Cast your circle, then . . .
Wait, hold up. How do I cast? Why do I need to? Will something awful happen if I don't? What if I look stupid? What if I do it wrong?
If you're more confused than enlightened from reading about spells or rituals or other magickal workings that begin with, "Cast your circle, then . . ." without even the slightest explanation, this blog post is for you.
It seems like it must be one of the most basic of skills, but so little is actually written on it. If you haven't been taught, you're in pretty good company.
Why do you need a circle? It protects you. Think about your home. It provides protection against the elements. It keeps ne'er-do-wells out. It keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. Your circle is your shelter; your haven. That's how you could look at it. You can survive without a home, and you can do magick without a circle. But it's better when you have protection and a place where you belong.
When you cast, you create a space where you are protected against outside influences, including those little icky things as well as curious entities that are attracted to you and to magick in general. When you work, you raise your energy much higher than usual. That's a veritable buffet to entities that feed on it. If you've ever heard faint, near-whispering sounds and felt a bit of a breeze while doing any sort of work, that's them. "Them" might be any number of things. When you are in your circle, they can't draw from you and they can't affect your work.
Casting helps keep the good stuff inside. It contains and helps you concentrate your energy. The Cone of Power is the manifestation of that energy, raised and focused into a fine point above you, ready to blast out like a laser and launch your will into action.
Some believe that the Cone of Power is only possible with more than one person working inside the circle, but I call BS. If you have energy to raise and contribute to a group, then you have energy to raise on your own. The ability doesn't only exist in a group, evaporating when you're alone. Elsewise, how could any healer ever work alone? Where there's energy, there is the potential to raise and focus it. Everything that you do toward your goal helps raise your energy and the Cone of Power a little more.
That's great and all, but it doesn't answer the big question: how? Casting is easier than you might think. With a little practice, it will be second-nature. I will preface this next bit with my opinion about casting. There is no such thing as only one way to do it. If someone tells you there is, then they are a magick snob with more ego than brains.
If you can protect yourself by creating a shield around you, then you already have the ability to cast. There are super simple, basic methods. There are highly ceremonial methods. And there is everything in-between. Most pagan paths have some method. Here is one of the most basic that I know of.
Pick a spot where you feel comfortable and safe. That isn't always possible, but it's ideal. It doesn't have to be indoors, or outdoors. It can be in a dedicated ritual room, on a beach, in your backyard, at a park, or anywhere you have the space and will have the ability to forget about your surroundings while you focus on your work. It's also better to choose a place where you won't be disturbed or watched.
Gather whatever you'll use inside your circle. This might be a complete altar, one candle, a mirror, your wand, or just a blanket to sit on. It doesn't matter what you use; it only matters that you get your things together so you won't be distracted later if you have forgotten something.
Identify your Cardinal Directions: North, South, East, and West. If you don't already have your bearings, you'll either want to note the direction of the sunrise for East and go from there, or buy a small compass.
Get a mental image of the size your circle will be. It should be large enough for you to move around in and work safely, and to contain everything you'll need for your work. But any size circle will absolutely work in a pinch. You could theoretically cast in your car if you needed to.
Mark each Cardinal Direction in some way, even if just mentally. You can use a cardinal direction candle in the appropriate color for each direction and element, a rock, a pencil, a makeup brush, a glass of whisky, or a different marker that represents the direction. For example, use a dish of water to represent West, which correlates with the Water element; a candle (or a hot pepper!) at the South to represent the Fire element, and so on. Marking the Cardinal Directions isn't mandatory, but it helps you keep your bearings, especially if you're new to casting.
Set up everything that you will need inside your circle, preferably where you'll use it. The fewer distractions, the better. If you will stand alone with no candles or other tools, that's perfectly fine.
Stand inside your circle and begin. This is where casting varies a LOT from one system, one path, one religion, one belief to the next. This is a simple, effective method that you can tweak to make your own:
Turn to face the East. Quiet your body and focus on connecting with the spirit of Air. Envision wind whirling around your body. Speak aloud or just think, "Spirits of the Air, hear me."
Turn to face the South without releasing your connection to Air. Focus on connecting with Fire. Feel the warmth of the noonday summer sun on your skin. Envision flickering flames. Speak aloud or think, "Spirits of Fire, hear me."
Turn to face the West, while Air and Fire continue dancing inside your circle. Envision cool water rushing and flowing around you. Feel the mist on your skin. Speak aloud or think, "Spirits of Water, hear me."
Turn to face the North, with Air, Fire and Water still flowing within your circle. Feel the strength of the earth beneath you. Feel it underfoot. Breathe in the Earthy fragrances of soil and sand and rocks and minerals. Become aware of being grounded and rooted to its power. Speak aloud or think, "Spirits of the Earth, hear me."
Remain facing North, standing in the center of your circle. Focus on the elements within your circle. Feel them completely enveloping you. Envision the purest, brightest light within you, swelling until you glow. Send the light out powerfully through your feet and into the earth. Draw up light from the Earth and let it fill you. You may wish to call on the Mother Goddess as you send your light into the earth and draw its light back into you. Send out a column of the purest, brightest light from the crown of your head into the Universe. You may wish to call on the Sky Father as you do this.
You are now connected to all of the elements and to the Universe, and your energy is heightened. If you called on the Great Mother and Father, thank them for their presence and protection. Say aloud or think, "The circle is cast."
Begin your work. It doesn't matter if you only want to meditate, or if you have a full ritual to perform. You are within your protective circle, safe from outside influences. Your energy is contained there until you direct and release it. Do not be surprised if you feel sleepy at some point. Some of the most restful sleep with prophetic dreams is had within a protective circle. However, do not fall asleep with candles burning. Ever.
Once you're ready to close your circle, stand at the center and allow the light to flow back to where it came from. Turn to each Cardinal Direction and repeat the process in reverse, thanking each element and deity that you called on. Then say aloud or think, "The circle is open, not broken."
This is just one method, and a simple one. You could easily simplify it further or expand on it as much as you like.
Casting isn't hard. It really just revolves around creating a safe haven where you can work and raise your energy as needed. It doesn't have to be complicated. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll feel with it. The next time you read, "Cast your circle . . ." you'll know exactly what to do. : )