I am one of many who have wondered
about the traditional directions we initially learn in casting a circle. The image we are often told to use, but
I doubt anyone actually does, is a sphere. Given that a traditional magickal
circle is 9 feet in diameter, that means it’s walls go below our waist much of
the time… Tongue in cheek, I
usually describe casting the “magick lozenge.” My friend Don Frew has just suggested to me an alternative way to think about circle casting, a way that makes sense and does not indicate our Witchy ancestors were challenged in the it use of basic mathematical imagery.
In an insight spun off from his research
into NeoPaganism’s connections with Classical NeoPlatonism, Don argues the circle is in fact
a circle, not a sphere. The original imagery is better than the modern alternative. The circle’s walls
go up and down a considerable way before closing, but no one ever thought of such walls as needing to go to the center of the universe or any such thing.
Of course this is what we mostly do as a matter of course,
but those of us who learned the “sphere” model as an ideal have a slight disconnect between practice and
understanding that can interfere with the strength and quality of the
circle. And any such disconnect
weakens the working.
Our likely roots in Neoplatonic
Magick and philosophy suggest why the circle was never intended to be a sphere. In my view, bringing all aspects of understanding and practice into greater coherence strengthens our work, and so this perspective is helpful to all who work this way.
The circle is as much “a bridge”
as a barrier. It is “between the
worlds” connecting them. The walls
go up and down far enough to connect the worlds “above and below.” After talking with Don, I think of this
image as a kind of multidimensional bridge between dimensions.
From this perspective the circle
accesses dimensions and the accompanying ritual is a kind of “magnifying glass”
concentrating and filtering the light of the One – what Gardnerians call the
Dryghten – as it manifests within and through all worlds.
Within this traditional NeoPlatonic
perspective the “Planetary energies” or energetic qualities are a part of the spectrum of light from
the One. In a sense the correspondences we find in tables of correspondence help filter the light so only certain qualities come through while our intent
energizes the light/qualities so
The roots of the problem in contemporary Westerners understanding how the circle and ritual works, Don argues, lie in our wanting
to translate magickal instructions based on a view of the universe as a sacred
space emanated from the One into modern scientific terms that ignore this important aspect of reality.