May 06, 2012

There can be one or many phases in casting a circle. Every group and everyone has their own special way of "properly" casting a circle. Choose which ones feel right for you. 

Cleansing the Ritual Area
Before the circle is cast
you or a member of your group should ritually cleanse the area in which the ritual will take place. This can be done before anyone arrives, but is usually done as part of the ritual itself. This consists of sweeping the area to rid it of any "bad vibes" and can be done with a ceremonial broom (sweeping above the area and visualising the removal of bad energy) or with a real broom (or a vacuum cleaner, for that matter), literally cleaning the area of surface dirt as well as bad energy. 

Challenging the Participants 
Often before a group is allowed to enter ritual space a challenge is made, sometimes at knife (athame) point. This is usually done at very formal rituals and should be thoroughly explained to "newbies" before the ritual has begun. Typically the challenge will be a question concerning how you enter the circle. An open ritual sometimes asked three questions before allowing a participant to enter.) When asking how you enter the circle, many times the challenger is looking for the response
 "in perfect love and perfect trust", 
but unless you really feel that way you should not use that phrase. The phrase "perfect love and perfect trust" should be taken seriously and should not be used if you don't know (and trust) everyone within the group. You might respond to such a challenge with something to the affect that you are a seeker with an open mind and open heart. 
In small groups, the participants can take turns challenging or can omit this part completely. In solitary ritual, you can omit this part or once the god and goddess have been called (within the ritual) you can present yourself to the god and goddess, announcing your intentions. 

Cleansing and Blessing The Participants

This is often part of the challenge phase at large rituals, combining two steps into one to save time. (If you have to challenge and then cleanse and bless two hundred people, it can take a while.) After the participant has given a satisfactory answer to the challenger, the challenger then smudges or anoints the participant, cleansing and blessing the participant before he/she enters into the ritual area. 

Again, in small groups the participants can take turns cleansing and blessing the other members of the group. In solitary ritual, obviously you will need to do this for yourself. When using anointing oil to cleanse/bless, remember that some of your group members may be allergic to certain oils. The best oil that I have found to use is plain olive oil.  When smudging, use an incense that is appropriate for the ritual that you are performing. In one of my smaller rituals, a sprig of rosemary can be used to sprinkled salt water on the members of the group. Be creative. 

Calling Quarters To Cast The Circle

This method has been most frequently used at the open rituals attended to cast a circle. In this method a member of the group walks the circle, stopping at each quarter to call "it" (whatever you are calling at the quarter points) into the circle. When the group member finishes calling the quarters the circle is in place. Some rituals have a CD was playing "The Circle is Cast" ( I can't remember the artist.) and the members of the group sang along with the CD as a person walked the quarters, keeping in time with the music and lighting candles at each quarter. It was actually quite a beautiful way to cast the circle. 

Walking the Circle

Some walk once around, some walk three times around. This is just a matter of personal choice. If you are not going to use calling the quarters as a method of casting the circle, you should perform this step before calling the quarters. You will walk clock-wise once (or three times) around the circle using an athame or wand to trace out the circle, conjuring the circle as you go. (Remember that you are really conjuring up a sphere, not a flat circle on the floor. If you need to conjure a larger space than a circle, your "circle" 
can fill the room to the walls.) 

When conjuring the circle, you will want to use words that are meaningful to you, as with calling the quarters. An example might be, 
"Three times round I walk, conjuring a boundary between the mundane and the magical. Three times round I walk, creating a sacred space to contain the power raised within. Three times round I walk transforming this sacred space into a place of love and trust and peace." 
Improvise with the words to fit your purpose. If you need a protective circle you might use
 "transforming this sacred space into a place of protection." 
Once you have walked the circle the designated number of times and conjured it into being, you should announce to the participants that the circle is sealed or closed. At this point if you have not done so, you will request the presence of the god and goddess AND call the quarters  

Opening the Circle
A circle is different from the quarters, it has been conjured and will need to be taken down at the end of the ritual. If you walked once around using an athame to conjure the circle, then walk once around using an athame counter-clock-wise; if you walked three times then walk three times around counter-clock-wise. Visualise the circle dissolving as you walk. Once you have finished walking the circle, announce that the circle is open.  The phrase 
"May be the circle be open but unbroken." 
has been used often

Sometimes there is a need to leave the circle before the ritual is finished. This can be accomplished by opening a portal in the circle, usually using the athame (or wand) used to create the circle. Cut lines in the sphere, creating a portal, with the athame and leave through that portal. 

Upon re-entry or if the participant is not returning, the portal is closed by reversing the process, sealing the lines cut with the athame, closing the portal.

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