Since the publication of me fine and dandy book on the inner workings of the Golden Dawn, By Names and Images, I’ve had some interesting discussions. One type, which seems destined to be repeated down through the ages, is with a certain kind of magician or Wiccan who indicates subtly they know all about it. Nice. I’d like to leave it there, but often these folk get all excited, almost hush me to silence and then reveal a great mystery – the magic circle is really a magic sphere! When I am underwhelmed by this supposed disclosure, they seem a little crest-fallen. When I further tell them they are wrong… well, it varies…often I don’t tell them. But they are wrong 🙂
Let’s have a look at it, shall we, using the mythical nine foot diameter Wiccan circle as an example? Now, I’ve yet to see a coven use one of these beasts in the flesh, but let’s pretend these good Witches have done the deed à la Gardner or Sanders. They’ve traced a lovely nine foot inner circle with none, one or two outer circles, depending on mood tradition, complete with Hebraic names of God (well, they are Pagan Witches after all). Or perhaps they’ve simply laid down a plastic combo like Alex Sanders used to travel with. Then, squashed together elevator-style, they ‘cast the circle’ but it’s really a sphere, in three dimensions and all. Wow.
But let’s do the math.
A nine foot diameter circle has a radius of 4.5 feet. So, translated into a sphere, the utmost height, and the very centre of the circle, of the sphere is 4.5 feet. I guess there’s some truth to Wicca’s connection to the little people after all – they’d be the only ones able to fit into this blessed circle. The rest of us, even diminutive folk like me, would have their heads sticking out. Not a good look on the astral.
But, in fairness let’s double it – an 18 feet circle, nearly 5.5 metres. Now that requires a fair size room, certainly bigger than Alex and Maxine’s flat or the Farrar’s temple or the average rumpus room here in Oz (and we have BIG houses). But let’s be generous and pretend most Wiccans and magicians are well heeled conservatives like they were in ol’ Gerald’s day. Eighteen feet, nine foot high at the centre… plenty of room for even the tallest Asatru-Heathen-Bersker-Wiccan.
However, you could not go to the edge to summon the Watchtowers. If you were extending your arm fully you’d probably have to stand back between four and five from the edge. And if you were wearing horns, it wouldn’t help at all. Good job some Wiccans like to shout.
And of course in casting the circle you’d have to be directing the magic a fair few feet, since you could not walk around the perimeter – the height of the edge of any sphere at floor level, no matter how big the circle, is ZERO. It’s simple geometry.
Now all this is nonsense of course. It is a case of some armchair Witches and magicians taking magical dynamics literally. The sad thing is I’ve been told this by two High Priests, one with many years standing, revealing the need to ‘see the Pentagrams on the inside of the sphere’. The women mostly stay stum as their partners describe the impossible.
This silliness reveals two important points. Firstly, some people don’t think much. Secondly, many Wiccans and magicians do not understand the inner dimensions of magical techniques very well, which makes me a sad panda. 😦 The actual reality here is very simple, once we analyse the situation from the standpoint of the differing levels of inner experience: spiritual, mental, astral and etheric.
On the spiritual level the presence of the circle is dependent on and formed by the inner holding and realisation of the spiritual principle it represents, by the person(s) casting the circle. The spiritual mysteries of a simple circle are manifold and deep, and are fully understood only by an adept of the tradition being worked – since in all traditions the circle means something. This does not mean only an adept can cast a circle, simply that the circle for group work is often best formed by an adept.
In the case of Wicca, only someone who has traversed the circle of the year (1st degree), followed the cycle of life through death (second degree) and been transformed via the mystery of the point within the circle (third degree) can fully know what a circle actually means. This is why traditionally in some British Traditional Witchcraft covens it is the High Priestess who alone casts the circle. I’ve seen modern circles where everyone traipses around, lending their imperfect realisation to the spiritual and mental levels, which may be lovely and democratic and all, but is not the best inwardly – for this form of magical action*. It is one of the reasons a traditional High Priestess I interviewed recently rolled her eyes and declaimed, “it’s all gone to pot!”
On the mental plane level, the circle has to be known as a perfect circle; in the realm of meaning it is apprehended as a circle of perfection, a classic Platonic form, even if we have to step over the odd low table physically. This again is helped along by being adept in what we are doing; having experienced perfection through the possession by the Goddess actually helps a lot with the idea of perfection. Hence, the High Priestess is called for again. Of course, plenty of mental level meditations on the circle within the tradition helps also. No matter what preparation though, the circle formed at the mental level is not dependant on the dimensions and shape of the physical circle (nor etheric or astral circles).
The astral level is where the visualisation kicks in and our emotional bodies and wills all combine to produce an ‘inner circle’. The most important element here is to realise that the astral formation will, when done correctly, follow the formation on the spiritual and mental levels. It is informed and directed by these ‘higher levels’ and the principles therein. Therefore the circle becomes inwardly visualised as a place of perfection, a boundary, a container, a consecration. Having a simple visualisation of a wall of white light but connected to, and drawing down, these principles is far better than constructing an impossible image of a sphere and conveniently forgetting our heads are sticking out. The latter ‘image’ reflects untruth, and therefore will not draw down the truth of a perfect circle formed on the spiritual and mental levels.
The etheric level circle is created by the etheric substance we direct from our bodies, informed and directed by the higher levels. It is also formed and affected by incense, salt, water and flame, hence the use of these physical-etheric components. Generally the ‘shape’ of the etheric circle will expand and fill the three dimensional space we mentally describe and hold inwardly as ‘the circle’. This is what magical will is for. So our etheric circle will include the area of the low table we crossed over, but if we have not mentally ascribed the corners of the room as ‘the circle’, the etheric substance will not expand over to those areas.
Naturally we will have included in the concept of the ‘the circle’ the space above our heads. Therefore ‘the circle’ is there etherically, which means it is also ‘there’ astrally, mentally and spiritually. The planes are separate and obey their own laws but are informed by the other levels. So an imperfect cylinder, kinda-blobby etheric ‘circle’ that fits our spare room is still a perfect circle on the inner levels. If we have done the correct inner work, and not relied on impossible “images”.
*My GD friends may be thinking about certain circumambulations. It all makes sense, once you analyse it; I can’t be bothered here, maybe in the comments 🙂