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Wicca Basics: Common Questions About Casting the Circle

A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

Casting the Circle

Casting the circle is a Wiccan rite that seems simple on the surface, but can be quite complex when you actually dive into learning it properly. There always seems to be more specifics left to cover on this topic.

The first important thing to learn, of course, is what a circle is. In a nutshell, it's a boundary set aside for ritual and communion with deities. After you understand what it is, it’s important to learn how to cast a circle. This is not something that you can read about once and do without a hitch. You'll need to practice the rite until you improve. It takes time to get the hang of it.

If you're still left with questions about various circle casting details, I hope you'll find the answers you seek here.

The sphere is powerful in Wicca

The sphere is powerful in Wicca

Casting the Wiccan Circle

Singles or multiples?

Do you make one circle, a circle within a circle, or a circle on the outside? No doubt if you've looked up various magical systems you've found some very complex circle designs. Usually, these are part of ceremonial magic. Additional circles in Ceremonial magic are used to separate the magician from the entities he conjures. The magician stands safely in one circle while he conjures entities he controls in the other circle.

Wicca is different from ceremonial magic in that we don’t conjure entities to control. That’s not the purpose of our rituals. We use the circle to create sacred space, so one will suffice.

Do you need a physical marking?

No, it’s not necessary. A physical boundary is convenient (particularly for a group) to help prevent anyone from accidentally stepping outside of the circle. You can mark a physical circle on the ground as a guide using chalk, a cord or ribbon, salt, or by getting a large, round throw rug. But it isn't required.

You also don’t need to draw a giant pentagram on the floor as is often seen on television or in movies. I won’t say no one ever does it; I will say it’s not very common.

What if your room isn't big enough?

Some Wiccans living in small spaces might find difficulty casting a round circle in a narrow room that’s already occupied by furniture. I remember I once had a 9-x-6 foot bedroom to work in; the bed occupied one side, a long dresser on the other side, and I had about three feet of walking space between them. I figured, why not cast the circle right through the furniture? It goes through the floor to create a ‘bubble’, so why would the energy have trouble slicing through the bed or a dresser? Or even a wall, for that matter? I started casting a full 6-foot circle, leaving me all the available space for movement without concern. I've never had a problem with this, so if floor space is your issue, give it a try.

Ceremonial Magic Circles Differ From Wicca

A Solomonic magic circle—not a Wiccan circle. In Ceremonial Magic, this complex figure would be drawn on the floor to protect the magician, and spirits would be conjured in the smaller trangle/circle

A Solomonic magic circle—not a Wiccan circle. In Ceremonial Magic, this complex figure would be drawn on the floor to protect the magician, and spirits would be conjured in the smaller trangle/circle

Which Way Do You Go?

In which direction should you begin?

There are a lot of sources that are very strict about starting in the East. There are a few that advocate starting in the North. Occasionally you may find a group that starts the ritual in whatever direction the current season is associated with (starting in the East for Spring rituals, in the South for Summer, West for Autumn, and North for Winter). This is a matter of doing what feels right to you; nothing is going to happen if you don’t start facing a certain direction. You should just use logic in determining which direction would be best for you.

Deosil or widdershins?

Deosil, or clockwise, is the most common way to both cast a circle and move about it. Many will cast the circle going deosil, move deosil through the whole ritual, then do the devocations and draw up the circle going deosil. There are some who will perform the end of the ritual by going widdershins (counter-clockwise) to draw up and close everything. Usually deosil is the default direction; when someone goes widdershins in a ritual, it’s usually for a specific reason (it’s a ritual for banishing, for instance). Direction is something to think about—but not something to fear or worry about. If you accidentally go widdershins, don’t worry—the hand of death is not coming for you.

Inside or outside?

I don’t mean indoors or outdoors. Some people cast the circle from the outside of the sacred space, and then everyone who is part of the ritual enters from a ‘doorway’. In other trads, everyone gathers in the center of the area, and the circle is cast around the group. Either way works, but again it’s something to think about so you can decide which way you feel works best for you. For solitary and small rituals, I find it convenient to cast from within; however, I have been part of some large, open rituals in which it was more effective for the group to cast the circle before opening the way for the 100 or 200 guests attending.

Wiccans assign specific meanings to the four directions

Wiccans assign specific meanings to the four directions

What to Do, What to Do?

Should you put candles at the quarters?

A lot of people like to mark the four quarters (or the four cardinal directions) with candles. It’s not necessary, though it can be useful if you aren’t 100% sure where the cardinal directions are. Some people use colors to correspond to the direction or the element associated with it. That’s fine, too. If you can’t use candles, you could also use stones or any other symbols. But again, it’s not at all necessary.

Invocations during or after?

Some trads perform invocations as they cast the circle; others cast the circle, then go around invoking the Elements and deities. In my trad, it’s the latter—we erect the temple, then invite the ‘guests of honor’ into it.

Do you need to invoke watchtowers?

This is an influence of Ceremonial Magic. Watchtowers are angles from the Judeo-Christian system, they were invoked to protect the erected temple during rites. But since angles aren't part of Wiccan theology, and we don’t believe the circle needs protection from anything, it seems superfluous. If you do want to work with watchtowers, as usual, I would recommend you don't just call them because 'that's what the invocation in the book said to say'. Rather, read up on them and familiarize yourself with them first.

Many Wiccans instead invoke Elemental energies (the primal forces of the four elements) or Elemental beings (the spiritual beings believed to embody those energies).

As you can see, there are no hard and fast answers to circle casting because it's not about just following directions; the rite is about performing something meaningful and spiritually moving for your own rituals. The goal is to learn what you can, then take that information and design your own circle casting rites to suit your rituals and worship.

Weigh in on this:

I Love This Powerful Circle Casting Song

Weigh in on this:

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.


Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on March 05, 2014:

Thank you very much Whitesage, I'm glad you found it helpful. The circle can be a confusing topic for many.

Whitesage on March 04, 2014:

Thank you so much for this helpful article. So many things are made clear for me now regarding circle. Thanks again

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on November 06, 2013:

Thanks so much for your comment, erorantes. I appreciate it and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on November 06, 2013:

Thanks DzyMsLizzy, that would be cool but I think we're about as far away as you can get in continental US! There's nothing wrong with working on instincts, though; they're there for a reason. I've employed that traffic bubble technique myself. Appreciate your comments!

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on November 06, 2013:

Thank you so much MysticMoonlight, that's quite a compliment. Much appreciated!

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on November 06, 2013:

I like your article. It is better to take wicca game magic serious. I have a lot of respect for your article. Congratulation. I am looking foward reading your future article.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on November 05, 2013:

Yet another awesome, clearly explained article! I rather wish you lived near me, so I could learn in person. LOL

I have a tendency to just make up my own "stuff" without referring to books. There is a 'circle' (bubble) I cast, often rather hurriedly and casually, when I get behind the wheel, to gain protection from idiot drivers on the road. This "ceremony" might be short and abrupt, but the intent is fully formed and serious.

Voted up and across.

MysticMoonlight on November 05, 2013:

Very helpful information, Sage. Several curiosities of mine were answered here, thanks so much for sharing this with us. As always, you have wonderful flow to your writing that makes the information very easy to understand. I really like your style.