Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mysteries of the Magick Circle

The latest question and answer article produced some really outstanding comments, showing me just how diverse the practice of ritual and ceremonial magick is out there in the world. There are many ways of doing magick just within the Western Mystery Tradition, so it would seem that the number of personal paths in the world is legion.

I also wanted to thank everyone who participated in the comments and who helped to make that question almost classical in how it was responded to and ultimately, answered.

However, I noticed that my own methodology for working magick is less well understood and known amongst fellow practicing magicians, particularly in the area of establishing sacred space and building a foundation for performing a magickal working. I am referring to my use of a magick circle instead of using the various GD based rituals of the LBRP, LIRP, LIRH, Middle Pillar or Rose Cross. As a practicing witch and neopagan, I have always started out every working erecting and establishing a magick circle, which has certain properties that I generally take for granted.

One of the comments made me realize that if someone were to examine the basic ritual practices used to set a magick circle (which is used by many witches, wiccan and neopagans), they might not understand that a ritual circle begins the process of magick with a completely neutral foundation, warded and defined by the circle and the watchtowers. The invoking pentagrams that are used to set the four wards do not actually generate elemental powers that would interfere in other workings. How is that so? What are the qualities of a magick circle that keeps it completely intact and integral? I had to step back and think about this magickal ritual structure and attempt to explain something that I have practiced for nearly four decades. So now I am writing this short article to explain what is a magick circle, how it’s formed, and why it abrogates other rituals that apparently do the same thing.

First of all, the completed ritual structure of a magick circle should be imagined as ring of power that establishes a boundary point and delimits a focus between the outer world (which is considered profane) and the inner world within the circle that represents the purified place where the magick is to be performed. The invoking pentagrams set to the four wards are used to charge the circle and establish the magickal ring, so they are fully incorporated into that ritual structure and do not bleed their effects into the domain of the magick circle. Why is this so? It’s something that I have been doing for a very long time and I have never experienced any problems with the wards colliding with the magick performed and generated inside the circle. The key to understanding this is to realize that the ring of the magick circle represents the outer periphery of the magick circle. The invoking pentagrams are set to the four directions at the outer edge of the magick circle, and as part of the empowering of the ring, they remain within that area and do not emanate into the center of the circle.

Lets quickly go over how a magick circle is set and sacred space is generated, so we can see the stages where the circle is defined and check my theories. While this rite will vary a bit from the various traditions of witchcraft who use them, the basic structure always has the following components.

1. Self preparation and purification - bath, vesting, magickal persona assumption and meditation session. Then the temple is prepared - generally by some light organizing, cleaning and then lighting the candles or lamps of the art and the charcoal. The four cardinal directions are marked with candles of their own, and in my case, the four cross-quarters are also marked with candles. I prefer to use oil lamps, and the various eight points of the circle have their own small mini alters or tables to hold the lamps and any other identifying images (banners, trigon talismans, etc.).

2. Circle and temple purification by the sacraments of the four elements. The first step is to generate the lustral water, which is salt and water combined. The salt is charged and the water is blessed and they are combined in a special chalice. This is done using the consecrated dagger and the chalice as representations of the sacral joining of the archetypal male and female - the dagger is drawn down point first into the chalice of water or the patten of salt so that it touches them. The combining of water and salt is called the comixio, which combines the elements of earth and water. The lustral water is then sprinkled around the temple area, proceeding in a deosil arc, starting and ending in the East. Because the lustral water is considered a sacrament, then the area where it is aspurged is thought of as being made sacred.

Then the next elements are used to continue the blessing of the sacred space. The incense is put on the burning coals in the thurible or censer and it is taken around the circle deosil, from East to East, to dispense the incense smoke fully within the temple area. I also use a small lamp to focus the element of Fire to the four quarters in the same manner, but some might consider the lit charcoal and incense to be the combination of fire and air. Once this is done, then the celebrant has purified and blessed the temple area with the four elements.

3. Once the temple area is so blessed and purified (made into sacred space), the celebrant then draws the magick circle, using the sword, projecting a powerful line of force from the sword to the outer periphery of the magick circle - making a ring of power. The celebrant starts in the East and proceeds deosil around the circle until he or she returns to the East.

4. Finally, the celebrant takes the magick dagger and proceeds to the East, and therein draws the invoking pentagram of Air and invokes the spirit of the Eastern Watchtower, which could be one of the four winds, elemental creatures, archangels, Enochian Kings, totem animals, or whatever is prime in the working tradition of the witch or pagan. This act is repeated at each point of the circle, East (Air), South (Fire), West (Water) and North (Air), until the Watchtowers are fully deployed and charged with the invoking pentagrams of the four Elements. There are many variations to the attribution of element to cardinal direction, but as long as they represent a consistent structure, they successfully empower the magickal ring and keep it intact and fully active. I actually use several variations, depending on whether the circle is to have an overall theme of natural elements, alchemical polarization or astrological configuration.

In addition to the above four steps, the celebrant can also draw the four Watchtowers together to form a square within the circle, thus adding to its empowerment. The three center points can be addressed and qualified as well as the four cross-cardinal points. A gateway can be established within the circle, representing additional components that the celebrant may add to make the magick circle more versatile and refined in its use. All of these additional components do not in any way change the basic qualities of the magick circle. It’s still a ring of power acting as a boundary between sacred and profane space. 

The boundary of the magick circle is actually porous, which means that individuals and even spirits can pass through it, either entering or exiting, while the four wards protect the area within from any unwanted or uncalled individuals or spirits, barring them from entering the circle. The purpose of the magick circle is keep the powers and forces that are generated or summoned within the circle, thus helping to focus and intensify them. When individuals need to leave the magick circle, they may do so by making a gesture of opening and closing the boundary to allow themselves to pass through, thereby keeping the ritual structure intact.

Another strange quality of the magick circle that I have discovered is that once it is set, both time and space are perceptually altered to a profound degree. I believe and act as if the time within the magick circle is frozen at the moment that it is successfully cast. This means that planetary hours and astrological aspects are locked at the moment of the genesis of the circle. If I wish to perform a given rite during a specific planetary hour or when a specific astrological aspect is active, all I need to do is the set the magick circle, and then have unlimited time to work within that hour or aspect. I believe that this phenomenon is valid because of all of the time displacement and dilation phenomena that I have experienced when working magick in a magick circle. Without the circle, such phenomena does not seem to occur as powerfully or as often. A magick circle seems to give a ritual working a kind of potent isolation from the temporal world, opening it instead to the whole of the domain of the world of Spirit.

Anyway, these are my perceptions and ideas about the ritual structure of the magick circle and its localized ring of power. In sharing this lore with you, I am hoping to relate not only how I work magick, but also the mechanics of using this methodology, and how it affects everything else I do when performing ritual magick.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Very informative, thank you! I concur about time being altered. A small group of us were working w/ the Enochian Aethyrs once a month for some time and every time the ritual ended we came out of it completely shocked by the amount of time that had passed.

  2. Greetings,

    Instead of filling up space here I decided to 'give in' and create my own blog..

    Therefore my comments to this very interesting article can be found over here:


  3. Frater Barrabas wrote:
    "The invoking pentagrams set to the four wards are used to charge the circle and establish the magickal ring, so they are fully incorporated into that ritual structure and do not bleed their effects into the domain of the magick circle. Why is this so?"

    The answer to this is simple - the intention of the magician and the magical egregore created around this intention through consistent usage over time.

    Nonetheless, magical symbol systems should be internally consistent. To set wards around a circle to prevent unwanted forces from entering a circle, banishing elemental pentagrams would be more logically consistent than invoking elemental pentagrams. I have no idea how the use of invoking pentagrams became so fashionably used in modern Witchcraft, but I strongly suspect that they were borrowed from the Golden Dawn system by someone (perhaps Gerald Gardner?) who did not fully understand the symbolism of the system and the subtleties of its usage.

    This has, of course, been rendered a moot point by decades of consistent usage of these pentagrams for purposes other than they were originally intended, however logically inconsistent such usage may be.

    The same inconsistency exists with the Golden Dawn with the GD's attribution of magical forces to the lesser angles of the Enochian Watchtower tablets, which are terribly inconsistent with the original attributions given to John Dee by the Enochian Angels. Nonetheless, they work as they have acquired new meanings through usage over time according to the will of magicians.