
Traditional “invocation” language that has roots in ceremonial traditions, which in turn have roots in patriarchal, biblical models of magic. Though the language may ring with mystical power, “invoking” the elements is a style of summoning, commanding, and controlling because the language reflects the old idea of the magician as literally commanding spirits to appear and do his bidding.
When we address the elements in circle, we are respectful, and grateful. Instead of acting superior or inferior, we greet our creative colleagues with joy, reverence, and appreciation. We acknowledge that the elements are all around us and within us.
Exercise: Rediscovering Sacred Space:
Go to your place of power. Purify your thoughts and yourself if needed. Take your time with each aspect of this practice. Don't worry about setting up an altar because you are the altar. Stand and remain in the center of your circle, facing east.
Ground and center.
Stretch out your arm and begin to walk around your circle, three times, in a clockwise direction. Be very mindful of each step you take -- connect your awareness to the feel of the earth under your feet, with each foot fall. End your circle casting by returning to the east.
Turn to the East
Begin to become present to the four elements and explain to them that you wish to cast a circle and to learn. Turn to the East address the element of Air, asking for Air to teach you, to illuminate your mind and inspire your thinking. Pay attention to the breeze using your senses. Meditate on the gifts of Air, and the role the qualities of the element play in your life. Ask Air what Air might need to remain healthy.
Turn to the South
Remain in the center and turn to the south, to connect with the element of Fire. Humbly ask Fire to teach you. Pay careful attention to the feeling of the Sun’s warmth on your skin. Meditate on the gifts of Fire and the role it plays in your life. Ask Fire what Fire might need to remain healthy.
Turn to the West
Turn to the west and connect with the element of Water. Ask Water to teach you. Pay careful attention to any moisture you might feel in the air or in your mouth or the sweat on your brow. If you’re near water, listen carefully to its sounds. Meditate on the gifts of Water and the role Water plays in your life. Ask Water what Water might need to remain healthy.
Turn to the North
Turn to the north to connect with the element of Earth. Humbly ask Earth to teach you. Pay careful attention to your body - to feel your solidity, your muscles. Feel the earth beneath you. Meditate on the gifts of the Earth and the role Earth plays in your life. Ask Earth what Earth might need to remain healthy.
Close Circle & Integrate Your Experiences
When you’re ready, turn back to the east. Open your circle by walking counterclockwise, thanking each of the four elements as you do so.
To integrate with your practice, write down what you learned and experienced.