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Author Topic: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space  (Read 567 times)

Sefiru

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If creating or delineating sacred space is a part of your practice, how do you go about it? I think most of us who've read Wicca-101 books are familiar with 'casting a circle', but what other methods or variants are there?

In my own case, for a long time I didn't do anything to mark my sacred space; I had a rug in front of my shrine and that was about it. Then I made myself an athame, which was asking to be used for Traditional Athame Things, one of which was defining sacred space at the beginning of my rituals.

I tried a modified version of casting circle and quickly discovered that it doesn't work well for me. For one thing, having a contiguous line around the boundary turned out to be impractical (I have to cross the line to reach the light switch, among other things); having to take it down afterward didn't sit well with me either. That might be because my athame is heavily focused on awakening and not so much on putting to rest. (Thinking about this while writing this, I realised I need another tool for that, and now I'm going to be making a fan. Welp.)

Anyway, what I've ended up doing is casting four "Pillars" at the corners of my shrine space (one for each classical element) and leaving them there when the ritual is over. I'm guessing if I were using a temporary ritual space this wouldn't be as practical.

How about you? How do you handle sacred space, and what's the practical and/or spiritual reasoning behind it?

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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2018, 05:43:52 am »
How about you? How do you handle sacred space, and what's the practical and/or spiritual reasoning behind it?

The circle with the 4 quarters/elements plus center/spirit works well for me, but sometimes now I'll add up/down as an axis through the center, ever since we talked about it in a previous thread. Spiritually it allows me to situate myself relative to the past/my ancestors on whose shoulders I stand, and the future/my heirs to whom I bear a responsibility, in addition to my own individual spiritual self.
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2018, 12:53:06 pm »
I tried a modified version of casting circle and quickly discovered that it doesn't work well for me. For one thing, having a contiguous line around the boundary turned out to be impractical (I have to cross the line to reach the light switch, among other things); having to take it down afterward didn't sit well with me either. That might be because my athame is heavily focused on awakening and not so much on putting to rest. (Thinking about this while writing this, I realised I need another tool for that, and now I'm going to be making a fan. Welp.)

For one thing, I normally cast circle to the edges of my apartment. (I cast in a circle, and then push the edges out contiguous with the walls.) Which is very handy when one realises one needs something in the kitchen.

There are times when I'll cast a more tightly defined circle - it depends a lot on what I'm doing, and in particular the intensity of the magical or ritual work involved. General esbat working, no big deal to have it bigger. Initiation, or tightly focused healing, or something else where bouncing the energy off a smaller space gets and keeps it moving a lot more efficiently, I want a smaller space.

(You can mimic the idea here by swirling your hand around in a bathtub with a few inches of water vs. a sink or large bowl, vs. a smaller bowl: once you get the small bowl going, it takes a lot less effort to keep it going than the others!)

I am a firm believer in taking down most of what is done to set up circle when I'm done: even if I very much *like* the Guardians of the Quarters I work with, I do not actually want them hanging around my bedroom or living room all the time. That's just weird. (I am a little different about the two deities I work with in personal practice, but all other deities also get the same "Thank you for coming, it is time now for you to go, until the next time." polite dismissal.)

Even if you're working in your own home, you probably want to use your home for things that are not purely ritual space the majority of the time. (This is even more true for people where there may be specific requirements for the purity of ritual space, or what's done in it, or cleansing before ritual or certain actions, etc.)

I do have ongoing warding (which for me is different than cast circle: it's a permeable boundary, it does not inherently make the space suitable for sacred work or magical work, but it helps filter and direct the energy in the space on an ongoing basis.)

In practical terms, warding is the 'I like living in a comfortable safe place that suits my life' and casting circle is 'tonight I'm doing something a bit special and I'm doing some extra stuff to make that so, and to help with the specific things I want to do with this particular evening'

My usual practice:

- Think about what I want this particular circle to do (more in an essay on my website, but basically is this about creating a welcoming space or a particular mood? Making it a specifically sacred space? Helping me or others step into a ritual mindset? Making specific ritual tasks easier? Doing deeper internal work where some external cues and energy structures might help or might help with various safety aspects? Protection? More complex magical workings?

- Consider any physical things like altar decorations, objects, tools, etc. that will support what I want to do. Take the pre-ritual steps that make sense (tidying the physical space, ritual bath, setup, music I might want on while doing those things, etc.)

- Adapt aspects of the circle casting process as needed (some things are set in my practice: we always use the same blessing text and circle scribe/open text if I'm doing the traditation circle, but other parts are adapted based on the focus of the ritual.)

- Do the thing.

- Do the follow up for the thing (open circle, return to physical reality in all the necessary ways, clean up, take notes, set up any follow up needed.)
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2018, 02:36:02 pm »
If creating or delineating sacred space is a part of your practice, how do you go about it? I think most of us who've read Wicca-101 books are familiar with 'casting a circle', but what other methods or variants are there?

(snip)

How about you? How do you handle sacred space, and what's the practical and/or spiritual reasoning behind it?

I do like casting circle, though I don't for everything I do spiritually/magically.  Typically speaking, when I cast circle, it is for a more formal ritual.  Casting circle either means "Something special is going on and I want to step outside my normal life and recognize it," or "I need to contain something or keep something out, and need a barrier."

I don't always cast actual circles...I have cast 'circle' that goes from wall to wall, floor to roof (both stories of a two story house).  We were doing a craft intensive ritual, which would take some time, so bathrooms and kitchen were within the 'circle'.  Circles have also been bathtub sized (marking the boundary with stones on the rim of the tub).

My circle casting method varies widely.  I do use traditional circle casting, from the more simple, "trace the circle with my finger/tool, and there it is," to the more elaborate, "carry water and salt, incense and candle, walk the circle three times round."  I have laid out the boundaries of my circle with cords, with cards (tarot or oracle), with runes and with stones.

But I also cast what I think of as bubble circles, the quick and dirty version.  I actually read about this in a little magical romance collection, but the basic idea is you pull a tiny ball of energy from your own solar plexus, and then blow it up like a balloon to the size you want.  It can be cast virtually instantly when you get used to it.

I really see 'circles' as a concept and not a shape or specific method.  Circles are boundaries, and what they are marking and how they function totally depend on what I need in that moment.
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2018, 01:30:21 am »
The circle with the 4 quarters/elements plus center/spirit works well for me, but sometimes now I'll add up/down as an axis through the center, ever since we talked about it in a previous thread. Spiritually it allows me to situate myself relative to the past/my ancestors on whose shoulders I stand, and the future/my heirs to whom I bear a responsibility, in addition to my own individual spiritual self.

The circle method never worked for me when I tried it in the past.  It left me feeling "closed in," and there were practical problems that arose when interrupted or when I needed to get something.  Casting a circle never seemed to enhance the sense of the sacred for me, either.  I'm even careful about how I begin and end certain rituals to prevent that feeling of being "closed in."  For example, two of my rituals are meant to carry over into the rest of my daily life, so there is actually no clear dismissal or ending point.  I had to modify them over time to prevent the feeling of a clear ending or beginning because for those particular rituals there shouldn't be one, although that is not the case for others.  Some rituals need a clear ending, such as when releasing something.

For me sacred space functions on a psychological level.  When I put myself in front of my altar in certain postures I begin to enter that sacred "space" within myself.  The altar is a sacred space in itself, but it is mainly there to help me enter into a certain state of mind.  If I want to enhance it or enter a slightly different psychological state I will put certain items on the altar that normally remain in a box when not in use.

Tonight I was interrupted twice by neighbors knocking on the door during my ritual.  At first I ignored them because the ritual is very important to me, and I wouldn't normally break the flow in progress through the rite.  But they were insistent, so I reasoned that it is not charitable for me to ignore my neighbors, and charity and lovingkindness are important in my spirituality.

So I went to answer the door, and I noticed when I answered that I felt especially kindly disposed toward my neighbors tonight, even elated, and not irritated by their insistence at all.  So in this case I was able to remain in my "sacred space" within myself.

I spoke to them briefly and returned to the altar without any sense that I had interrupted the flow of the ritual at all -- I had maintained my space.  I finished the ritual and then went to have some food with the neighbors, and the "good feels" lasted for quite a while even after the formal aspect of the ritual had ended.
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2018, 06:56:48 pm »
even if I very much *like* the Guardians of the Quarters I work with, I do not actually want them hanging around my bedroom or living room all the time. That's just weird. (I am a little different about the two deities I work with in personal practice, but all other deities also get the same "Thank you for coming, it is time now for you to go, until the next time." polite dismissal.)

If I was working in the mode of "inviting entities" I would probably do this too; as it is what I do is more "building a structure" out of energies, so I guess that's a bit different.

Your essay is as usual, highly informative and I will be chewing on it for a while.

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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2018, 06:59:30 pm »
But I also cast what I think of as bubble circles, the quick and dirty version.  I actually read about this in a little magical romance collection, but the basic idea is you pull a tiny ball of energy from your own solar plexus, and then blow it up like a balloon to the size you want.  It can be cast virtually instantly when you get used to it.

This is a nifty idea and I will have to try it sometime.

Quote
I really see 'circles' as a concept and not a shape or specific method.  Circles are boundaries, and what they are marking and how they function totally depend on what I need in that moment.

And since one part of my practice is about having less boundaries, maybe it's not surprising that I'm not comfortable with circles.

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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2018, 08:41:21 pm »
How about you? How do you handle sacred space, and what's the practical and/or spiritual reasoning behind it?

I created sacred space back when I did magic via the typical circle arrangement. I stopped doing that for a very long time, even though I found it worked very well - for my purposes, though, circle casting tended to be better for group ritual than for solo work, so I've largely since just relied on my gods and spirits to create such ritual space with me just by being present. That's also worked thus far.

As I get back into magic, though, and in a much more in-depth capacity than before, I'm finding the need to delineate magical from mundane space like I used to, though I feel much more attracted to squares these days. The traditions I take inspiration from make use of squares in creating ritual space, with the directions not aligned with the corners, but rather the walls, to create a "house"-like, six-sided structure not akin to a building with doors along each orientation. Practically speaking, squares are a lot easier to physically construct than circles as well! Sticks laid down end to end, cordage wrapped around stakes in the ground, stone cairns set out, etc.

Eventually, I would like to build a permanent structure to build ritual space on top of (and create a place of power by such repeated use)... but that, funnily enough, will probably be a circle!
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2018, 07:02:03 pm »
for my purposes, though, circle casting tended to be better for group ritual than for solo work,

Interesting, do you have any ideas about why that is?

Quote
I feel much more attracted to squares these days.

This got me thinking about the possibilities of other geometric shapes in this context. Has anyone tried, say, a hexagon or triangle? Pentagons and septagons also have obvious symbolic power, but you'd need some way to get the angles right.

Any thoughts on the properties of cornered shapes vs rounded shapes?

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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2018, 09:26:24 am »
This got me thinking about the possibilities of other geometric shapes in this context. Has anyone tried, say, a hexagon or triangle? Pentagons and septagons also have obvious symbolic power, but you'd need some way to get the angles right.

Any thoughts on the properties of cornered shapes vs rounded shapes?

If you think of your casting space (terminology is getting odd if it's not a circle lol and I know that for many people it may not be sacred space, so: casting space) as a container for the energy you are raising, and you are trying to move that energy (to build momentum to send it out, like the cone of power model...think tornado), I can see how the corners might cause drag, kind of like the stagnant energy theory in Feng Shui (that energy basically gets trapped in corners like dust bunnies, and becomes stale).  In this case, the more corners, the more rounded they are, and the less likely for your energy to get stopped up.

From a protective sense, casting space with lots of very pointy corners (think of a triangle or even a star, with lots of very sharp angles pointed out), makes for a highly defensive space...those corners can add an offensive edge to your space against anyone trying to breach it.

I know that in CM, they use a summoning triangle, so casting space of different shapes is not out of the realm of experience!

I also think that you could easily incorporate the associations of your shape with what you are doing in your casting space.  Triangle or Square for stability, octagon for combat (with fighting rings) or stopping (stop signs), pentagon for ruling/governing (this is a very American perspective, but I'm sure there are other associations with the pentagon)
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2018, 08:21:59 pm »
If creating or delineating sacred space is a part of your practice, how do you go about it? I think most of us who've read Wicca-101 books are familiar with 'casting a circle', but what other methods or variants are there?
...
How about you? How do you handle sacred space, and what's the practical and/or spiritual reasoning behind it?

Currently, in my practice (which has been put on hold due to the end of school year business, as usual), I don't cast a circle because, like you Sefiru, I have a rug that is in front of my altar/shrine space that I visually use as a circle. However, I have also found two things: first, I have visually and psychologically made the connection that my altar is a sacred space; and second, laying down a circle is impractical for me due to the small area that I have said altar in (bedroom is 15' by 12' wide; front half is for the loft bed/office area, while back half is our library/free range bunny area).

The first part I have built into my practice for rituals such that I keep the area clean and tidy (more so than the rest of the apartment), and I say salutations to the Elements, and Dionysus (and the rabbits) in the morning and at night). Doing this, I have created the mental connection that it's a space that deserves respect - however, it becomes a sacred space when I am in front of the altar, and I start my rituals when I invite the Elements, the Goddess, and Dionysus to the room. Through the process of invitations, my mind shifts gears and I see the area as a holy place. I do my ritual or meditation and then I shift gears back by saying thanks and goodbye to these powers. Then I clean up the area once I'm done with writing in my journal.

As stated before, I have to do it this way because this is how I view it. However, there is a practical side as well: in NYC, I can't afford to have a room just for my magickal related studies. As much as I would LOVE that... I can't afford the rent to do so. Thus, I have to be utilitarian with this. I'm hoping when we move this summer, that will be a different case - but we shall see.
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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2018, 01:07:16 pm »
Interesting, do you have any ideas about why that is?

I think it's just the context of how my personal practice has developed - I discovered religious witchcraft with a group of others, so group ritual just went hand-in-hand with circle casting for me. Now that devotional polytheism underpins most of the work that I do, I take a lot from the theology of my source cultures, and squares feature a lot more often in the myths than circles.

Quote
This got me thinking about the possibilities of other geometric shapes in this context. Has anyone tried, say, a hexagon or triangle? Pentagons and septagons also have obvious symbolic power, but you'd need some way to get the angles right.

Any thoughts on the properties of cornered shapes vs rounded shapes?

I haven't given much thought to more complex non-circle shapes, but my instinct re: circles vs squares from my knowledge is that the locus of the circle, because it has no corners, is you the practitioner, or your altar or what have you. The square has no interior locus; its shape suggests an outside anchoring. In my case, it's oriented to the movement of the sun, which goes back to the central creation myth. In my "tradition", creating sacred space is a deliberate echo of the first act of creation, which is described as a framing, suggesting edges, corners, parallels, and fours. Four is a very important number for me as well.

I did speak to someone recently on this topic, actually, and she said that she was interested in experimenting with octagons - so 8 marked corners. I think because it could easily be visually repurposed as a circle or a square as needed...
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Sefiru

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Re: Thinking outside the circle: other ways to mark sacred space
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2018, 06:57:31 pm »
In my "tradition", creating sacred space is a deliberate echo of the first act of creation, which is described as a framing, suggesting edges, corners, parallels, and fours. Four is a very important number for me as well.

That comes up in Kemetic myth, too; I may have to steal this.

Quote
I did speak to someone recently on this topic, actually, and she said that she was interested in experimenting with octagons - so 8 marked corners. I think because it could easily be visually repurposed as a circle or a square as needed...

This could also work well if someone was working with Taoist influences, what with the Eight Trigrams and associated symbolism. Or for a spatial equivalent of the Wheel of the Year quarters and Cross-Quarters.

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