do you need to cast a circle before spellwork?

ooooh, controversy. i like.

new witches often (hopefully) read a ton of books, blogs, social media, and so forth and many or most of those sources discuss opening a spell with casting a circle. but some witches don’t cast a circle, or only before some spells, but not others.

this begs the question(s) of many newbie witches: do i need to cast a circle every time i prepare to perform a spell? if not, which spells should i cast a circle? what is the best way to cast a circle?

what is casting a circle?

casting a circle is the practice of creating a container in which to work your magic. the function of the circle is, depending on who you ask, to either keep in the powerful energy you are raising or to keep out distracting or unwanted energies.

i personally think its both of these, and most seasoned witches would probably agree. the circle simply provides you with a safe and clear space to work.

the circle can be cast a number of ways, and none of them are wrong. followers of Garderian Wicca will likely prefer to actually mark a circle on the ground. others will simply use a knife, wand, or other implement as an extension of themselves to direct their energy to mark where the circle’s boundaries exist, without leaving an actual visible marker.

if you read a book like Buckland’s Complete Guide to Witchcraft, which i personally think is rigid and outdated, but not altogether without value, there are specific ways to mark the circle, how big it should be, which direction you enter from, and where your altar must be placed within it.

and then you can read probably 1000 different opinions of others who have much looser ideas of what a circle is, where to cast it, how big it should be, and what purpose it serves.

all this to say: how you cast your circle will likely not impact the outcome of your spell as long as it is cast with the appropriate attention to your intent and the boundary you create, visibly or not.

i tend to view the circle as really any space in which you perform your spellcasting that you have purified or cleared, whether with smoke, burning herbs, sounds, or other methods.

should you cast a circle?

i think this depends. if you’re performing some really intense magick that is heavily emotionally charged (which, i would argue most magick should be, if you want it to work), then consider casting a circle if you want.

i personally only do so if i’m working with energies that i’m asking a lot of. if i’m working with a deity or spirit, or perhaps some heavy psychic work, i feel more comfortable working in the confines of a circle.

if i’m simply casting to send something positive out in to the world, or ask for a favor of the universe that i deem mundane or related to daily life, then i usually won’t cast a circle before doing so. i always purify my space before and after, however, regardless.

i can’t tell you with absolute certainty when you should or should not cast, but here are some things to consider that i think you can find a decent amount of support for in the occult and magickal community, specifically referring to the concept of the circle functioning like a container for the energy you raise and direct:

  • if you are working with a deity or spirit whom you would not want to simply have free reign of your space, consider casting a circle
  • if you are working with forces that require a heavy emotional investment on your part, consider casting a circle
  • if you will be doing any psychic work, particularly that which involves a trance, this may leave you vulnerable to unwanted energies, consider casting a circle
  • if the intent of your spell is to control another person, such as a hex, revenge spell, binding spell, or so on, consider casting a circle
  • if you are calling in a lot of energies (living, dead, or otherwise), consider casting a circle

what do you do with the circle once the spell is over?

if the circle functions like a magickal container, we don’t necessarily want our magick to stay within that container so that it cannot ripple out into the universe, right?

once you have completed your spell work, directed your emotion and energy in the appropriate way and you consider your work to be done, you’ll want to release the circle. depending on who you talk to, this can also be called either opening or closing the circle, which is confusing as hell.

again, you’ll hear varying opinions on exactly how to do this. wiccans will usually walk around it counterclockwise (the initial casting is done clockwise, so think of this as rolling back up an unrolled spool of thread) and draw the energy from the circle that they initially ‘drew’ back into their athame, hand, or other implement. they may also create a physical break in the line of salt/salt water to signify that it is broken now.

generally, if you use a formal series of steps to cast a circle, you will want to perform those steps in reverse to release the circle.

if your circle is more informal, you may simply state the closing of your spell, thank any deities or spirits with whom you worked or acknowledged during your spell or ritual (if this applies to you), and then imagine the barriers or walls of your circle slowly crumbling or disappearing.

some witches also believe that leaving your circle un-released can provide a portal between our world and the next through which unwanted or wayward spirits or entities can travel. if you subscribe to this opinion, its definitely best to make sure your circle is released after any spell or ritual you perform within it.