Hello, everyone and welcome to December. How are we feeling about this? Can we agree that this happened really fast? Like, somehow, once again I feel like I’m caught with my pants down even though I’ve had 11 months to get here, I feel like I was warped here from September. But enough excuses. Gotta get my game face on.
We have a lot to look forward to this month, we have the full moon on the 7th, we have Yule on the 21st and we enter Capricorn season on the same day, the new moon is on the 23rd, Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, for those who celebrate and of course we have the New Year at the end of the month. If you’ve got kids in school, they’re going to be home for holiday breaks, you may be traveling to spend time with family this month. There’s always plenty of last minute shopping to do because one thing we love at the holidays is to spend money we don’t have on crap that nobody wants.
So I really appreciate that you’re taking time out of this whirlwind of a month to hang out with me. I know there are a lot of demands on your time, and it means a lot.
I wanted to start this episode with an email I got after last week’s episode on abundance:
So I just finished listening to your episode on Abundance Magic, and thankfully my coworkers don’t blink when I talk to my computer because I legit yelled out THE MONKEY’S PAW! when you were speaking as to why some people may have issues with asking for abundance. Do you have any advice for someone who goes down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out how to word their wishes / desires impeccably so as not to be misunderstood or are too afraid of accidentally causing harm? Because I am that person….
Ok, so for anyone unfamiliar with the short horror story The Monkey’s Paw, written by WW Jacobs and published in 1902, this is a classic ‘Three Wishes’ cautionary tale, where the maker of the wishes pays an enormous price for trying to interfere with fate. I hadn’t read it since college, but it’s one of those stories that sticks with you. It’s public domain now, so you can read it online and you should, it’s pretty dark, but I’m just going to give the Wikipedia synopsis here for the sake of brevity:
The story involves Mr. and Mrs. White and their grown son, Herbert. Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend who served with the British Army in India, comes by for dinner and introduces them to a mummified monkey’s paw. An old fakir had placed a spell on the paw, so that it would grant three wishes but only with hellish consequences as punishment for tampering with fate. Morris, having had a horrible experience using the paw, throws it into the fire, but the skeptical Mr. White retrieves it. Before leaving, Morris warns Mr. White of what might happen should he use the paw.
Mr. White hesitates at first, believing that he already has everything he wants. At Herbert’s suggestion, Mr. White flippantly wishes for £200, which will enable him to make the final mortgage payment for his house. The following day, Herbert leaves for work. That night, an employee arrives at the Whites’ home, telling them that Herbert had been killed in a terrible machine accident that mutilated his body. The company denies any responsibility for the incident, but makes a goodwill payment of £200, the amount that Mr. White had wished for.
A week after the funeral, Mrs. White, mad with grief, insists that her husband use the paw to wish Herbert back to life. Reluctantly, he does so, despite great unease at the thought of summoning his son’s mutilated and decomposing body. Later that night, there is a knock at the door. As Mrs. White fumbles at the locks in a desperate attempt to open the door, Mr. White becomes terrified and fears that the thing outside is not the son he loved. He makes his third and final wish. The knocking stops, and Mrs. White opens the door to find that no one is there.
So we can kind of see where the witch who wrote this email is coming from. In the Abundance Magick episode, we talk a lot about how we are so good at getting in our own way when it comes to manifestations. Sometimes, we are afraid to receive. So what I wrote back to this witch was this: the universe is not out to get us, but it will take the path of least resistance. So if you find yourself hesitant to work manifestations because you’re concerned that your money spell might arrive in the form of a life insurance policy (for example), just add a little addendum in your verbiage that your spell will manifest without harming anyone. That really is all it takes.
It’s not bad or wrong to advocate for yourself and ask for what you want or need. The universe is so bountiful, and there’s more than enough for all of us. Please don’t settle for less; working magic on your own behalf isn’t ‘cheating’ and you won’t be punished. But we have to get past those limiting beliefs and fears because that will stymie us. Ask for what you want, know that it will come to you, and accept it with open arms when it arrives. And if you have a question, a comment, a concern or a criticism, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, today I wanted to talk about casting a magick circle. I know this is basic, rudimentary stuff. And I understand that not all witches even bother to do this. But without putting anyone’s business on blast, I have gotten a lot of emails and messages in the past few weeks from witches who have been under serious psychological and metaphysical attack. Like, an astonishing number of folks are writing to me about this kind of thing.
And I have just felt impressed to kind of go back to basics a little bit and talk about casting a protective circle. There are a lot of folks just joining us and I don’t want to assume anyone’s knowledge base, but this can be an important first step for any kind of spellwork, but especially protective spellwork.
Now, as I say every week, just because I do something a certain way does not mean it’s the only way and it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. There are a lot of ways to cast a circle and any of them may work for you. I’ll go through some of the most common casting methods and I’ll talk about my preferred ways, but mostly the purpose here is to just get your own wheels turning. Maybe remove a little of the mystery of the process and get you thinking about how you might adapt some of these methods in your own way.
That’s all I ever hope to do, is to make magick and spellwork seem accessible.
The magick circle is something that’s found worldwide, in almost every magickal tradition. Its purpose varies a little, but whether a witch is casting a circle to keep unwanted entities out, or to consecrate a space before beginning a ritual, the circle itself is cast to demarcate or establish magickal boundaries. That’s literally the entire point of casting a circle.
We are defining a liminal space. Everything that happens inside this space is magickal and sacred and special. Whatever happens outside the circle is not my problem.
So let’s start with a couple basics. First, do we always have to cast a circle every time we perform magick? I’m a little bit of a nonconformist when it comes to this, but I don’t always cast a circle each and every time I use magick. I would be casting circles all the goddamn time, and I’m a little bit lazy. But truthfully, if you’re maintaining good spiritual hygiene in your home, it just isn’t always necessary. By that I mean that if you lay and maintain solid protective wards around the perimeter of your home or your living space, it could be your apartment or just your bedroom, if that’s primarily where you work, then for most purposes, that’s all the protection you need to worry about when working most of your spells.
If I am working an especially large or complex spell, and especially if I am summoning any kind of entity, then I will absolutely cast a circle. My magick is invitation only, and I do not want any freeloaders or party crashers to get curious and come too close.
A follow up to the first question is this: if we are going to cast a circle for our ritual, when do we need to cast it? At what point in the process? I will typically do this after I’ve gathered up everything I’m going to need and placed it inside the space that I’m going to be using. Casting a circle is pretty much the first step of the spell. But, once it’s cast, we don’t want to cross in and out of it, so we need to make sure we have all our stuff inside before we begin.
Make sure you’ve got matches, writing implements, any books or written resources you’re going to need to refer to, all of it. Casting the circle is like preheating the oven for a recipe. Gather your ingredients, cast the circle, and then proceed with the rest of your ritual.
Next, how big should a circle be? Doesn’t matter. In Wiccan tradition, a circle is usually nine feet in diameter for most purposes. But if you’re not a Wiccan or if nine feet won’t work, then a circle really only needs to be large enough to fit yourself and whatever materials you’re working with. If you’re working with other witches, obviously, your circle should be big enough to accommodate them too. But your circle will work for its intended purpose no matter how big it is or isn’t.
With that said, you can certainly use the power of numerology when casting your circle, if space allows and if you’re inclined to do so. If you’re working a spell for money, for example, and you have the space to cast a seven foot circle, then it would absolutely behoove you to do so. But again, it isn’t strictly necessary.
What happens if your cat or dog infiltrates the circle while you’re working? Nothing. Nothing will happen. Animals, and in particular our own pets, are completely innocent. They do not come bearing any ill will, they are not going to bring anything into the circle that we need to worry about. The only caveat to allowing an animal to come and go in the circle is if it becomes a safety hazard. We witches love burning candles, sigils, incense, cauldrons and more, and we don’t want our animal friends and family to catch fire, or get tangled up in an altar cloth, or to eat an offering, or knock over the ritual wine, or anything of the sort.
So if you can, maybe perform your work behind a closed door so that your animals won’t be tempted to interfere in that way. But if they won’t tolerate a closed door, and lord knows my boy Johnny hates a closed door, there is no need to worry about them contaminating a sacred space.
Another question I sometimes get is what should I use to create my circle? Should I use salt? Should I use stones? Should I just use my own energy? The answer to that really just depends. If you have salt, use salt. If you have stones, use stones. If you can’t cast a conspicuous circle because you’re not practicing openly, then use your energy. As with all things witchcraft, we should always use what we have on hand, first and foremost. Don’t buy materials to cast a circle if it isn’t something that you can afford to do. It won’t work any better if you use expensive Himalayan salt versus regular old table salt.
Beyond that, we should use what we feel called to use. If I am performing a spell for love or romance, I might use rose petals. If I’m performing work to open roads or create opportunities, I might cast a salt circle and add some bay leaves to the perimeter. If I’m setting a hex, I would use salt and dill. If I’m breaking a hex, I’d probably use salt and basil.
If I’m performing magick for intuition, I’d probably use seashells. You could use candles to set your circle, you could use incense to set your circle, you could use leaves, or tarot cards, or crystals. If you’re working with a coven to cast this circle, you can simply arrange yourselves in a circle with one person in the center to perform the ritual. But, you really can just use your own energy to do this.
And now for the business of how to actually do the casting of the circle. Once again before we launch into this, remember this is just how I do it. You may have learned to do it differently and that is totally valid. You will also want to figure out exactly how you want to word this; it is completely individual and you’re going to have to spend a little time deciding what you want to say. The only “right” way to do anything is to do it the way that works for you.
First things first, draw your circle out on the ground using whatever method you chose. Do not use salt outside please, you will kill the grass forever, but other than that caveat, place your crystals or whatever you’re using in the circle. Make sure all your spell-making supplies are inside it. And then consecrate it.
I begin by invoking my guides to join me in the circle, and then I move all the way around the perimeter, from the starting point of my circle while I call upon the spirits of the cardinal directions. First I call upon the North, which is the spirit of earth, then I move clockwise to face East where I call upon the spirit of air, then South which is the spirit of fire, and finally West, which is the spirit of water. Admittedly, my methods were in part inspired by the seminal 1996 film The Craft, and this is a decidedly Wicca-inspired way to cast a circle. But I was in high school in the 90s and we were ALL inspired by that movie, so there is no shame in my game. I don’t use the specific invocation that they wrote for that scene, I do have my own, but the roots are there. Because it works and it has worked for me for many, many years, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to change it now.
Anyway, while you’re performing this function, while you’re calling the corners and raising this energy, and drawing in this magick, you’re going to feel it. It’s the coolest sensation. For me, it kind of feels like static electricity, a little bit. But however you experience it, you’re going to know it. It makes the process feel really special and it truly makes your space feel set apart and sacred.
So do your thing in your circle, complete your ritual or your spell, and once you’re done, you can close your circle. I do this by walking the perimeter of the circle again, counterclockwise this time, and thanking and dismissing the spirits of the directions. And that is all there is to it.
I hope this has been helpful if you’re a witch who is not of the Wiccan persuasion and if you’re a solitary practitioner, you’ve maybe not seen it done or done it yourself. But it’s one of those things that doesn’t get explained too often because I think a lot of us assume, oh everyone knows how to do that, we don’t want to tell people stuff they already know. But that’s not cool, that’s a blind spot for some of us and we need to make sure that we don’t make those kinds of assumptions.
So have a fantastic December, and we will talk again next week. Oh! If you’d like a written transcript of this or any episode, you can find them all on the website middleagedwitch.com. My name is Eli Ro, and this has been the Middle-Aged Witch podcast.