Questions:How many of you cast Circles when doing rituals? If you don't cast one, what do you do to set aside sacred space, if anything? If you *do* cast one, how do you visualize it spatially? A sphere? A cone? A column? Completely enclosed, or open? Do you use a certain color, sound, smell, etc., when visualizing your Circle? What's it made of? Is it rigid or flexible? If it's rigid, what will break it, and what happens when it's broken?
Answers and Recommendations:
What people see when they "look" at a circle is very personal. It has been my experience that everyone sees energy differently. This is one reason I recommend coven training if possible. You have someone to call when you need to say "Something weird happened!"
I teach my students that the circle is a large sphere. When I cast a ritual circle, I usually see large, very large ribbons of blue light. My non-ritual circles are usually white light. I don't visualize specific colors. All my circles can be walked into, however, if we are in circle, you better stop and ask permission to enter or exit out of respect for the Gods. I have permanent circles set for sleep circles and wards. They only need to be "popped up" when I put my son to bed. These stay up until around dawn.
As an interesting aside regarding seeing energy - I don't see colors in auras. I *know* what colors are there, but I see them with my "inner" eye. I had to go to someone who knew how to see auras and look at people, telling her what colors I "saw." She confirmed what I saw, so I knew that I was working correctly.
I always cast a circle....a make do circle outdoors on my concrete patio works well. Each one is outlined with a different color, depending on the workings and seasons, and I always visualize it protectively in a gold light. Works for me. I sit out with my eyes closed until I feel the space 'warm' to me. Usually I view it as a spatial flat circle, with little flames of gold around the perimeter to keep the energy in. At the end of ritual, instead of grounding the energy, I do a little self hug which wraps up the energy into myself. Solitaries can get away with this sort of improvisation! :)
I use something a little different, I suppose...then again, my path is one of long family tradition: I don't use colors, light, candles, scents or the like, but extend from myself lovingness while seeking the blessings of the four winds (I usually practice out-of-doors, and living in the high Colorado mountains, fully clad for sensibility sake, I might add). Guarding my circle are the wolf, the eagle, the coyote and the badger: One time I was on a date with a woman who is something of a mystic, herself, and she did see the wolf guarding us...very unusual. I rarely if ever bring anyone into my circle: The purpose of this circle was to divine the reasons for our coming together when and where we did.
But my protection I leave to Spirit: I see and hear a lot of fear on this echo that I personally do not subscribe to (i.e. "evil" entities and the like). I don't judge that viewpoint, but rather differ from it. I allow whatever to come to me that I may gain wisdom from it: Spirit has never tested me more severely than I can withstand, thus....even though it sometimes hurt, I do learn. And pardon my preachiness here: I have seen the smothering effect of making too many fear-based decisions rather than love-based ones: Fear makes we/they statements. Love makes "here is where our paths cross and meet well" statements.
I generally visualize a line of silver-blue fire at waist level that extends all around me forming either a half sphere or three-quarters of a sphere, depending on the working going on, if it is a formal working it is a dome, as I tend to want to keep the earth a part of the work. Usually it makes it easier for me to keep the visualization of the grounding if the ground is accessible.
I do cast a circle - spherical, semipermeable membrane , no color, but luminous, membrane is densest at the perimeter of the circle and extends out with decreasing density for some distance which varies with the amount of energy invested.
I use a blue sphere around my car while driving, for protection. To which I might add that I have been rear-ended twice, both times when I needed money, both time resutling in about 4-500 dollars in cosmetic damage only. The "other guys" insurance paid and the rear end remains ugly, if you know what I mean. I avoid using blue for my circles!
When doing a quick working (like something suggested here) I just ground and center and channel energy into the working. My home is safe/sacred enough with it's altars, cleanings and continual workings/rituals.
Often, for quick work, especially outside, I also let my energy form the circle, even if there are several - it's just faster, and moving energy does form a 'circle' about one that can be felt and does ward off whatever.
But almost always when doing something more than quick, I do cast. This can be done in many ways, though. If I'm working with a very mixed group, some of whom may only be curious, then I will use a song (earth, the water the fire the air, or some such) as it can bring people together and help create that group mind that is so important to ritual while also moving energy into the space.
When working with the experienced (my coven, other covens) we always cast a formal circle. sometimes I use an athame, sometimes simply my hands. It involves (after grounding, so that I have energy to move) moving energy into an actual barrier/division that encloses the working. I use blue light. If someone else is casting, I move energy into their casting.
We often say that children and dogs can breach the circle without hurting it, because they are always in the magical place anyway (includes cats, too!). But adults should cut themselves in and out. Many people actually cut a door, I simply let myself move out of the sacred space and acknowledge the division, letting the energy close behind me.
In a meditation to meet the guardians of the quarters I saw a green glow of a very striking color shimmering under the sea. This is what I visualize to cast my personal circles: a line of that green water-light, about waist height, encircling me. If I really need to feel enclosed I draw the circle high above me and then pull it downward to the ground, tracing a cylinder.
My circle is definitely flexible, but if things go in and out of it it tends to fade away like mist. I notice I'm pickier than most of my friends about what it takes to keep a circle up--I find that my perception of the circle fades away, and as far as I'm concerned the circle does too, if we sit down in it and have a mundane chat or lecture. I can't maintain any sense of there being a circle present unless it is being used to contain sacredness. (I often find myself helping to 'dismiss' a circle that, as far as I'm concerned, has been gone for hours.)
In group working, I usually regard the circle as being composed mainly of the people, not the line surrounding them. At Mabon we goofed a bit in ritual design: all the core ritualists were sitting together, and when they went into the center to do the rite it left a large hole. Several people agreed with me that the energy tended to leak right out that hole, despite the cast circle around us. Similarly, if people leave it weakens the circle.
One group I worked with said that the circle would be destroyed if the person who cast it left: I haven't seen that happen in practice, as long as other people present maintain their sense of its reality.
I don't usually feel the need to cast a circle for protection, but I find them useful for focus, especially with groups: the act of casting the circle pulls people into the ritual and keeps them focused there, rather than letting their thoughts and attention wander off elsewhere. For solitary work I sometimes use them in the same way, but if I am imploring a Nature power I won't usually cast a circle since it divides me from what I'm trying to reach.
I did a totally unsuccessful circle rite to Hecate once that ended with a very pointed impression: "I am worshipped at crossroads in the open wind, not in a nice circle in a back bedroom."
Most Pagans of my acquaintance cast circles when performing rituals. I occasionally omit the circle, depending on the severity of the ritual being performed -- for example, when I respond to the requests in this newsgroup for healing energy or good thoughts, I simply sit back from the computer, ground and center, then get out a hurricane lamp I keep nearby for just this purpose and light it to use as a focus.
My circle is usually visualised as an ethereal bubble of force. If you've ever seen the shield effects from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or "Deep Space Nine", then you have a pretty good idea. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I like the "Star Trek" special effect so much (aside from being a dyed-in-the-wool Trekkie); I've been using that visualisation for over twenty years.
I generate the seed of the shield within, then slowly expand it to cover the area involved. While I do so, I think of all the 'bad stuff' being swept ahead of the shield; it's a great way to prepare a space.
Colors are variable, depending on the work being performed. A standard defensive shield, such as that used during cleansings or teaching circles, is silvery in color. A healing circle will be shot through with streaks of rose; a high-power working will contain golden highlights. Of couse, if several types of workings are being performed, or if a single working is being done for multiple purposes, then my circle will begin to take on aspects of an explosion in a paint factory. :-)
My circle-shields are usually circular/spherical, although I have used odd shapes upon occasion. They are also flexible, but firm -- think of a soap bubble, but infinitely stronger.
They are transparent to light and sound (usually), but impenetrable to psychic forces --incoming, anyway; they are totally transparent to outgoing forces unless I decide otherwise. There are exceptions, of course; the cats come and go as they please. While physical objects may pass through the shield, I have had people report that there is a slight sensation of pressure when walking through it. One person likened it to walking into a wall of foam. I've also received reports of a very slight, sort of 'sub-psychic' (subliminal) "buzz" emanating from my circle-shields. No one, however, has described it as unpleasant.
In the vast majority of cases, my shields are fixed in position. If, for some reason, I need to leave the immediate area, the shield will remain where it was cast. I have, however, occasionally cast mobile shields, as when transporting a sick or injured person to a hospital.
Recommended books (free to download):Arthur Edward Waite - What Is Alchemy
Anonymous - What Is Wicca Article 2
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