Circles. Barriers. Keep the energies in. Keep the bad energies from working their way in. Create sacred space. Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of casting circles. For my own workings, its just not something that is helpful to my own state of my mind. Yet, it’s a strong, and firmly entrenched part of Paganism, as a whole. Even the rituals I have been a part of within OBOD has this process within it. Casting a circle is a very common part of Pagan practices. Except in mine.
To say that I feel alone in this particular area of thought is – in my mind – a deep understatement. I have yet to meet another Pagan that works their rituals in this manner. I have been told by others that essentially, I am working ritual without a safety net. That without such barriers, my rituals will lack focus and intention. That I will not be able to properly focus my magickal intentions, which will diffuse into the beyond, and have no focal power to brandish. When I would point out that my rituals were not meant to work magicks, thus I wouldn’t be too worried about much of those thoughts – I was asked “why do rituals in the first place?”
Many, many times this line of discussion has kicked off pointed lecture after pointed lecture aimed at me. Why ritual is important this way. Why casting a circle is a necessity. Why I’m doing this wrong. Why I’m doing that wrong. Why I’m a bad Pagan. I’ve spent a lot of years listening to statements like that. And countless hours trying to explain my perspective to ears that didn’t want to hear it. Enough that I’ve rarely spoken about my own approach to ritual over the past decade. Instead, I’ve just gone and done my own thing.
Honestly, its not been easy doing things on my own, utilizing an approach that I’ve always noted as being completely different than everyone else. It also stands as one of the primary reasons that I approach my own Paganism and Druidry without a group. I manage by using what works for me, without assuming that what I do works for any single person beyond myself. I don’t do things in ritual just because “everyone else does.” I do things in ritual because it works for me. Nor would I be presumptuous enough to stamp my foot and demand that things be done my way when I am working within a group. I always defer to what is more well understood by others in a group setting. When working in a group, its not about me. Its about the group gelling and working cohesively together.
Why no circle casting in my solo work? Well, to understand that, its best to first discuss why casting a circle is looked at as a necessity. Now, most of this is what I have gleaned through the various traditions and belief systems I have worked within and with – its not an exhaustive look at things. Rather, its what I know of within my memory. As I’ve said before, I’m not an expert on anything – except myself. Now, circles are cast to create sacred space – a point that exists between worlds, where magick can be done, rituals can be held, etc etc. Many believe this to be a physical barrier that separates our mundane world from the magickal. This barrier is set to create a safe place for participants to gather, for magick to be done – where the pains and negativity of the mundane world are removed. In my mind, this sacred space is an area of null value. Null being an area of nothing, where negative, positive, emotions, and such do not exist. This concept does not work for me.
I don’t cast or create sacred space because I hold that everywhere around me is already sacred space. I don’t need to cleanse it. I don’t need to define it. Its here. Its all around me. From the concrete jungles that mankind has created to the manicured suburban sprawl we all seem to live in to the wild, uncharted areas of the world – we’re already in sacred space. As for the negativity, the bad energies, the difficult emotions…all of that is a part of us. Banishing it means to deny its existence in the world around us. I don’t wish to exclude anything from my environment. Good, bad, indifferent…its all part of sacred space, in my mind. Instead of seeing a barrier outside of my ritual, I see a glowing sphere emanating outwards from my rituals. This is not a barrier, but rather the extent of my magickal working – the energy I am creating at that moment. Its not banishing anything. It co-mingles. It exists within this wide-open sacred space. Its literally my connection with the world around me.
Some traditions and belief systems call the Quarters or the Watch-Towers, setting wards and protections against the negative world about us. They ask for Spirits or Entities to watch over the ritual. I do something similar, except that I ask for the Spirits of the Wild, the Spirits of Place, my Spirits of Ancestors, and the Gods to come to witness the rite, should They choose to do so. All of Them are a part of my environment around me, so I don’t expect any of Them to come forward. But I do offer the invite…and not as Guardians or Protectors…merely spectators or witnesses. I don’t ever expect myself and my ritual to be the focal point of Their attention at that moment. I merely ask, and never for protection. Just to be there to see it occur.
I am told that by doing this, I am leaving myself open to the negative spirits of the world. That, in essence, I am operating without protection…working without a safety net. My response may seem a little flippant or even feel like I am challenging Fate: that negativity, those meddlesome Spirits…that’s all part of the world around us. To exclude that is to deny the whole aspect of where and what we live within. At least, in my opinion. I am not one to parcel my world into pieces, and then choose which I want to be in my daily life.
I completely grok the point that I may be working without a safety net by not casting circles or calling the Quarters or what have you. But I am not a proponent of putting barriers between myself and that which I see as sacred. Even when that sacred space is affected with pollution, negativity, anger, and all else that is considered as “bad.” The pollution, negativity, anger, and such are not what makes it sacred. The sacredness is deeper down. That is what I embrace by removing the barriers of circle casting and other methodologies. The sacred is underneath my feet, even when it is covered with the profane. I don’t want barriers between myself and that which I perceive as true sacred space. Thus, I work without that “safety net.” And in so doing, I get the lectures that I have gotten in the past. All well-meant. But, in my mind, unnecessary.