Casting (Better) Circles

Before I start, let me stan the following: I have been an eclectic pagan since the Mabon of 2004, and the piece of music below is hands-down my absolute favorite bit of pagan music. Regardless of how it appears credited, it is not Robert Gass, but a group of wonderful women who I have never been able to track down. All credit to them. Give it a listen before the post:

The Long and Short of It:
For the past few years, I have been musing about how to transform the essentially Wiccan ritual structure (lite) that is so prevalent in public gatherings and circles. If done completely and fully, there are long stretches of time where the average participant has little to do but to align and channel the powers being addressed, or to maintain the boundaries of the circle itself. And that’s if they know they are supposed to be engaged in that work, otherwise they truly have nothing to do for 80-90% of the ritual. If the “meat” or “working” of the ritual is half-assed or rushed, a profound feeling of dissatisfaction is absolutely possible.

So, I have been using my very patient and willing local group I lead in ritual occasionally to experiment with alternate ritual structures, to varying degrees of success. I love them and bless them for putting up with me on these experiments. May they have gotten something vital and beautiful out of each ceremony and not desert me in better times to come!

Literally half an hour ago, I realized a possible tweak to circle casting that would allow participants to learn their roles around the circle and receive some sort of boon. Bare with me as I try to explain myself.


Circle Casting – Boons for All!

Start by explaining, before the ritual even starts, how this process will vary from the usual. This way, new folks will know what to do for themselves and the experienced folks won’t automatically attempt to follow their old ways. Communication prevents confusion! Have each participant decide what they will be doing at each element from the possible choices given and prepare accordingly.

Also, have all your supplies and elemental altars set up according to your traditional ways. We won’t be innovating on that. If you call Air in the East with a Wand, so be it. What matters is what we do when we call on the element, beyond gesture in that direction and mutter in unison: “Hail and welcome!”

Now it’s time to start:

  1. Facing the East (or North), say the usual words.
  2. Everyone says in unison, “Hail and welcome!”
  3. Now for the new parts:
    + Play a contemplative song, or calm drumming.
    + Have the circle move clockwise toward the East/North elemental altar!
    + Yeah, like stirring a cauldron! Like a spiral dance–a circle dance!
    + When folks arrive at the elemental altar, have them do their thing:
    – If picking up a blessing of air, take a feather.
    – If relinquishing something, have them leave a feather.
    + Have the circle move until everyone’s had their turn.
    + Pause the song/drumming for the next spoken parts.
  4. Repeat this for each of the quarters/elemental altars.
  5. By the end, participants should have picked up blessings (insight/learning for air; passion/inspiration for fire; healing/calm for water; grounding/abundance for earth) or relinquished any number of things (offerings, bonds, prayers, petitions).
  6. There is no “circling for spirit boons” as that is usually the work done for the ritual itself.

I hope this provides a boost for the traditional witchy circle casting and ritual. It does mean a fair bit more planning and preparation, usually right before the ritual itself, but it is something that could improve engagement for all participants. Keep it vague, to some degree. Explain the motions, but not necessarily the meaning, allow them to weave their own magic through personal symbols and associations.

Finally, let me know your thoughts on this or, if you try it out, how it went!

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