RealPagan- Paganism for the Real World

Pontification Series Volume One: On Circles, Summoning, and Ritual Magic.

Now, this was a message sent to another user on this site, but, I spent so damn much time writing it, and I touched on so many different subjects, and my personal views on them, I decided to drop it into a blog post. Any identifying bits have been removed, but my answers to questions have been left, albeit slightly edited for relevance and content, to make it flow better.




You will find that, when I converse, I do not mind long winded, detailed explanation.


Now, me, personally, I do not cast a circle when I do my workings, the reason being that I have yet to find a force that can threaten me in this realm. Let me start with a bit of an anecdote that may seem disconnected, but it will lend insight.


I greatly disapprove of the act of summoning. I find it to be one of the most foolish and disrespectful things one can do to a spirit. First off, put yourself in the spirit's position. You're kicking back, chillin', just doin' your thing, maybe reading an Astral book, playing some Astral PS3, maybe getting your Astral groove thang on with an Astral hottie, making sweet Astral love. Then, suddenly, when you were in the middle of something you'd rather be doing, BAM! You find yourself in the middle of a salt pentagram, surrounded by candles, with some dipshit in a cloak waving a wand or athame at you, asking questions in a singsong voice.


What do you do? Well, if I am stronger than said individual, I break out of his feeble barriers, and royally f*** his shit up. If I am not, I ask the person why they want ME to do something they are fully capable of doing, I answer all the questions he has for me, and I go home with a chip on my shoulder, maybe to rile someone bigger and badder up to get even.


Now, how that relates to the topic of casting a circle...


If something were stronger than me, stronger than me enough so that I should be worried about it, stronger enough than me that I would need it's help in doing something that I couldn't, then my magical workings would come apart in the force of theirs, thus being a waste of energy that could be put to much better use. If they are NOT strong enough to break my circle, then my own personal defenses are more than sufficient to keep them from harming me. I will note here, though, that, for some reason, I seem to have intense natural protection, and I'm not sure why. Eruandil and Julica can verify this, and I believe InfamousBlackRaven as well, Eruandil's consort. This, however, why I never bother to cast a circle.


Does this mean I do not use circles in my workings? Absolutely not. I DO use circles, just not the same was as Wiccans do. I am pointedly not a Wiccan, thus out methods would differ intensely. I use a circle as a way to contain my workings into one focused area. For example, the last ritual I did (Midsummer of 2009, at the moment of dawn at Stonehenge (just because that seemed an auspicious time)) was on a riverbank. I had a young lady with me who was my assistant for the ritual, and between the two of us, we represented the Male and Female of the spirit/spark of life/what have you. There was a bowl of sand, a bowl of river water, five sticks of incense, and a small fire for the four physical elements. The fire was centered, I sat to the south of it, the sand was to my left, the water to my right, the incense in the sand to the north of the fire, and my tools between myself and the fire. It was a bloodworking ritual, so I'll stop there, as it isn't relevant, but we were all in the ring of stones. That was a boundary set not as a shell to keep energies ut, but as a boundary to keep our energies in.


The energies mingle, they mix, and they create an effect. I have found that their orientation and the symbol their position forms are of less importance than the use and skill at which they are implemented. After all, if all the energies are moving towards the same goal, are they not turned into one force?


That, and my symbol is not the five pointed pentagram, but the eight pointed octogram. In my personal practice, I break the element of Spirit into four sub elements, Good/Creation/Life, Evil/Destruction/Entropy, Order, and Chaos. Spirits can be any combination of these four elements of Spirit, and I prefer to define them down deeper than just the overview of 'Spirit.'


However, as far as I understand the Wiccan use of the Pentagram, yes, the human body can be represented. If I am not mistaken, following the lines of the Pentagram, starting at the top, it goes; Top=Spirit, Lower Right=Earth, Upper Left=Water, Upper Right=Air, Lower Left=Fire, and back to the top, Spirit. If you were to represent the pentagram, your head would be the element of spirit, or Will/Thought, and, depending on if you lay on your back or stomach, your different limbs would represent the other elements correspondingly. This would conceivably work, but to what end? Are you attempting to invoke Deity? That is something I would caution against.


It is, though, noteworthy that the human body is not necessarily durable enough to contain a God that didn't care to be entirely contained, and, really, what would be the purpose? Do you think that there would be a whole lot of room left in there for you? My question is, what do you expect to achieve via ritual?


Ritual magic is not as hardcore as people think it is. It's also not as hard. Now, remember, there is a difference between ritual and ceremonial magic. Ceremonial is tradition or religion specific, whereas Ritual is simply a set of actions designed to elicit an effect. What I do is ritual. I do little, if any, ceremonial magic, seeing as how I have eschewed religion and tradition entirely, electing to instead forge my own path through eternity.


A key to ritual magic is the manipulation of energy through the force of one's will. Magic is energy is energy is magic. If you can't move the energy, you can't make the magic. Start by focusing on yourself. Feel your own energy, feel it in you, visualize it. Then work on moving it about yourself. Become intimately familiar with it. See how it changes in you based on your emotions and environment. Know it as well as you know the look of your own hands, the smell of your own skin, the taste of your own teeth. Then work on perceiving the energies about you. Start small. The energies inherent in the world about you, in your walls, your bed, the air. Expand from there and open yourself to seeing other energies with your mind's eyes, then work on grasping ti with your will and bending it to your design. Don't think about doing it, just do it. Don't hope you can, know you can so thoroughly that the question doesn't even come up whether you can or not. Then, write your own rituals. Make your own practices. Or, if you are a part of a tradition, use this practice to augment and enhance your trad workings.


As for how you should cast a Wiccan circle, that I can't say. Sangraal wrote a damn good piece on it, and Lady Morgen and Oakthorne are both amazing resources on Wiccan magic, both of them being an Alexandrian High Priest/Priestess. Whether that sort of thing is oathbound or not, i don't know.


Anyhow. I've rambled, and I hope I've hit something in there somewhere that answers some question you may have had. By all means, if you have more questions, I am fully willing yo pontificate more on the matter. ;)




Now, a noteworthy addendum to this is thus; I know that there is a more religious reason behind the casting of a Wiccan circle, as such it has something to do with making a place for the God/Goddess to be, a secure place for ones magic, etc.., but this doesn't mesh with my own personal view of Eternity and Existence, as the notions I have of Deity don't really go for invoking or the like. That is why my view on circle casting (and it's importance, or lack thereof) is as it is. I have come up against, in my workings, defenses that were set in place by a will contrary to my own, and they crumbled before me and my workings, and my will was done.


This may seem to some to be what could be called OMG BLACK MAGIC, but, as in all things in life, there are times when wills will conflict, purposes will collide, and there WILL be confrontation. It was during one of these times that I felt a resistance, and then I felt it crush under my will. When later I confronted that individual, he noted that his circle had fallen. In the end, the matter had been decided, it was done, and while we had no reason to associate again, we held no great animosity. he told me he was going to do a thing, I told him that I would not let him, he said that I could *try* to stop him, and then I did. Things went as they were supposed to, and that was that. This is the main reason why I put little faith in circles, and why I feel as I feel about the ability of a stronger will to crush or destroy them.


Anyhow. I'm done pontificating for now. :)


Until again, be well.


Beorc Kano

aka Beowulf

aka Brandon

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Comment by Beorc Kano on December 18, 2010 at 0:29

Yeah, I am a bit hard to swallow unless you have a bit of background info, aren't I? :D

Comment by MJ on December 17, 2010 at 21:12


Although I do not believe the same as thee, I want to thank you for the insight into  your own personal beliefs. This blog has provided a clearer understanding to some of the comments I have seen you share and it has allowed me to better appreciate you. Thus being said, thank you again... Blessed Be  MJ

Comment by Oakthorne on December 17, 2010 at 12:53

Of note, in traditional Western occultism, there is a difference between evocations/invocations and summonings.


Summonings tend to involve the personification of entities that do not maintain intelligence or awareness outside of what you give them. Elementals are one such - you draw up the "stuff" of the elemental plane, and in so doing, it acts as a sort of wax with regards to intelligence, receiving an "imprint" of your own as you call it up the ladder of manifestation (the elemental plane being beneath the physical plane, and intelligence/awareness being the primary trait that differentiates them).


Likewise, the Goetia are macrocosmic reflections of the vices and spiritual defects of humanity as a whole, and the individual summoner can exert tremendous control over his own spiritual limitations by summoning and mastering whichever of the Howling correspond to that trait. Likewise, the Goetia do not have intellect or awareness outside of the human experience.


Angelic summoning works similarly, save that what the Goetia are to Humanity, angelic forces are to Divinity - this is why the names of angels and various permutations of God are often used in Goetic work. It isn't precisely correct, by the way, to say that angels do not have intelligence outside of a summoning endeavor, but rather have an intelligence that renders our own rather irrelevant, and so the act of summoning focuses them down to our perspective, in order make it relevant to interact with them.


The dead are a special case, as they still exist primarily on the same level as we, but we still maintain those forged relationships, by blood if nothing else.


Other spirits - those that retain existence whether or not we're paying attention, such as the spirits of the traits of this world (nature spirits, genius loci and the like) or otherworldly spirits with true existence outside of our own, like gods, the fae, the Kings of the Elementals, the Guardians of the Watchtowers and similar entities - are generally not summoned unless one's praxis includes a previously-established pact with them, generally worked many generations before.

Comment by Alorer (The Gecko) on December 17, 2010 at 12:41

I'm always inclined to the latter and I agree with Leisha. I tend not to call upon "strangers" (well, unless it's in order to start working on a relationship - certainly not for random, one-time occasions) because, IMO, it's very much akin to having sex with a total stranger... It is risky. Additionally, I dislike forceful summons since I think they damage the relationship or kill off the potential of building one.


I want MY 'people' in my workings, not the random passenger.

Comment by Beorc Kano on December 17, 2010 at 12:11

Adley; Alorer hit it on the head when he noted that demons, in my eyes, are a form of a spirit. If it is, as you were suggesting, a will form of yourself that is generally combative, then that is something that needs to be dealt with on side time, to make oneself whole and united. When I work magic, I work it with my entirety. If I am divided over something, i do not work that particular act until I am in complete understanding and agreement within about what it is I am about to do.


Alorer; That is true, if you're filling the gaps in the circle with Deity-juice, but at that point, it's the power of that egregore that is overpowering my own. Me, personally, I see Deity much differently than any of you staunch Theists. I see Deity as the state of Existence, with the pantheons as egregores that have taken on personality and traits from those who have worshipped them and do worship them. Those egregores are tapped into the ultimate Deity, and draw power from it as well as their followers, as they are, more or less, their own self sustaining entities now. As far as I am concerned, however, they are still egregores, and facets on the face of Existence, lenses through which we see ourselves purified and amplified.


In this case, it is energy versus energy, in a straight conflict. Who has more, and who has the greater control? If I, for example, were to tap into the energy of, say Odhinn's egregore, and come up against someone using the combined energy of just a Wiccan coven, I have no doubt that the energy I used would overcome theirs. However, I am not someone who likes to use energies other than my own that often, and even then, it is always by request. Basically, it's comparing "You. I summon you here to do my bidding" to "Excuse me, if you have a moment, I could REALLY use some help." I am certainly more inclined to the latter.

Comment by Leisha on December 17, 2010 at 11:42

I think that when it comes to topics of Craft persuasion, almost as important as what one does is how one defines what they do. Thank you for putting up your views about your practices. For me, I don't have a problem with summoning, because we only summon that which we have forged relationships with and with the understanding that a summoning can be refused by either party. We summon ancestors to attend our rites. Humans (initiates and guests) are summoned to the circle (hence, having a Summoner). We summon elemental beings that we have relationships with. We summon the Egregore. We summon up the fetche and familiars that we work with. There are times when we are summoned by forces beyond us for certain purposes.


To me, summoning that which you do not have a relationship with would be like cold calling random numbers.... it probably won't get you desirable results. On the other hand, when there are relationships in place, it is no different than calling someone you know, and in many cases (like Alorer mentioned) we have a pact with them just as they have a pact with us.

Comment by Alorer (The Gecko) on December 17, 2010 at 11:34

Adley: Daemons ARE spirits, if you understand the world spirit as "any energy entity" including but not limited to: angels, 'demons', nature spirits, deities, souls of the deceased, ancestors and other.


Thorn: Summoning needs not be forceful actually. Well, depending on the entity involved of course... but in general, and in the case of the kind of spirits I work with, one can politely (yet firmly enough to stimulate Will into working) invite a spirit in order to work with it. I would never force the nymphs I closely work with to appear and start working for instance. In fact, I respect them a lot and I am bound by a pact and promise to fulfill certain duties on my part in order for them to keep working for me. It's a sort of a positive and non-coersive spiritual employment. :D

Comment by Alorer (The Gecko) on December 17, 2010 at 11:15

Great post Bran, even though I can't say I agree as far as my practice is concerned.


I cast a circle for certain rituals, usually the elabourate ones. I almost never cast a circle for most independent magical workings (spells and whatnot) or the rituals thatare solely for a religious observance. I cast a circle for the following reasons: to contain my energies in a specific area, preventing "leaks" and other annoying occurrences of the sort AND to prevent other energies that arguably exist in an area (house etc) from attaching and tainting the energy raised and manipulated for my working. In some ways, my circles are like a plastic cover that prevents leaking as well as dust and stuff that could taint my "artpiece".


I rarely, almost never, use circles for protection. I have great confidence in the protections that are set on my house as well as the aid of the Gods. I should add here that in the protection of my house, I have struck a deal with the resident nymphs and tied the workings to their respective trees in the front of our block of flats. Not because I am incapable of maintaining and/or renewing the workings myself (I seem to have either huge reserves of personal energy or a very swift, natural "circuit", replenishing lost energy exceptionally fast) but because it was a more practical solution since my chances for extensive workings are limited (privacy issues mostly).


Now, I do almost all of my Craft work at home. I do plan on doing some things outdoors as well though. In that case, I personally would prefer some sort of protection, mostly as a form of magical "condom". You never know what might linger in places foreign to your own (and thus, without your energetic 'signature'). Better safe than sorry (or annoyed).


I support invocation workings, including ritual possession by deity, for a number of a reasons and due to the different type of practice I follow. In my path, I work with Gods actively and intimately. However, I would NEVER try such a practice on my own. It's dangerous and frankly, when I'll be lost in a mental limbo for the duration of it, whom will be benefited from the work itself? Who will record/observe if the only individual is too busy being isolated from his own body for a period of time? For these and some other reasons, I would only participate in ritual possession in an experienced group setting.


Finally, I have an argument against your view that if the force is greater than the individual, the circle will crumble. A circle, at least the type(s) I am familiar with, is not built by personal energy and power alone. I daresay no mortal can go against the will and power of a God (or more than one) or either great spirit (or spirits) supporting the circle built. The circle, the way I cast one, is more like my energy and power providing a skeleton or shell of sorts with certain spirits and a deity petitioned and asked to maintain, strengthen and support it. Admittedly, if you have done a crappy job with any of those parts of the casting process, the circle can and will crumble of course... But if I had to use a circle as a shield of sorts against someone strong enough to trouble me, I would make damn sure I cast it perfectly.


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