In most of the magically-minded traditions, we find the use of the Circle as an ethereal tool to create a boundary between the mundane world and the spiritual world. It marks and defines a specific area as “sacred space” whereupon we work our Will, venerate our Deity/Deities, or to exist as a stronghold to protect us from potentially harmful agents. Each Tradition holds a specific use or preference of use when erecting it and whether we’re creating one in which to raise energy, meditate or to evoke a daemon, the environment generated by the Circle remains essentially the same. Often taken for granted, a carefully understood and built Circle can be the most important thing for success in those who choose to employ it.
It is my hope that this particular paper will give a greater understanding of the Circle, and of its importance, to newcomers and to offer a potentially different angle to those adept in the Arts.
First, it should be noted and understood that the Circle is not truly a circle. A circle is a two-dimensional shape. It is only measured up-down and left-right. We can all agree that such a shape cannot even hold water; therefore it would be further absurd to believe that something without a third dimension (width) would have the capacity of holding energy or dissecting a plane to protect one from a negative force. Rather, the Circle that we use is more accurately a Sphere. It encompasses all directions; in occult proper, this would be North-South, East-West and Above-Below. A sphere, then, would accurately employ the space required for one to undertake the operations of one’s Art. I would further theorize that we go even further than three dimensions and into a fifth dimension once it’s properly constructed, but this will be for discussion later into this work. For the present time, let’s look at the composition of the Circle.
Most Traditions give significance to the basic four directions of North, South, East and West. We apply elemental, arch-angelic or other spiritual attributions. In the vast majority of Traditions, there’s a basic elemental understanding that is derived from each direction. Further entities may or may not be amended to fortify or defend the Circle; as to what we choose to use is largely irrelevant because it’s largely a subjective analysis based upon both Tradition and our own personal cosmology or understanding of the Universe. Keeping it purely elemental and in accordance to most associations, let’s say that East is Air, South is Fire, West is Water and North is Earth. Your Tradition may differ; just apply it accordingly to the model.
If we are to understand as the Circle as only being composed of the four traditional Elements, as in the above diagram, then it would remain a circle as opposed to a sphere. We only have two dimensions represented. If we only view and represent this ideal, we may as well cast a square or a diamond. Or just trace out a circle on dirt and leave it as that. Most of us are aware of the so-called “fifth element”, often known as Spirit or Akasha. When we bring it into the picture, we then create our Sphere and a properly constructed Circle starts to become manifest. The below image illustrates the Circle as a 3-dimensional entity.
The horizontal black line represents the ground or floor upon which we stand when the Circle is cast in order to better understand our relation to the surrounding sphere. The vertical line, Above and Below, represents the adhesive force that we label “Spirit”. In many of the Ceremonial traditions, we define Spirit as a twin force that is both Active and Passive. Further anthropomorphism takes us to attribute Spirit as both Masculine and Feminine or Solar and Lunar. Beyond that, we can give this ethereal substance a name: God and Goddess.
Please Note: the labelling as Above as “Passive” and Below as “Active” is only a matter of personal choice in the creation of my diagram. Just as other Traditions may see differing elemental-directional associations, it’s more or less a matter of personal choice. I firmly believe that from all directions does everything exist.
Spirit is Spirit. It’s ultimately androgynous in nature, but it’s agreed by most to be the universal “substance” which binds all things together. And it is within all things as all things are within it. We can call it membranes, atoms or God. As a theist, I see Spirit as Deity in its rawest sense. We only further label it so that it’s more digestible to the conscious, more personally comprehensible to our environment.
Because Spirit exists within all things and symbolically exists within the center of the circumference of the Circle- both descending and ascending simultaneously- it can be seen as the axis upon which everything exists. Understanding this, the Circle can then be seen as a model of the Universe. It is, in fact, this very thing. The below diagram shows the standard astrological symbol for Sol, the Sun and the symbol of the Holy Hexagram, another symbol that represents the Universe, its contents and correlates well with the Circle:
It’s well known that the Sun is the centre of our solar system. Its location is of paramount importance to the continuance of life on Earth and is responsible for the gravitational field upon which all other planets circumambulate. Because of this, in the occult world, we see that Sol is the sum of all of the other planetary energies. It’s a force of its own energy signature but because of its centricity and necessity in the continuity of the energies of other planetary powers, it can be seen like Spirit in the Elemental/Pentagram formulae, a binding and deific energy. Sol is the macrocosmic Spirit; Spirit is the microcosmic Sol. As already mentioned, Spirit is within all things. And because Spirit is a reflection of Sol, it also includes its qualities.
Note the astrological symbol for Sol. It’s a circle with a dot in the centre. Using this as an image of our Circle, the Magician (or Witch, if ye will) that stands within the centre of the Circle represents the conduit upon which all other energies flow. Just as Spirit-Sol is the centre upon which all other forces are bound and directed, so it is he or she that is the conductor of the forces within the circle. Indeed, the Circle is the Universe that has become manifest due to the Will of its Creator- you and me- therefore making us, for all intensive purposes, Deity. Just as the physical Sun has been worshipped by countless cultures as God, its metaphysical image and power that we bring into the Circle transforms us into God. In a ceremonial sense, this occurs upon invoking Spirit- as either generic active/passive principles or as Deity itself. In other Traditions, such as Wicca, Spirit Active (Masculine) and Spirit Passive (Feminine) are invoked individually into the High Priest and Priestess, enabling them to be vehicles for the Lord and Lady of the Craft- sometimes in a symbolic function, in other times as literal voices of Them.
The following diagram represents the Circle as both microcosm and macrocosm, that is the “little universe” and “big universe”. In the occult, the Pentagram (Four Elements plus Spirit) represents our microcosm and the Hexagram (seven traditional planetary powers with Sol as the centre) represents the macrocosm. Both exist within the Circle. As above, so below.
Thus, understanding all of the above, we conclude that the Circle brings ALL forces (not just the Elemental ones and only because you invoked them!), from the Above and the Below, into harmony. From this spiritual alchemical union centered upon the Magician/Witch, a Universe is then built and contained within the Circle. Its conductor becomes Deity from which he or she carries on the task of bringing about the Will into manifestation. If the Will is to simply create a sacred space upon which to meditate, the conditions are most favorable because one becomes unified with the Universe. If the ritual is to raise energy to perform a task, one then is capable of conducting the energy into the direction of fulfillment. If a ceremony is to evoke a potentially malevolent entity, the Magician becomes the voice of God which puts the entity into submission. Because All becomes contained within the Circle, it’s conductor becomes the All.
Of course, none of this can really be accomplished if we’re only creating a three-dimensional shape in the ethereal space around us. We require it to reach out into that fourth dimension- space time- of which the three points lining out the previous dimensions merge with time. The fourth dimension is the area upon which the actualized world operates. But understanding time as a relative device, those of us with experience in working in a well-constructed Circle can tell you that time does not operate as normally suspected during a ceremony. It’s this non-absolute transition of time that begins to hint at the entrance of an additional dimension, the arena where Euclidean geometry presents the possibility of other “realms” or worlds that exist.
The Circle does not exist just in our space time dimension but, like the other realms themselves, are superimposed upon others. Like the image above, the sum of all alternative realities equate to one greater reality. Like the various layers of an onion, one grown upon another, while they can be separated, the total of all layers is what gives us the onion. The casting of the Circle imposes our reality upon other realities, of whose separation is only an illusion, because each one is built upon the other and while the events that occur on each layer might appear separate and distinct, the is something which binds all of them together as One. It is these other dimensions upon which we theorize the existence of the forces that are brought together as a singularity within the Circle. These can be seen as any number of worlds mentioned in the various religions of the world. The realm of Deity, the realm of Elementals and the realm of the Dead are separate worlds yet the exact same world at the same time. And it is within the Universe that we “create” within the Circle where the Above and the Below, the Within and the Without, the material and the ethereal, the Elemental and Planetary all into one precise spot.
It is the understanding of the extra spatial dimensions whereby religion and science begin to come together and shake hands in mutual understanding.
In closing, we come to understand that “casting a Circle” is far less of a simple gesture than we would have previously imagined. We see that the microcosm and the macrocosm become one and it creates an alternative Universe through hyper-dimensional space whereby the Magician or Witch, empowered by or as a vehicle of Spirit, is the centre-being/Deity upon which is conducted the various operations of the Arts. The Circle creates a "Crossroads" on various levels, and, as it is known: all Witchcraft is performed at a crossroads. And thy Will becomes done. As Below then So Above then So Below once again.