Most traditions cast the circle basically in the same way. The wording of the spoken parts is different, the colors and symbols used to indicate the cardinal points are different, who does what is different, but the basic principal is the same. The circle is traced with one of the ritual tools by a person walking in a circle clockwise and the four cardinal points are marked in one way or another. Here I will outline in detail a circle casting that is partly my creation and partly as it was taught to me in my first coven. There are many other ways and words depending upon the tradition you are a member of, do what feels right to you when casting the circle, what you are use to. If you have no specific ritual of your own, you are welcome to utilize mine, that's why it's here. It is designed for use by a solitaire, if you will be using it for coven work you may want to make some minor adjustments such as sharing out the actions among the coveners rather than having one person perform them all.
There are some basic concepts you must understand about circle casting. First of all, the circle is not a flat, one dimensional line on the floor. It is a sphere of energy that intersects the plane of the floor, extending above your head and below your feet.
Also, there are two terms that you will hear often, deosil and widdershins. Deosil means clockwise
and widdershins means
A circle may be cast with an athame, wand, sword, incense stick, feather, sprig of herbs or even your finger, it is the energy that you put into the circle that forms it, not the tool you use. Some people find it useful to trace the circle on the floor with salt so it is easier to see it's boundaries. You may do this if it helps you. In the past many magicians did this as a regular part of casting their circle, and it won't hurt anything if you would like to do it. You may also use a chalk outline, flower petals, crystals, or candles. If you use candles be cautious about flowing robes catching alight, use huricane lamps to cover the flames. I have heard of using flour, but it is harder to vacuum out of the carpet after the ritual than salt. As for the size, a circle may be small enough just for one person to sit in or may be as large as needed for a group, the size you cast should be based upon your need and the size of the gathering. A nine foot circle is traditional, increased by three foot increments if needed, but let your needs be your guide.
Casting the Circle
Gather your materials. Your ritual tools should be on the altar, as should the altar candles (two white candles), the censer, altar incense, a bowl of water, a bowl of salt and a red candle. You should also have the watchtower candles ready in their places at the edge of the circle area, green for North/earth, red for South/fire, yellow for East/air, and blue for West/water. These may be jar candles that are reused for each circle. We shall assume that your altar is already set up and oriented toward the North near the outside edge of the space the circle will be cast. Use a compass to find north. We shall further assume that you have already purified yourself and the space and are dressed in your robes or skyclad as you prefer. You are now ready to begin.
Stand before the altar
and light the altar candles. Say the following to announce the casting
of the circle:
Next you will call
the quarters. Light a taper from the altar candle to carry with you. Walk
to each of the cardinal points in turn, begining with the North and call
upon the Guardians of the Watchtowers with the following invocation, fill
in the appropriate direction in the blank:
If at some point during the ritual it becomes necessary to leave the circle temporarily, you may use the athame to cut an opening in the circle. Holding the athame in your projective hand, insert it into the wall of the circle near the floor. Pull the athame up cutting the wall as you go to about six feet above the ground. Then cut across the top and down the otherside to form a door. This opening may be used to exit the circle and then re-enter. Afterward, before going on with the ritual, close the doorway by retracing the steps you took to cut the opening. Starting at the bottom left, move the athame upward, across the top, and down the right side of the doorway, sealing the opening as you go. After resealing the circle you may resume the ritual.
When the ritual is
complete you will want to dismiss the Watchtowers individually with the
following invocation of thanks, fill in the appropriate direction in the
Be sure to ground yourself after the ritual to return the excess energies to the earth. Extinguish the altar candles and gather the Watchtower candles and store them for future use. Tidy up. The ashes from the incense, the water and the drippings from the candles should be buried in the earth. If this is impossible, you can pour the water on a houseplant and wrap up the candle drippings and ashes and throw them away. The salt may be reused and any incense not used may be returned to it's container. The red candle used to represent fire may be reused as may the altar candles and Watchtower candles, but any candles used for a magical working should be allowed to burn themselves out as they cannot be reused. This allows all of the energy they contain to be released.