Before you begin, think about what you’ll be doing inside the circle. Focus on the working you want to complete, and clear any negative thoughts from your mind – you want to remove all distractions from the task at hand. When you create a circle it acts as a barrier, containing all the energy you raise until you send it out or dispel it. You should have planned out where your circle will be, and you can mark its outline on the ground if you want. Bear in mind that what you are actually going to create will be three-dimensional; a protective bubble extending above your head, and below your feet. The ‘circle’ is simply where bubble intersects the ground. You will need lit incense and salt water on your altar, and your athame (or wand, or index finger) to hand.
When you are ready to begin take a few slow, deep breaths and calm yourself. When you feel relaxed and centered, say, “I cast this circle for [your aim / goal]. May it contain all the energies raised herein.” This statement of fact will help you focus your mind on both the creation of the circle itself, and the working that will be taking place inside it.
Take your athame (wand, index finger) in your projective hand (the one you write with) and walk to the East, the direction associated with Air and beginnings. You could choose to use a different direction if it made more sense to you. Point the athame at floor where you have decided the circle will be, and visualise energy flowing up from the ground beneath your feet. Direct it through your body, down your arm and out through your athame, forming into a wall in front of you. Remember that the ‘circle’ you see on the floor is actually three dimensional and extends both above you and below you. It is not a perfect sphere – if it were then your head and shoulders would stick out when you walked near the edge – but instead an egg, taller than it is wide.
Walk the perimeter of the circle in a clockwise direction, from East to South, West and North before returning to East. Visualise the energy flowing around you as you complete the circle. You could imagine it as a translucent, shimmering bubble, or perhaps as a solid wall of colour. It rises into a cone above your head, and sinks down into the floor beneath your feet. Visualise the energy slowly swirling clockwise about you, an ever-shifting wall of colour and protection.
Walk around the perimeter of the circle once more, this time with salt water from your altar. Sprinkle drops of the water along the edge of the circle as you go. Visualise the water washing away any murky, unpleasant colours in the bubble around you so that the bright, pleasant colours shine stronger than ever. The salt water is cleansing and purifying the circle that you have just cast. Once you have taken the water completely round the circle, return to your altar and take some burning incense. Walk the perimeter of the circle for a third time, wafting smoke from the incense outwards to the edge of the circle. Visualise the incense making the rich colours richer, and the bright colours brighter. Perhaps there’s a colour you associate with the smell of the incense, and you might picture that shining the brightest in your bubble now. The incense is adding its own special qualities and blessings to your circle.
When you have brought the incense all the way back to the East, say, “Be thou cast, circle. As I designed thy boundaries, so do you hold my power. Set me apart from the world of man. Make me apart from the world of spirit. Hold me safe between the worlds as I work my magics.”
As you finish the words, and return to the altar, imagine the circle solidifying around you. Your barrier is now complete, and will remain until you take it down again. If you need to leave the circle for anything, or if you want to admit someone to the circle you should ‘cut’ a doorway into it. If you simply walk through the energy you have shaped into your circle you will disrupt it, making it less effective. To make the doorway, simply trace the outline of a door in the circle, and visualise the energy separating and moving around that point. When you’re ready to continue your workings in the circle, close the doorway by re-tracing the outline of it with your athame, and visualise the energy closing in to cover the gap.
When you’ve finished your working, you must take the circle down again. Walk around the circle one more with your athame (wand, index finger) and imagine the energies forming the circle flowing back through your athame and into your body. You might walk anti-clockwise for a very abrupt end to your circle, but it is permissable to walk clockwise to take down the circle as you don’t really want a harsh transition between ritual and everyday life.
Say, “The circle is open, but never broken.”
When you create the circle you use the energy around you, focussing it through your body and your athame or wand, should you choose to use one. All the energy you raise in the circle is contained within it until you perform your spell or ritual and send it out to achieve your goal. When you take down the circle, you can ground the energy back into the earth by visualising it flowing down through your body and out of your feet back into the ground. Alternatively you could sit down, and imagine roots growing from the base of your spine into the ground, and the energy flowing out through them.
This is, as I have said, just one way of casting a circle. Try Googling key words and phrases like ‘casting a circle’ or ‘Wicca circle’ for more ideas and examples. Also, most books on Wicca for beginners will have a section, if not a whole chapter, on casting circles in them. Some of the methods are very simple, some require a lot of visualisation, and others can be quite complicated, with a lot of things to say and do. None are really better than any others, they all achieve the same end, part of which is to put you in a certain frame of mind. Different things work for different people, which is largely the reason behind the many different ways of casting a circle; see what feels right when you’re actually doing it.