One of the most important aspects of Ritual Magick, as practiced by Wiccans and other neo-pagans, is the art of the sacred circle. Circles can serve many purposes, but are most commonly protective. Many types of more advanced Ritual Magick requires one to first cast a circle of protection in order to ward off evil forces from influencing the spell.
To cast a circle of protection, follow these steps carefully to ensure that your protection is adequate.
The first step to casting a circle, or indeed any Ritual Magick, is to find a suitable location. Rituals must be done in a psychologically safe space; if the caster does not feel safe, the Magick will not function. More advanced practitioners can cast in places that are more exposed, but for a beginner, it is best to find someplace isolated. Inside your home can be perfect, or you may feel more at ease outside. Just make sure to find someplace free of interruptions, where you will not be nervous.
After you have your ritual location staked out, it is time to purify the area. Start with physical purification; that is, tidy up. If it is in your home, get the room clean and in order. Put books on shelves, clear clutter, take out the trash. If it is outdoors, make an area of clear ground free of leaves, rocks, and twigs.
After physical purification is complete, cleanse the area spiritually. In most practices, this is a meditative process which involves visualizing spiritual impurities and pushing them away physically. If your practice involves a catalyst, such as a wand, staff, charm, or broom, use this to aid you. Some ritual practitioners use purifying elements such as witch hazel oil or burning sage to aid in the purification process.
Once the area for the ritual is prepared, it is helpful for some practitioners to mark the intended area. While advanced practitioners can often get by without physical markers, beginners often find it helpful to have a physical, visual boundary to focus on. Most ritual circles are as wide as the practitioner is tall, though powerful casters can make them larger, and it is not too difficult to make it smaller if desired.
To demarcate an area for the circle, any material is acceptable. A circle of stones, one drawn in chalk, sprinkled salt, or even a loop of rope arranged in a circle are all perfectly fine. Remember that the physical element is to help the caster focus; no Magick is channeled through the markings, so they can be anything that you find helpful.
Next, place candles at each cardinal direction. In a circle of protection, candles are used at each compass point to represent Earth in the North, Air in the East, Water in the West, and Fire in the South. In some practices, the candles are replaced with things that represent each element; for example, incense for air, a vial of water for water, salt or stone for earth, and of course, a candle or other burning object for fire.
Once your candles or objects are ready, it is time to cast the circle. Begin by blessing the space. If you are using candles, you will walk in a circle lighting each in turn, while leaving a trail of salt along the boundary of the circle. If you are not using candles, trace the outside of the circle anyway, and stop at each cardinal point. Either way, bless the spirits of each direction as you reach it; many practitioners like to do this with an incantation, such as “I bless the spirits of the East” and so on for each point.
Once the circle has been blessed, continue walking around the circle three times, stating the purpose of the circle. Since you are trying to cast a circle of protection, you will say “protect this space,” or whatever feels natural to you, as you walk. After the third rotation, the circle of protection will be complete.
Once your circle has been cast, you can enjoy your safe space or use it for further rituals. Circles of protection are necessary for most dealings with the spirit world, since negative spirits can interfere and cause havoc if left unchecked. To be safe, it is best to always cast a circle of protection as a minimum protective measure.