Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back to Basics: Casting the Circle

There are lots of books out there that talk about how to cast a circle, but they leave a lot out, I think.  So here’s my step-by-step, and how I experience it.
  1. Planning the space:  Assuming all of your ritual “stuff” is set up and in place, you have to decide where the circle boundaries are going to be.  If you’re working with others, discuss the boundaries before beginning in case some of them can’t perceive the energy well enough (yet) to keep from crossing the circle.  Because things come up unexpectedly, always plan where a temporary door into/out of your circle may need to be.  Due to the layout of my living room, that can only be in the South or Southeast, for example.
  2. First breath, Ground and center:  Take a deep breath, let the tension flow out of you down to the center of the Earth, and as you inhale focus on your heartbeat to make you fully present in your head with the energy of the Earth filling you up.
  3. Second breath, Open to the sky:  Make sure your crown chakra is open to the moon, the stars, the sun and breathe that stellar energy in to mix with the Earth energy in your solar plexus.
  4. Third breath, Turn it up:  Basically, as you inhale the third breath picture the Earth and Stellar energies making you glow brighter and brighter, then set your breathing on automatic and keep that image in your head.
  5. Anchoring the circle:  Choose your starting point.  I like starting/ending my circle in the North, because that’s the direction of Earth for me and that’s where all things come from.  You may choose something different, and if it works well for you that’s fine, but you have to start/end casting the circle in the same place, or it isn’t a circle at all.
  6. Begin casting:  I’m going to remind you that you’ve charged yourself up with energy, so here’s where you start using it.  Keep in mind, that while you’re casting the circle you are still also charging yourself up so you shouldn’t feel depleted when you’re finished.
  7. Whether using your hand or a ritual tool to direct the energy, start a stream of energy flowing to the starting point and leave it hanging in mid-air as you move your hand to draw the line of energy, and step to the right.  Go all the way around the room, maintaining the flow of energy from the earth/stars into your body, down your hand, and into the circle.
  8. Tie it off:  As you’ve moved around the room leaving the energy for the circle behind you and replenishing yourself from the cosmos, you will come back to your starting point.  I like to draw that last bit of the circle into an infinity loop, the final stroke of which will connect it to the point I started from.  In my mind, this keeps the energy moving while I am not the source of it.
  9. Finishing:  By the time you’ve tied off with your infinity knot, you should feel the change ripple through the space like the rings on a pond after tossing a pebble in.

And that’s it.  Your space is warded, your circle is cast, and you’re ready to start your ritual or spell.  The person casting the circle usually also maintains a “watchful eye” on it during the ritual to make sure it stays up.

As for opening or un-casting the circle, there are more options than I'm listing here, but these are the most common:

  1. Break it:  Yep, some people cut the circle with an athame and declare the space open, letting the energy disperse.
  2. Suck it up:  Some people are more comfortable drawing the energy of the circle into a tool for “storage” to be used in the next ritual.
  3. Earth it:  Some folks will uncast the circle directing the energy into the Earth.

Now, it doesn’t have to really be round.  It can be an ovoid shape, depending on the space you’re in and the number of folks in it.  If you’re in a really long room, you won’t have a round ritual space.  It’s OK, the important bit is having the space enclosed by magic. 

You can choose to cast silently, but if you’re with a group sometimes having words spoken while casting can help the group share the same imagery for the circle, and they will feed energy into the person casting it so that the circle is strengthened additionally by the combined will of the group.

Happy Zapping, Witches.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grief for Pagans

It’s still winter, and during winter months death rates increase dramatically.  Grief is part of the holiday season for a lot of families, as a result of this phenomenon.  Some pagans I’ve spoken to have said “grief is grief, it’s a human thing, not a pagan thing”.  They’re not entirely wrong, since it is a human emotion.  The issue I have with that attitude however, is that as pagans we’re affected differently.

Don’t get me wrong, in spite of knowing about the cycle of life and how death is a natural thing, and in some cases a big relief, I know that


If you’ve never lost a friend, watched a family member die, or had to make the decision to euthanize a beloved pet, then you may not be able to relate to this emotionally.  However, reading this may help you in the future.  If you’ve recently lost someone dear to you, I’m sorry if this post is a trigger for a flood of emotions, but it’s my hope that you’ll gain something useful out of continuing to read.

As pagans and magical practitioners, we play a more active role in the functioning of the universe.  We actively reach out to spirits, deities, and the dearly departed as part of our spiritual lives.  The attachments we form with other people frequently lead to telepathic bonding, shared images/sensations/emotions, etc.  When someone we love dies, we *must* sever that bond and quickly in order to avoid keeping their spirit stuck on our plane and unable to move on.

Recently, my cat Simon died.  I’ve had Simon and his sister Jezebel living with me for the past 13 years, since they were 4 months old.  A few years ago, Simon had a nasty case of pancreatitis and hadn’t been really well ever since.  Last Friday, he was having trouble breathing so I rushed him to the emergency vet.  I got home around 1am, thinking that with them watching him in the oxygen tent he’d be better in the morning and so I went to sleep.  At 5am, I woke up with my heart racing, knowing he’d died.  When I called the vet, I got it confirmed.  While I was crying, I went to my temple room.  As soon as I could talk coherently, I lit incense and a candle, called him by every single endearing name I could remember ever having used, and said “I bless you and release you because I love you”.  I severed the bond so his spirit wouldn’t be trapped here, so he could move on to the Summerland.

It still hurts to write that, but no matter how much I’m feeling and no matter how many tears fall, I know that I did what I should have to release him from the loving bond we shared.  I’m missing him terribly, but I’m not keeping his spirit prisoner here, and that’s a relief for me.

Because we routinely manipulate the mystic forces of the cosmos, we have to be responsible in all areas of our life.  If you’ve lost loved ones and not released them, you don’t have to wait to do so.  If you’re still grieving and being haunted by them, release them with love.  Severing the bond doesn’t mean you stop loving them, it just means you don’t have them chained up in the metaphysical basement.  And, it helps you move through the pain.

The other thing I do, is that when the pain hits and I’m trying not to cry, I purposely bring up a happy memory.  By replacing the grief with a happy memory, you make it easier for yourself to remember the love instead of hurting.  With Simon, one of those memories is of him and his “string on a stick”.  It was a clear acrylic rod with a fuzzy rainbow string attached that he not only loved to play with, but he would play fetch with.  That silly boy would drag it from other parts of the house to where I was so I’d play with him.  I could throw the stick, and he’d go grab the string and drag it back to me.  There were a few times that I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find the string laying across my throat.  I never was sure *quite* what message he was trying to send, so I’d call him my little Mafia cat and hide the string before bed for a few days.

You can do this with your loved ones too, and you will find it helpful.  If you work with a group, don’t be afraid to reach out for support.  Grief is one of the most disempowering emotions I have felt, and you have to let people help you rebuild your strength.  Letting friends help you is also a gift to them.

Grief and depression can have a negative impact on your immune system.  Physically, you need to also make sure you're eating nutritious food with good vitamin content as well as staying adequately hydrated and getting enough sleep.  

The other thing to keep in mind while grieving, is to purify yourself and your space regularly.  I’m still smudging daily, because I’m exuding grief vibes all over the house.  I’m dousing myself with a purification potion (ie tea made from purification herbs with some love thrown in) before I get out of the shower.  This is how you avoid creating a depression spiral in your living space.  Plus, the act of doing something positive for yourself like this helps stave off the helpless feeling that grief can bring to you.

With enough work on it, you will find the grief easier to bear, and then you’ll just remember the love with just a little melancholy.  Some time after that, even the melancholy feelings will fade and you’ll just be left with the love and the happy memories. 

I am not trained in either psychology or psychiatric medicine, but these simple methods have worked for me over the years.  I have lost best friends, pets, and dear family members and struggling through each of those losses got me to where I am today, with better tools to handle the emotions.

I hope you remember the love.