Casting the Circle – What It Really Means

Sometime we take the basics for granted.  Most of you reading this will have cast many-a circle in your time. It’s second-nature by now, like buckling your seat-belt or blowing out the candles before you go to bed. Yet when a practice is reinforced to the point at which it becomes habit, we risk forgetting the fundamental truth behind its necessity.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr. – one of the most beloved and well-respected teachers of the magical arts,  has written a book on circle-casting. And it is a revelation. Although the premise is a simple one, the insight, instruction and innovation offered are anything but.  T. Thorn Coyle writes in the Foreword ” A strong Magician or Witch fully shoulders her responsibility. This book of castings is not only an amazing compendium of innovative ways to move and shape energy forms; it also serves as a comprehensive primer on how to change the individual in order to better change the world.”

Please enjoy this excellent excerpt from the opening chapter of Ivo Dominguez, Jr.’s  Casting Sacred Space:

The basic unity of creation is held as a primal truth in many spiritual paths. This unity does not imply uniformity; it implies multiplicity connected through a commonality of source, of foundations of existence, and in some philosophies a commonality of purpose. This underlying unity of the great diversity of the Universe allows for a host of Goddesses and Gods that are each one with the whole. The word Universe (with the same root as the word unity) encompasses all of space, time, and everything that exists, seen and unseen. In Wicca, as in Native American traditions, all of space and time is held as sacred. The Universe is seen as divinity manifest, and in Wicca is the body of the Goddess. Within this perspective, the Universe is sacred; therefore every part and all of its parts are sacred. The beauty and glory of this perspective of the Universe are one of the roots of the spiritual desire to experience it as a unity.

To truly experience the whole of one’s Self is a tall order, to experience the wholeness of the Earth—or larger yet, our arm of the Galaxy—is unimaginable. For humans the capacity for ecstatic union with the totality of things is generally achieved only after soul-refining work, and then only for brief periods. In some traditions this is seen as a human failing, but in an Earth religion like Wicca, this need is seen as normal and reflective of our nature as incarnate beings. To my mind, an Earth religion means focused on the Earth plane, not just on our planet. This is no more a failing than a cell acknowledging that is a part of an organ within an organism, but it should also be acknowledged that each cell carries the pattern in its DNA of the whole organism. There is no shame in physical beings abiding by the laws of physical existence, let alone the limits of psychology and personality. There is also the recognition that the fullness of experience is on a continuum, perhaps several continua.

Communion with the Universe while incarnate is much like trying to reach the speed of light while in the physical level of the Universe. As you approach the speed of light, Einstein taught that your rate of time slows down, and your mass increases until at the speed of light time stops and mass is infinite. The faster you go, the heavier the load becomes, and the less time you have to push. It would take infinite energy to reach the speed of light, whereupon time would cease to pass and your mass would be infinite. Using
this as a metaphor for attempts at ecstatic union, it would take infinite consciousness to reach total communion with the Universe. Having met these conditions, you would meet the criteria that many hold true for many concepts of Deities. This imagery may seem a bit extreme, but it underlines a very important point: the effective creation of magickal space revolves around adherence to the patterns of physical, metaphysical, and psychological laws.

The casting of a Circle is an acknowledgment of the limits of human consciousness and is a tool to reach beyond those limits by choosing specific boundaries and limits. There is a basic human need for division and segmentation in consciousness; that is what we call thought. Our concentration, attention, and rates of information processing are limited. Our limits call forth the necessity for the selection of different modes of awareness for different purposes. When we read, our attention is focused on the message carried by the words—not the slight irregularities in the shapes of the letters caused by the ink spreading into the fibers of the paper. When we dream, certain gates are open to us, but the tools of rational thought are normally confiscated by the guardians of these gates. Humans are tool users, and consciousness was our first tool, not a chipped flint or fire. Although many are versatile, no one tool is applicable for every situation—the same is true for consciousness. Castings and different modes of consciousness are among the tools that, when used with skill, allow us to build and to travel our path to the Universe.

The casting of a Circle is also an opportunity to affirm the parts of yourself that exist outside of the physical frame of reference. It is an opportunity to cocreate and to re-create yourself and your universe in conjunction with whatever name(s) you give to Deity force(s) of immanence and transcendence. It is a way to make easier the shift from the consciousness used to function in daily life to the consciousness used in connecting with Life in the greater sense. A Circle is an attempt at reconciliation between the personal, collective, and transpersonal realities.

Castings are the inception of magick and the creation of intentional paradox. The intent of casting a Circle is, in no small part, an effort to create a model of the Universe that fits the scale of human consciousness. The creation of any division or subsetting of the Universe in any way produces paradoxes. The paradox of forming a representation of the infinite, the macrocosm, in terms of the finite, the microcosm, is an unending source of power and inspiration. In my estimation this is the most potent polarity we can use to power our magick.

The old Hermetic idea of the microcosm within the macrocosm is interwoven into many esoteric traditions. It is often expressed in this way: “As above so below, but in another manner.” The simplicity of this axiom can be deceptive. Current Western culture tends to overvalue those things that are sophisticated on the surface, transparent in their mechanism of action, and measurable. Poetic truths are often set aside as less important or are trivialized because the concept of mystery is deeply suspect. This poetic Hermetic axiom applies across temporal or spatial spans. It is the connecting rainbow bridge between times, places, and differences of scale or vibration, and as such is a harmonizer of the paradoxes produced in the creation of sacred space.

The intentional paradox of a magickal casting is a poetic truth that is seemingly self-contradictory but coherent. The apparent simplicity of a fertilized egg, a hazelnut, or the moment before the Big Bang is each held as similar as a state of beginning by this axiom. Wiccan magick contains many poetic truths that are great levelers, that bring the sense of peer relationship and responsibility to the colossal and the small. Like the Universe, we began with all of our matter and potentiality in one cell, and we proceeded to split and to expand. Life, in its greater sense of all that is evolving, unfolds through the process of specialization, individuation, and harmonious relation to the laws of matter. Viewed in this context, the casting of a Circle is an extension of this process.

Many magickal Traditions use the Four Sacred Directions and Center as a way to plot a coordinate in space/time. In some ways the casting of a Circle is like starting a journey, in that one’s bearings must be determined before setting course. Unlike mundane navigation based upon the coordinates of a finite globe, the casting of a Circle is set in all of space and time, and the movement is not through space but through planes of perception and of reality. In Wiccan magick, the Circle is said to take us between the Worlds; in this statement there are twin paradoxes. In being between the Worlds we are in all Worlds, and in no Worlds. Although we are elsewhere and elsewhen in a Circle, we still stand upon the ground and in the time wherein the Circle was cast. Even in the end, the Circle is open but unbroken because it exists in time, outside of time, and in the heart.

A Quarters-cast Circle in the Wiccan manner is more than a coordinate, a gate to higher planes, and a paradox—it is a model of the poetic vision of the faith. Present in the Circle is the Wheel of the Year and the intertwining of the Solar and Lunar cycles with the life of the Earth. Present in the Circle is the power of the Elements as well as their manifestations as forces and states, as slyphs, salamanders, undines, and gnomes, and as the five sacred parts of Self: the body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. Present in the Circle are the chants, the incense, the drums, the dances, and the people that shape and are shaped by living traditions.

In its fullness, a Circle can contain a richness so complete that if all of Wicca were lost except for the way to cast a Circle, and its symbolism, the faith would renew itself from that one seed. A Quarters-cast Circle has the potential to be a holographic representation of the evolving energy pattern that is the way of Wicca. The same is potentially true of any casting within the context of a Tradition.

Do not allow the casting of a Circle to become merely the preliminary step in a magickal working. Consider the profundity and the power of creating sacred space in every Circle. Remember and reconnect with the poetic truths that are the seed of sacred space.

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