Where the Wild Things Are: The Whole Circle

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, March, 1, 2004.

The magic circle, sounds so mystical… But it’s like many things in Witchcraft, it’s adaptable to your own style, your whims and personal needs of the moment.

Witch/ Wiccan rituals take place in a circle. Not always, it’s not written in stone with blood or anything really dramatic. But, it does make things tidy in it’s own way. You draw in power and you keep it to yourself, out of the way of others. Then, when you’re done you release it. It goes back to nature and the powerful parts of yourself.

We draw the circle and then we close it. Some people cast the circle and banish it at the end of the ritual. I tend to think of it as drawing and closing the circle. When you draw your circle take a moment to bless each of the elements at each of the 4 directions. Yes, you might need a map to know where north, south, west and east are in relation to your location. If you choose, bless the goddess and god too. Then bless the Earth and life, those are most important to me. When you close your circle just do the steps in reverse order. Gather your pebbles, erase your chalk, whatever you used as you go around in the 4 directions again. Sounds too simple? Why shouldn’t it be simple. You’re welcome to make a bigger production out of it. I like it simple.

You can use chalk, hemp rope, embroidery thread, pebbles, sand, dust bunnies, anything really. Consider a circle of jack o lanterns for Samhain, wouldn’t that be fun! It depends on how fancy you want to be or how close to natural elements. My personal choice are pebbles. I love them. I collected them from a beach here in Ontario. Took my time to find stones I especially liked for their shape, colour or some markings on them.

The circle represents wholeness, the cycles of life and the seasons, the wheel of life to make it simple. In theory it is without beginning or ending and perfect in it’s completeness.

To draw the circle is to make a place set apart and sacred. Where ever you are- living room, backyard, beach, clearing in the woods – the circle becomes a place where we focus on magick in ourselves and the Earth around us. The circle is a pure place where we can think, make notes in our Book of Shadows, create and practice rituals, anything. It doesn’t have to be dramatic and you don’t have to feel you must do something special. It’s your circle, your dime.

This summer when I have a road trip out to the beach I want to cast a circle on the beach. Using a piece of driftwood to draw my circle and some stones to point to the directions. I don’t even know what ritual I might do. I just want to sit in a circle of my own creation and enjoy the world, life and being alive.

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.” -Charles Lindbergh

I take thee, herb, to cure my ills
or perhaps while dancing pon the hill.
I’ll dip you in the cauldron fine
Then asperge a circle in the pines.
I’ll make you into teas and brews
when picked from ‘neath the morning dews,
or hide you in a pillow seam
to guard me close, come night and dreams.

– Marian Loresinger

Book of Shadows

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

The Book of Shadows could be called The Book of Life. Just the opposite of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (A series of spells to help the dead travel to and exist in the afterlife.) The Book of Shadows (BOS, for short) contains notes Wiccans have made along their journey of life and learning. Grimoire (A book of magickal spells and techniques) is more Medieval than Book of Shadows but they serve the same basic purpose.

Essentially, the Book of Shadows is a workbook containing ritual patterns, rules governing magick, instructions for circle casting and banishing, religious rituals, the consecration of tools, herbal lore, herbal recipes, dreams, divination results and personal thoughts and experiences. It is the Book of Shadows, which keeps the traditions of a solitary or coven alive. Without the Book, everything would be passed on from word of mouth with the chance of being forgotten, lost or misinterpreted.

A coven will keep a Book of Shadows so members can record and memorize the coven’s rituals in their own Books of Shadows. Some contain lists of the pantheon, training exercises and initiation ceremonies. Books can be passed from one Wiccan to another, usually on initiation. Often each individual Wiccan creates their Book and keeps it to themselves.

Until recently, a Book of Shadows was always hand written. With all the advances in multi-media today a Book of Shadows can be a Disk of Shadows. Some Books (or parts of them) are published on the Internet. Typed and photocopied Books are also common. You may choose to have more than one copy or form of your Book. One can be hand written, the other can be preserved on a disk or photocopied for safe keeping.

To make your own Book of Shadows begin with any blank book. It does not have to be something antique or beautiful, a notebook from the dollar store will do. The Book of Shadows gains its value from the amount of energy and effort used to create it and the positive energy surrounding it each time the book is used for magick and rituals. A binder with loose sheets will let you move your pages around and add new ones in the middle if you need to.

Simply write in this book any rituals and magickal information you have worked on, learned about or just read somewhere and want to remember. Keep it organized into sections for rituals, divination, herbs, and etc. Add your own personal touch with some poetry, a few pressed leaves from your first ritual, a drawing which inspired you, or anything else bookable (able to fit into a book, one way or another). Also, because this is your Book you can write any thoughts you are having at the time. You don’t have to write to impress anyone. Keep track of your feelings (both negative and positive), questions you want to find answers to, and any other personal information you would write into a journal or diary.

Keep your Book of Shadows in good repair. Some rituals may call for placing herbs in or on your Book of Shadows. Prepare for this by giving your book a fabric cover or tissue paper between its pages. Keep this in mind when or if you want to decorate your Book of Shadows. Watch for decorations that might damage your pages or make your ink run. Put some thought into your decorations of choice. Though macaroni art may have seemed “funky” at the time, it might not feel the same when the lumpy noodles won’t let you keep your book open on your altar. Remember, your Book of Shadows serves a purpose. Make sure its usable when you are trying to read it half way into a ritual and you just can’t remember the line you wanted to say as you sprinkle eye of newt into your cauldron.

The Endless Knot

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

In whatever stray corner of the world you find yourself in you may have just found a Pagan or Wiccan if they are wearing a five pointed star with a solitary point up inside a circle. Being a solitary (Wiccan) myself I am partial to this view of the pentacle, I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with those nasty rumours of Satanism. Some Wiccans hang pentacles from their necks, some stab them through coats and sweaters and shirts and others go for something more permanent and painful and get it tattoed.

Pentacles should be worn on the front just before the heart, according the mystical tradition. Go all out and make your own but it should be prepared when the moon is rising in Virgo and only on a Saturday or Tuesday night in an atmosphere scented with alum, cedar wood, aloes and resinous gum.

Whatever your choice a pentacle is still a pentagram inside a circle. If it is genuine and not some factory-bred knockoff it should be one continuous line. No seams, stops and starts just one unending line. Though endless knot sounds like a great way to refer to your hair on those dreaded “hand me a hat” days it is also another name for the pentagram. Goblin’s Cross, witch’s foot, Blazing Star of White Magic are other fancy labels that could fool your friends and pester your enemies. Because I am really just a simple Dragon let’s stick with pentacle, I’m getting used to typing it now anyway.

There are endless theories and ideas of what the five points represent. Of course this is a biased article and all the following are appealing to me, there are dozens more out there in libraries and web pages. First, the elemental theory seems to be the most popular with Wiccans. Four points represent the elements: earth, air, fire and water and the fifth is the spirit. These are the basic necessities of life beyond food, clothing, shelter and taxes. The most romantic sounding idea is: a man standing upright with arms out stretched and the world behind him, a man in tune with the world around him. Some feel the pentacle represents the stages of humainty or life: babyhood, adolsence, adulthood, middle age and old age. Or birth, initiation, love, repose and death. Just about any other five things can be tossed in for consideration such as the five senses, the five fingers on the human hand…

The pentacle or pentagram is older than written characters. The five pointed star can be traced back to the Pharohs when it symbolized the rising up of the spirit to the heavens and the power of the Earth. Commonly associated with creation and spirituality, it is used as a symbol of protection and healing, considered to carry power for good and protecting not only the physical well being but the mental and spiritual too.

So much talk of the star but the circle is what makes a pentagram into a pentacle. The circle of the pentacle represents protection and is used often in magic. Inside the magic circle there is safety. The pentacle is an emblem of a happy homecoming and was and still is worn as an amulet.

The pentagram is a unicursal figure. Always drawn in one continuous unbroken line. Each of the five things represented are connected to one another, unless the line is broken. No one thing is any stronger or better or more important than the other, they are all dependent on each other. This is what the pentacle really symbolizes whatever variables are assigned to the five points. In magic the number five stands for the power of nature.

Pentacles ward off evil and you never know when you may need to do a little warding! It seems Eliphas Levi (1810 – 1875) was responisble for starting the whole upside down thing. Eliphas, drew the pentacle with two points up and added the goat’s head design denoting evil the devil and all the rest. Some Pagans believe this is the Horned God, the male God who is the counterpart of the Goddess. However all of that is kind of muddled by the Christian belief in the devil with his interesting set of horns and goatee. Wiccans do not believe in hell or the devil, though some would say we worship it. Just goes to show more people need to get to the library or at least watch less TV.

I have found a ritual called the Sign of the Pentacle, though how old this is I could not discover. Still, any ritual should not be taken at face value. Each should be screened by the user and judged according to their individual beliefs and feelings. Here is the ritual: Starting at the left breast move to the top of your head or third eye, down to right breast then up to left shoulder and acoross to right shoulder and back down to left breast again. This could have been designed as a Pagan/ Wiccan version of the Catholic signing of the cross. It is meant to be used to ward off danger, evil or whatever you feel you need to ward off.

Happy New Years to all my fellow Wiccans and everyone else who stopped to read here.