My first response to this question was…
As a number of initiated friends have said to me “what happens in circle stays in circle”.
But that doesn’t really answer the question as to why Witches cast within a circle. Circles and spheres are a common sight amongst magical writings and instructions but what is it about the circle that lends itself so well to magical working?
The Greeks though the circle to be a perfect shape, from the point of geometry anyway. In fact this shape appears to have fascinated our ancestors time and time again, appearing in many ancient sites and monuments. One reason may be that they are easily identifiable within the natural world, in everything from the planets in the heavens above to the way the wind moves. Natures predisposition towards circles and spirals is perhaps what has so captivated our imagination. It inspires thoughts of unity and completion and sometimes even perfect in the way the unbroken line of the circle curves back to meet itself, forming a shape seemingly without beginning or end.
When you think about it the circle has been at the centre of some of the most important technological developments to occur, starting with the Wheel. It has also influenced scientific advances as well, such as astronomy and calculus. We seem to have been fascinated and inspired by it since the dawn of time and there is nothing that shows this better than the Seed of Life.
The Seed of Life, and its descendant designs the Flower of Life and the Fruit of Life, perfectly show just how inspiring and inspired the circle can be.
The Seed of Life is made up of six overlapping circles, which in turn makes a seventh circle in the centre ultimately enclosed within an eighth. The number seven is associated with a number of different concepts, but associations with creation and generative energies are particularly emphasised. A common interpretation of the Seed of Life can be found in the seven days of creation of Abrahamic religion.
The Seed of Life and its first descendant design the Flower of Life are often pegged as New Age concepts but this isn’t the case.
The Flower of Life, an intensely spiritual geometric pattern, can be found in the earliest temples of Egypt all the way to the Yucatan and everywhere in between and there is more hidden within its folds for within the Flower lies the 13 circles of the Fruit of Life.
Its from here the perfect geometry of the circle can be fully appreciated as within the Fruit of Life all five of the Platonic Solids can be found.
Circles are magical but I’ve strayed a little off point. The real reason Witches do their magic in a circle has more to do with energy rather than elegant geometry.
Let the Energy Flow
Circles are, as a shape, perfectly formed for the conversation of energy into motion. I’ve already mentioned the wheel and this can be extended to gears and reciprocating motion (that’s transferring circular motion into lateral movement). Because of the nature of circular movement no energy is lost as motion occurs and the moment itself is very natural, encouraged by the rotation of the Earth itself.
Spirals and circles go hand in hand, particularly when it comes to the movement of energy. The geometry of spirals is equally as elegant as the circle and they also exist out in nature in abundance. Witches use them in their magical and energetic workings because they lend themselves so well to the movement of energy.
Spirals are often used to increase energy, passing it around and outwards. The motion of the spiral allows energy to both build up and either outwards into the world or create a connection with either Heaven or Underworld. A three dimensional spiral could potentially link both, at least I think so. This isn’t a thought that had occurred to me before so I think I will think on it some more.
On the other hand circles provide a method of containing energy as well as a circuit for building energy. Looking to an example outside of Witchcraft certain New Age instructions for protecting a group of people, or establishing a sense of connection amongst those present, will involve standing in a circle (usually holding hands) and passing energy from left to right. The process starts slowly and gradually the speed builds along with the energy.
Think the CERN Large Hadron Colider.
The energy can build and build within the boundary of the circle until it has reached a point that it is ready to use and there are no sharp corners which we have slow down for. It reaches its peak speed and *boom* Hicks Boson… I mean magic.
Energy lays at the centre of why Witches do their magic in circles but there are other reasons too.
The Witches Shield
Circles and spheres are an excellent shape for defense and this is another way that Witches utilise these shapes. Circles are used for deflecting and redirecting energy whilst spheres provide all round protection both above and below so again energy is central to the role they play.
Circles are formed by a continuous and unbroken line and in magical practice this boundary defines an area within which the Witch is protected. Nothing may enter this space without the permission of the Witch, energy raised within may leave until it is released with intent. Combined with the rotational qualities of the shape this is why the circle stands preeminent within the geometry of Witchcraft and is often used in tandem with other shapes, both to enclose them and reside within them. Taken into the third dimension spheres work best as areas of personal protection but they can be utilised by a group as well.
Circles and spheres form the basis of protection rituals, in fact the process of casting a circle and being able to create spheres of personal protection are two of the first techniques that Witches learn. There is another reason why the circle as a shape lends itself well to Witchcraft which has nothing to do with energy, rather it lies in the nature of the shape and how it fits in with human nature.
In The Circle Round
Last week we were looking at the Witches Coven and the way that these groups work. I mentioned (maybe a couple of times) how in some groups it is important that equality amongst it’s members is paramount, particularly where there is no hierarchy of knowledge or degree. I want to unpack this idea a little further as the circle plays a central role.
The circle is a shape which lends itself well to facilitating equality. There is no head or high place as it is a single boundary with a single edge so no one person is sat above another in a group which contains no hierarchy. Even within groups that do contain a structure of knowledge and experience ultimately all those sood within the circle stand equal within the eyes of the Gods.
A good example of this concept can be found within the mythology of the Round Table of King Arthur’s court. Even though Arthur is king and is preeminent amongst his followers as leader once he takes his place amongst the Knights at the Round Table he is equal to them under the codes of knighthood and chivalry and under God.
The circle also stands as a symbol for continuity, for the nature of cycles and the never ending sequence of passing information from initiator to student and on through the ages. By forming a circle the group affirms not only their connection through a shared teaching but a connection to all who have walked the same tradition before them.
Interesting Links and Image Credits
Seed, Flower and Fruit of Life Images
3 Dimensional Spiral Images
Logarithmic Spiral in Nature
Round Table of King Arthur’s Court (Winchester)