Wholeness and Madness- The Circle and its Symbolism

“Symbols are oracular forms – mysterious patterns creating vortices in the substances of the inside world. They are centers of a mighty force, figures pregnant with an awful power, which when properly fashioned, loose fiery whirlwinds upon the earth”

– Manly P. Hall “Lectures on ancient philosophy” p 356

The Circle is an incredibly potent symbol and is used within a number of magical systems and pagan paths in many different ways.

As I came to my path through Wicca, I will speak about the act of “casting a circle” in the same manner as Wiccans do but I will also speak of its significance within my own System.

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For most rituals and even a few spells Wiccan’s will start by creating sacred space. The creation of that sacred space begins with cleansing the room, and the self. Once the self and the room have been cleansed the circle will be cast, in a deosil or sunwise direction. In the Northern Hemisphere that would be clockwise, in the Southern Hemisphere that would counter-clockwise.

The circle acts as a compass, all directions are contained within the circle even up and down are acknowledged through the maxim of “As Above, So Below”, stated when the circle is sealed.

There are many beginning points to the circle; one might start in the East, the direction of air and inspiration and thus the first stirrings of creation and creative imagination; one might start in the North/South the direction of Earth, the still point, where seeds that are planted will grow, where Death becomes rebirth; One might start in the Direction of Fire, the place of Will, force, and strength, the creative urge come to life; or one may start in the West, the direction of Water, magic, the land of the dead, and intuition.

I start at the center…

Earth Air Fire and Water

I stand at the centre and acknowledge each quarter
The Earth is my mother

And I know as Her daughter
That the circle extends to the stars and goes on forever

-Wendy Rule Elemental chant

The circle is a dance, a dance of creation, and as I circumambulate, and create the edges of my universe I am creating the boundaries that will mark an in-between space where Gods and Witches can meet, where the subconscious, the conscious and the untouchable unconscious can interact on an equal playing field.

Once the circle is cast I call the quarters, bringing the Masters of the Realms of Earth, Air, Fire, Water into the space, as guardians, co-creators and witnesses to my magic.

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In most Wicca 101 books the circle is cited as being a protective space in which magic can take place, free from distraction and outside influences, it is a protective barrier between one world and another, and nothing that is not called in can enter. Within the circle the magic can be built up in a cone of power and then when the circle is released, the magic will be released into the macrocosm to manifest.

The Wiccan holidays are known as the “Wheel of the Year” and are often depicted as points on a circle,  which acknowledges the turn of the seasons and the cyclicity of all things including the cycles of life, death and rebirth.

The circle echoes the “circles” of the Earth, Sun, Moon and other planets, and thus draws on the primal and cosmic energies of the universe, in fact the very act of casting a circle is an act of creating a universe. Within the circle you as The Magician are The Creator and thus are able to create magic. I like to look at it through the Tarot Cards The Magician and The World, the Magician is in the center of  their own world, a space of beginnings and endings, creation and destruction, boundaries and centers.

“The center of the universe

cannot exist

when there are no,

no edges”- Marilyn Manson “Hey, Cruel World”

As the circle represents the universe it contains all things within it, and is therefore a symbol of wholeness and completion, It is also a symbol of infinity as the serpent coils and swallows its own tail. Twisting the circle, nothing becomes everything when it transforms into a lemniscate .

The circle is a symbol of interconnection between all things, and as we work magic in the circle we affect change on every level and to everything.

As the circle is a space that is in-between the worlds, it also functions as a crossroads, a space where all energies are balanced both within and outside of the magician/witch/shaman.

“The Circle is cast. I am between the worlds, in all the worlds”

– Gede Parma- Ecstatic Witchcraft

The Shaman and Witch are often described as having one foot in the realm of spirit and the other on the earthly plane, they therefore develop a threshold consciousness, and see the full potential in everything.

The circle is a liminal space and is therefore an incredibly important part of my system, both Anpu and Hekate are liminal deities and both protect boundaries, edges and thresholds. When I am casting a circle, I am creating a  psychological and cosmic temple in order to honour Them.

The circle can represent the womb, and therefore the powerful birthing energies of the universe, earth and Mother archetype. It is both a healing space, and a space of Initiation.

All symbols have the potential to hold contradictory meanings, the circle is no different. As a symbol of creation, it also holds the potential of destruction and destructive forces. Many Witches will cast a circle Widdershins when working curses, banishings and dark moon magic.

The circle is never-ending, forever and ever curving on the same path, and therefore leads to madness. Much of my system is based on ecstatic practices; dancing, drumming, chanting, jumping and swirling until I collapse. This controlled madness is very useful in magic, but can be counterproductive if brought into the “mundane”.

As a symbol of the Universe, which contains everything within its boundaries, the circle acts as Saturn, the planet of boundaries and restrictions. These boundaries and restrictions are very important for many of the reasons stated in the first part of this post, but can also be incredibly constricting, limiting the Magicians potential.

The circle can protect, but it can also isolate, cutting people off from everything that lays outside of its boundaries, including family, friends, and the beauty of the world.

The circle can bring peace but can also bring conflict, there are no corners to hide in the circle, and if you are not ready to confront emotions, the shadow, or yourself you could bring trauma to the psyche.

The circle can be a symbol of wholeness and completion, but when it contains nothing, it is a symbol of emptiness. The emptiness can be both negative and positive, in its potentiality for creation, or its potentiality to become a black hole.

When casting the circle, I hold all of these meanings inside of me, and I understand the potent vortex which I am creating and releasing with each ritual. As a Witch, I forever carry the circle inside myself, never forgetting that it touches the edges of other circles, other planes, and other spheres of creation, destruction and potential.

 

 

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One thought on “Wholeness and Madness- The Circle and its Symbolism

  1. Well written. I was also taught that the circle is actually a sphere going above you and down into the earth also. In our lineage we used the 4 traditional archangels for the quarters, though i know a lot of witches use various totem animals. So with my Kabbalistic / Golden Dawn / OTO training I also put Metatron in the zenith above my crown and Sandalphon in the nadir below me, thus making a sphere. In our coven we also made a crossed sphere using our deity names touching our forehead, genitals, right shoulder, left shoulder, then touched palms in front then in back then in front again to make that little personal sphere of protection. BB

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