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~ Casting the Circle ~

Casting a circle comes in handy for protection when astro traveling, and some ritual work, But it is not needed everytime you need to do something (other rituals, spell work, etc),for the land is already sacred.

The Call to Worship is an essential part of worship in many religions all over the world. In Judaism the shofar is blown, in Protestant and Catholic churches the church bells are rung. In Pagan rituals we also begin with some type of Call to Worship, some way to let everyone know that ritual is about to begin. Some traditions sing a song, some read from their Book of Shadows. This is a way to focus everyone's attention on ritual and all that it entails. In doing ritual we are connecting with everyone who has ever done ritual before. Every ritual action connects us with every time that ritual action has been performed.

Sweeping the circle is a way to clear unwanted emotional baggage, "vibes" and to prepare the circle space for casting. The handmaiden literally sweeps the ritual area with a broom, often called a besom.

Ritual space is defined by walls in churches, by casting a circle in Pagan rituals. Circles are cast using the sword, the athame, or in some traditions, the wand. Usually the Priestess casts the circle. Holding her tool, the Priestess walks about the ritual space, defining the sacred area with that tool.

At this point often the elements are blessed or asked for their blessing by bringing the symbol of each element around the circle. Air - incense, Fire - red candle, Water - water in a cup, Earth - salt in a cup. Sometimes this is called censing and aspurging. Watchtowers or the quarters are called. These are the elements. Each element; air, fire, water and earth, correspond to a different direction. East, south, west and north respectively in most traditions. We believe that we and the planet we live on is made up of the elements. We invite or ask the elements into ritual so that they may share in the worship of the Gods.

The Gods and Goddesses, or the guests of honor, are invited and candles lit in their honor.

Now comes the work of the circle. In many traditions power is raised by chanting, singing, dancing or other methods of raising energy. This energy should be raised for a specific purpose and with a specific intent such as peace, health or success in a particular venture. Remember that the Threefold Law prohibits things that would harm someone. (see the Definitions link) If the group does invocation, now would be the time for this.

After the work of the circle is done, the circle is dismantled in the reverse order. The Gods and Goddesses are thanked, their candles extinguished. The elements are dismissed and the circle is banished. The circle is often ended with the words "Merry Meet, Merry Part, Merry Meet Again". This is a common goodbye phrase in Paganism.

This is a *very* rough outline of a ritual. Rituals vary from tradition to tradition and often from group to group within any particular tradition. Some groups work in robes, others work skyclad, which means nude (clothed in the sky). Some rituals are outdoors, others inside. Sabbat rituals may be more involved and complex than Esbat (or Minor Sabbat) rituals.

There are many variations on this theme. If you are interested in joining a group or even seeing some rituals, check out several so you can be sure to get a feel for what's out there.