The Importance of Casting a Circle
One of the basic practices in witchcraft is casting a circle. The purpose of a circle is to create a sacred, magical space where the witch is able to meditate or perform a spell, a healing, or a ritual of protection or gratitude.
The circles described here are for solitary witches. In other words, one witch working alone. They can be easily adapted for two or more people simply by increasing their size.
One thing I’d like to emphasize is that everything in witchcraft, including casting a circle, is flexible and adaptable. There are no rules, just guidelines. So you are free to change things around if it makes more sense to you. For example, my circle assumes you are in the northern hemisphere. If you are in the southern hemisphere, you might reverse the correspondences for North and South because the hottest part of the planet for you is in the North, toward the Equator.
What Is a Circle in Witchcraft?
You can’t see it. You probably can’t feel it, but there is a definite increase in energy within it. As a matter of fact, circles aren’t really circles at all; they are spheres. Imagine a large bubble all around you, penetrating the floor and sometimes even the walls, depending on the space you have available.
The function of a circle, as mentioned, is to provide a sacred space for the witch or Wiccan to work. However, it is more than that. It is protective, keeping unwanted energy at bay while the ritual proceeds. It also concentrates the energy within, helping the witch to focus his or her attention and put as much power into the working as possible.
It’s hard to describe the feeling, and it is probably different for everyone, but there is really something special about performing this simple procedure.
Do I Always Have to Cast a Circle for a Spell?
No, indeed not. I rarely use one these days as my spells tend to be spur-of-the-moment events. I usually use sigil magick, which takes just a few minutes. Yet, it is lovely to set aside some time and create a wonderful sacred space by casting a circle. There’s something so beautiful and magical about it. Even if you are simply going to sit within and meditate for a little while.
The Very Basic Magickal Circle
Casting a circle can be as easy as pointing a finger to the ground and turning 360 degrees deosil (clockwise). You could say something like, “I cast this circle for my protection. Keep negativity out; let only love come in.” At the end of the ritual, the witch turns widdershins (anti-clockwise) and says simply, “The circle now fades away.”
That could be thought of as ‘circle-lite’. It’s handy for quick spells and also for protection when out and about. Visualize it around you like a protective glass sphere, always with you.
Unless you are about to perform a deep and complex ritual, this is really all you need. Easy, yes?
Most witches prefer to put a little more effort into it when working magick, celebrating a Sabbat, or an Esbat (full moon). They base the circle around the four cardinal directions and their correspondences, known as the ‘quarters’.
Wiccans often go further with this by calling upon the Lords of the Watchtowers to act as protectors while they work their magick. In essence, it’s exactly the same as I will describe, but the words are more specific. For now, we are simply going with the guardians of each cardinal point, plus a fifth, the vertical plane that connects us with spirit.
Decide where your circle will be. You can allow it to enclose your altar if practical. Circles can penetrate walls, so don’t worry if the ideal place means part of the circle circumference will be outside of the room. If you like, you can cast your circle in a garden or other private outside space.
The size of the circle should give you room to work. You might want to dance or move about, or you might want to work sitting down with little or no physical movement. The standard measurement is nine feet across, but it really doesn't matter.
These directions are for casting the circle only. Once it is done, you will be working your magick, so I am assuming you know what you want to do and have your ritual formulated and the various elements memorized, written down as notes, or laid out in your grimoire.
Steps to Casting a Magickal Circle
Beforehand: Tidy and clean the space. This is because cleaning drives away negative energy—I'm sure you've noticed how much lighter the atmosphere is after you have cleaned your room or your home.
Establish the cardinal directions; use a compass if necessary. Gather your tools and anything else you want within the circle. If you are going to be sitting down, have a pillow or chair ready. Either have your altar within the circle or create a temporary one on a small table, desk, or even a chair. Arrange your witchy tools to your satisfaction. Light incense and candles if you are using them. Don’t light candles that will be forming part of a spell. You’ll do that when you work the spell.
Optional: Place an item that represents the directions/quarters/elements at the respective points. Your circle will encircle them. You might have a pebble at North/Earth, a small cup of water at West/ Water, a feather at East, and an LED candle at South (I don’t recommend placing lit candles on the floor for safety reasons). An alternative is to use the corresponding Aces from a tarot deck as markers.
- Step 1. Stand at the center point of your as-yet uncast circle. Breathe deeply three times, making sure to exhale fully. It’s important not to rush the process. In your mind, be clear on the purpose of the circle and your intended ritual.
- Step 2. Take your wand, or point the index finger of your dominant hand at the floor where you imagine the perimeter of the circle will be. Turn toward East, pause, and say, “I call the Guardian of East and the element of Air to watch over this sacred circle.” Take a moment to imagine what a Guardian might look like. A hooded figure, an angel, a concentrated form of energy, or whatever your imagination comes up with. Bow your head slightly in acknowledgment.
- Step 3. Keeping your wand or finger pointing at the circle perimeter, turn slowly to South. Pause and say, “I call upon the Guardian of South and the element of Fire to watch over this sacred circle.” Again, take a moment to visualize the Guardian materializing. Dip your head as before.
- Step 4. Now turn to West, pause, and say, “I call upon the Guardian of West and the element of Water to watch over this sacred circle.” In your mind’s eye, see the Guardian take its place and acknowledge its presence with a slight bow of your head.
- Step 5. Lastly, with your wand or finger, turn to the North. Pause a moment and say, “I call upon the Guardian of North and the element of Earth to watch over this sacred circle.” Visualize the Guardian appearing and bow your head. The drawing of the circle perimeter is complete.
- Step 6. Raise your wand or finger to point upwards above your head. Say, “I call upon the Spirit of the Universe to watch over this circle, fill it with love, peace and divinity." Imagine a bright beam of light emanating from above and going right through your body, down through to the floor. Visualize your circle forming a protective sphere around you.
You are now ready to perform your ritual, cast a spell, or simply sit and enjoy the experience of calm yet energizing energy all around and through you.
Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.
— Joseph Campbell
There are a few things about working with circles that you need to know.
- Firstly, if there’s an emergency, don’t worry about leaving it. Just go.
- Small children and animals can enter and leave without breaking the circle.
- There’s a Wiccan guideline that says if you want or need to leave the circle, you can cut a doorway in it with your athame (ceremonial knife) or hand. Personally, I would just pretend to move an imaginary curtain and walk through. You can always strengthen the circle on your return by a quick deosil turn and point.
Dissolving the Circle
When you are ready, stand up, facing East and say, “Thank you, Guardian, go in peace and love.” Turn to North, West, and finally South, saying the same words.
When you are back at East, point your finger or wand to the floor and slowly turn widdershins (anti-clockwise), imagining the circle dissolving and fading as you go.
That’s it; you are done.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I’m new to this. Today I cast my first circle. Everything was going well as I was meditating. However, I suddenly felt an urge to open my eyes and I felt a presence I very much did not like. Across the street from me was another Wiccan casting a circle. Do you think she could have influenced what was going on?
Answer: It's possible, I suppose, but your circle is supposed to keep out those negative external energies. That's why it's so peaceful to meditate inside it. If you feel uncomfortable about her being close by, find yourself a protection ritual, and preferably a simple one that you can activate on demand.
This article has some suggestions: https://exemplore.com/wicca-witchcraft/Psychic-Pro...
Question: What does it mean to sprinkle salt around the circle in witchcraft?
Answer: Some people think it provides extra protection. However, you shouldn't do it unless you are working indoors on a tiled floor. If you do it outside you will kill any plants, including grass, as well as small creatures that may inadvertently pass over it. I've never used salt in that way; it's not necessary.
Question: Why can you just leave the circle? What happens if you do?
Answer: Nothing would happen, but that focus of energy will dissipate.
Question: I am practicing witchcraft by casting a circle. I am building my circle with rocks as the outline. Must the rocks touch all the way around the circle?
Answer: You can have it exactly as you want it. You might choose to use only four rocks or stones to mark the quarters. You might like to use more. It's your choice.
Question: Yesterday I made a love jar for a particular person and I have to say that the night has been quite a mess. I dreamed of animals like black pigs, I kept seeing a black shadow through my dreams. I think I may have done something bad with that jar. Can someone help me to understand?
Answer: Okay, you haven't done anything that can't be undone, but please learn this lesson well. Never try to manipulate the emotions and actions of another person. It never ends well because the energy you have set into motion is crashing against the energy of the other person. I expect they are feeling pretty horrible today.
Go here and follow the instructions to reverse the spell: https://exemplore.com/wicca-witchcraft/How-To-Undo...
Question: Can you leave a stone circle set up outdoors?
Answer: Yes, that's a great idea.
Question: I am a beginner and want to know if it is necessary to cast a circle while taking a cleansing bath? Could you also tell me if there is any kind of place that I could learn witchcraft t in person?
Answer: No, there's no need to cast a circle when taking a bath. Witches will often have a bath and clean the space prior to working magic.
If you are over 18, you could join a local group and receive training - check social media for your area. Or you may have to settle for online study.
Question: Can I cast a circle with an athame?
Answer: It's not the usual way to do it because the athame represents air. You can try it though, but be careful you do not swipe anyone/anything in passing. I prefer to use a wand or just my extended hand to help me visualize a circle of fiery light.
Question: Since I am Mexican, can I call on the Saints instead of the guardians when I am casting a circle in witchcraft?
Answer: You can do whatever works for you. If there are saints that are connected with elements and directions, go for it.
Question: I only feel comfortable casting a circle and doing spells in my bedroom. However, I watched a video advising against doing so in the bedroom, especially calling upon spirits and/or deities because of sexual acts in the bedroom and/or in the event where the circle was dissolved incorrectly, then the spirits may still remain and get angry. Should I not do any spell work in the bedroom? I'm confused and conflicted over such a seemingly trivial question.
Answer: That is just one person's opinion. If you practice a kind, gentle type of witchcraft, you have no need to worry about 'angry spirits'. Cast your circle wherever you like. The bedroom is ideal because it will become imbibed with a lovely atmosphere.
Question: I cast my first circle today, but felt nothing at all. Does this mean I did it wrong, or have no business doing witchcraft?
Answer: That's okay, casting the circle is a preparation stage. Some people feel 'anticipatory' while doing it; for others it's simply an action taken as part of the ritual. However, if you are casting a spell, it is imperative that you focus on your emotional levels in order for your spells to work effectively. Merely saying the words with no feeling behind them won't send out the necessary 'ripples':
Question: I am doing witchcraft circles. I cast my first circle at 1 o’clock this morning. My intention was to practice casting a circle and to meditate. As soon as my formation was complete I could feel the rise in energy. I sat and began to meditate. My heart began to race and I felt a pressure on my chest. I am young and in good health. I sat for a while and tried to relax and calm myself, this helped only a little. May I have done something wrong or didn’t do something I should have?
Answer: I guess it was a mix of excitement, expectation and possibly a little fear. Wait a week or so, then try again with no other goal than to sit and breathe. Make sure, as you create the circle, that you visualize it as a healing, relaxing space.
Question: When I cast a circle do I have to call on the guardians?
Answer: No, you don't. Calling the Guardians is more of a Wiccan tradition. I like to sometimes do this because they also represent the elements and directions. As with all things witchy, you can adapt as you like.
Question: I cast my first circle, but I’m afraid I did not know to follow the circle etiquette of leaving and then reinforcing it when coming back. Does that mean my spell did not work? I did not feel the energy changing when I came back..felt it came with me.
Answer: It's fine. The rule of exiting and reentering a circle is a Wiccan procedure. I have never worried about minor details like that - I just wave my arm vaguely when leaving and coming back. The circle is your circle and you can walk in and out as you please - after all, it's your visualization.
Question: When the circle is cast and quarters called, can several different spells be done in the circle or just one?
Answer: You can work more than one spell within your circle, but I wouldn't recommend more than three. Your first one will be more impact-full, the others less so. This is because when you raise the necessary energy/emotion the first burst is always going to be stronger.
Question: Can I cast a circle and leave it on a permanent basis?
Answer: You could mark out a circle if you intend working your rituals in the same place. However, you would need to 'charge' it each time. It doesn't take long - a quick visualization and it's done. If it's possible to mark it out with pebbles or other material objects, that would be good. The more you work the circle, the more it will absorb your energy.
Question: If I cast a circle and then move to a new home do I leave the circle there or does it disappear?
Answer: Casting a circle creates a temporary sacred space and you close your circle after you have finished the ritual. Therefore, there is no permanent circle. So when you move, you simply cast a circle whenever you need it and close (disappear) it afterward.
Question: How do you exactly strengthen your circle when you return during a casting?
Answer: Just point your dominant pointy finger or wand, do a 360 degree turn, deosil, visualizing the circle brightening up and shimmering strongly.
Question: Can circles be shifted? If so, what guidelines need to be followed?
Answer: If you mean after you've cast the circle, then just use visualization to expand it. Otherwise, simply close the circle as usual and re-cast it in the desired space.
Question: I have very little room to cast a circle in my room and am unable to practice in other areas of the house. I have a small shelf on the top shelf of my bookshelf I could use as an altar and a bar stool that puts me at eye level but it is directly next to my window and any circle I cast around it and me would have to go outside and encompass everything else on my shelf as well as my computer. Is casting a circle that partially goes outside okay or will there be problems with doing so?
Answer: I had the exact same problem when I first started. My altar had to be near a window. I tried a couple of things; one was as you suggested, cast the circle allowing the visualization to protrude through the walls. The other was to simply make the room, although rectangular, be the whole sacred space. So instead of circle casting, I mentally constructed a sacred barrier that inhabited the walls of the room.
Question: If I cast a circle to be protected from a demon or a bad spirit, how do I leave it? Will they not harm me when I'm out of the circle?
Answer: It's unlikely you are under attack from a demon or bad spirit as such occurrences are rare. To put your mind at rest, you should cast a protection spell. More information here: https://exemplore.com/wicca-witchcraft/Psychic-Pro...
Question: Where can I get my tools for casting circles for witchcraft?
Answer: They are all around you. No need to spend a ton of money. In fact, you don't need any at all. Have a look at this article: https://exemplore.com/wicca-witchcraft/Simple-Witc...
Question: What should I do instead if I don’t want to call upon guardians in my witchcraft?
Answer: You don't have to call anyone/thing if you'd rather not. The purpose of calling the guardians is to protect yourself and command them to work for you. You could call the directions, which is essentially the same thing. There are much deeper implications and reasons for calling the 'guardians/quarters/directions', which you would learn as you studied more deeply. Meanwhile, a simple protection sphere is fine for 'everyday' magick.
Question: Can you sleep in a protective circle? For example, if you cast it around your bed or a resting spot? And is there any time when the circle will stop?
Answer: You could cast a protective circle around your bed. As circles depend on visualization, I would suggest strengthening it with some physical components, such as a few crystals or small containers of herbs. So yes the circle will fade away over night but you can cast protection spells that will last longer.
There's a simple protection spell you can adapt. #2 in this article: https://exemplore.com/wicca-witchcraft/Witchcraft-...
Question: If I cast my circle to meditate in or to cast a spell, can another join me in my circle?
Answer: Yes, have them be in the area before you cast the circle. If you can get them to participate by walking deosil (clockwise) as you cast the circle, that will be helpful. Agree beforehand on the visualization - work together.
Question: I just finished a luck spell. But I think I did the circle incorrectly. Am I cursed?
Answer: No, not at all. It doesn't matter if you make a mistake; the universe knows your intention. The worst that can happen is the spell doesn't work because you immediately canceled it with your anxiety. If it makes you feel better you can repeat the spell in a couple of days and do it correctly.
Question: Can you cast a circle if you haven’t done a ton of research on witchcraft?
Answer: You can cast a circle any way you want to. If by research, you mean learning about witchcraft, then no, you don't have to know all that if you simply want to create a peaceful, sacred place in which to meditate.
Question: How do you go about letting go of the items representing the cardinal directions?
Answer: Pick them up, deal with them, put them away. Once the circle is closed, it's done. You don't need to do any additional rituals. The objects are just objects.
© 2018 Bev G
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on July 07, 2020:
Hi Cam, of course. You can use a simple circle/sphere visualization. Or use actual physical markers like pebbles.
However, being secular doesn't mean you have to abandon the idea of your circle being aligned to directions and their associated elements.
In any case you don't have to follow the 'rules'. Make the process unique to you.
Cam on July 06, 2020:
Hi, I am a secular witch, is there a way to cast a good solid circle without the north, south, east, west stuff?
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 18, 2020:
You are very welcome, Kenzie. I think people get too hung up on the fripperies. I like to keep it real and do-able. xx
Kenzie on March 18, 2020:
I really love and appreciate your content! I am reinventing my witchy side (I let go of my practice last year due to personal issues) and your articles are full of valuable information to learn from. Thank you for making this available to people trying to learn.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 05, 2020:
Hi Ambrose, you can keep the circle active (by using visualisation) as long as you need it. If you don't formally close it, it will just fade away. Closing it properly ends the ritual cleanly.
Ambrose on February 04, 2020:
How long can I keep the Circle up for before I need to dissolve it? I am still very new to this! Thank you!
Jackie on December 04, 2019:
Thank you so much! This helped me a lot, and I'm looking forward to casting my first circle and doing my first ritual and spell soon!
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 21, 2019:
Your choice, Joshua.
Here's an article by Mackenzie Sage Wright that might be helpful in your practice:
joshua rensberger on November 21, 2019:
can a circle be used in blood magic/dark magic
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 23, 2018:
Your English is fine, Shigure. Have a lovely weekend.
Shigure on November 23, 2018:
Thank you so much for your kind reply, Bev. I'm going to keep learning from your blogs！English is not my native language, I hope my question readable and may the poor expression has not caused you any inconvenience. Blessings always!
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 22, 2018:
Anything works, Shigure. There are no 'rules' although some would have you believe otherwise :)
Shigure on November 22, 2018:
“An alternative is to use the corresponding Aces from a tarot deck as markers.” Thank you Bev, I'm a novice and I began to practice circle casting not long. I find that using candles to mark four elements directions so inconvenient cause the stub wax was hard to tidy as well as the light might scald myself incidentally. Does the tarot aces really work? That will be nice if so
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 14, 2018:
Thank you, Kim. Blessings right back at you xx
ocfireflies from North Carolina on November 14, 2018:
I found this hub very interesting and helpful. I look forward to sharing with a group of my girlfriends. May your circles always be full with love and positivity.