One thing that often gets overlooked when talking about magick is the “why,” the underpinnings, structure, or foundation of the technique being enacted. This post is about why we create sacred space, usually in the shape of a circle.
No matter how casually you look, a core precept for most magickal systems is to cast a circle before embarking on a magickal task, specifically for rituals and most spells. As Witches, before we make magic, we make boundaries; using our knife, sword, or hand, we cast a circle. We do this because most of us do not have a permanent structure in our lives that functions as an established temple. Such spaces are de facto holy places whose ongoing use accumulates energies that tend to build a psychic barrier to unwanted influences and externalities.
And that’s the primary reason we cast the sacred circle, to protect us. There are “Things of the Dark” all around us with a number of explanations for what they might be: ghosts, demons, pools of negative energy, the uncontrolled urges of the subconscious mind. And it doesn’t matter what they are. What does matter is that their effect is real and they can muck with your perception, your energy, and even your mental state unless you keep them out (or control them, but that’s a different topic). We are most vulnerable to them while in an “open” mental state, such as trance or meditation. Thus, the wise practitioner always begins their magickal workings by taking steps to define exactly what will be permitted through the portals of their “psychic shields”– no matter how simple the ritual. Drawing the circle itself establishes boundaries within your environment (“All within this circle is in MY control!”). Purifying the circle and consecrating it (sprinkling water which has been blessed) further enforces your territory, defining the borders where you are “safe”, reinforcing the message that nothing can enter this area except what you specifically and deliberately invite inside.
We also cast a circle to contain the energies we raise for our magick. Magical energy follows the same laws as all energy. Its natural state is to be in motion, either moving toward a point or away from it. When we cast a circle, we contain the energy and concentrate it temporarily. All energy varies in intensity and frequency, even more so between different planes. The circle acts as a magical tuner that helps us modulate the different frequencies of the physical plane and the astral.
Finally, since all good things come in threes, we cast the circle to get our brains into what I like to call “a ritual frame of mind.” The repetitive process of casting a circle every time you work magic, manipulate energies, or intentionally put yourself in an altered state of consciousness — for even something as “small” or “simple” as a meditation — you begin to associate those types of behaviors with working in a circle. And you become more conscious of doing them, consciously or unconsciously, because you now want/try/do them only in circle.
Knowing where “I” begin and end, where my area of control starts and finishes, setting those boundaries deliberately is part of being a healthy, happy, witch.
Amy Blackthorn, Blackthorn’s Protection Magic
Ivo Dominguez, Jr., Casting Sacred Space
Diana Rajchel, Hex Twisting