In short, because circles protect you while you are performing magick.
They say that the longest journey begins with a single step. So, too, the
exploration of magickal studies begins with a single step. Though the first
step in a physical journey is often self-evident, the first step on a
magickal journey is often not quite so clear. While formally organized
groups often have a path of lessons to instruct newcomers, the solitary or
isolated student is often left standing in perplexity on this broad plain of
knowledge, wondering just where in the heck to begin. And wondering, too, if
it's "okay" to start just anywhere.
While it's true that studies can begin in any direction that attracts you,
the necessary first step must be learning to make psychic shields. There are
"Things of the Dark" out there. There are any number of explanations for
what these things might be -- ghosts, demons, or simply uncontrolled urges
of the subconscious mind. In truth, it doesn't matter what they are. What
does matter is that their effect is very real and unless they are put under
your control, they will drag you over the borders of sanity into psychosis.
You are most vulnerable to them while you're in an "open" trance or
meditative state. That's why the wise practitioner always begins by taking
steps to define exactly what will be permitted through the portals of their
"psychic shields" -- no matter how simple the ritual. And this, in a
nutshell, is what "protective magic" is about.
There are a number of ways to do this. The most common is to begin by
drawing a circle (around a group or yourself) and invoking the one or more
protective powers. Generally, this is done by candlelight, in front of an
altar that holds certain magical objects. The circle may be further
"secured" and "cleared" by using salt, salt water, rum, incense, or some
other method. You may be wearing a special robe and will have taken a bath
(or performed a cleansing ritual) earlier. The powers that protect you will
be called on and then you will begin your ritual.
Is it psychological? Absolutely! Is there a reason why protection rituals
always take this form? Positively! Let's take a step back and see what
you're actually doing and how the process works -- from a psychological
standpoint -- and how to use this knowledge to help you refine your circles
to enhance your rituals.
Psychologists and psychics alike view the mind's structure as a three-part
entity: The Ego (that which you think of as yourself), the Superego (the
"higher self") and the Id (the child within). The Id is, in a sense, a
computer. Like most computers, it operates on the GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage
Out) principle. There's an old superstition: "As you name something, so will
it become." Tell yourself that you're very unlucky and your Id will
obligingly give you bad days by enhancing any negatives in your environment.
Tell yourself that you are clumsy, and your Id-computer will obligingly
arrange for you to break a leg while stepping off the sidewalk. The bad news
is that the Id can't make a judgement as to whether or not this is a good
idea. It only knows that it's received these "instructions" and must carry
them out. The good news is that you can actually program/reprogram this
portion of your mind.
You begin programming this Internal Servant of yours by first drawing its
attention to what you want done and then explaining what you need done in a
simple and clear manner. Repeating the instructions in a chant help fix the
goals for the Id -- rhymed chants seem to be easier for it to process. Each
time you perform the ritual and repeat the chant, the programming is
strengthened. Never mind that your ego and superego understand that you're
going to program the child-like Id. It works just the same.
To direct the Id's attention to the process, you first have to impress it.
Using special tools and clothing alert it that something unusual is going on
and that it must pay attention. Acquiring hard-to-obtain items, drawing
symbols, performing a symbolic sacrifice (donating money, say, to a good
cause) are all ways of reinforcing the Id's impression that this ceremony is
very special and that the result will be very powerful. Organized,
meaningful symbols, speak to your subconscious mind in ways it understands,
reinforcing the goals you have set.
Drawing the circle itself establishes boundaries within your environment
("The rest of the world can do what it likes Out There. All within this
circle is in my control!"). Purifying the circle and consecrating it
(sprinkling water which has been blessed and salt added) further enforce
your territory, defining the borders where you are "safe". Nothing can enter
this area except what you invite inside. You further tighten these borders
by calling on certain Powers.
You can call on any powers you like. Some use traditional Christian images.
Others call up deities from the religion they are most comfortable with. And
many people use the thought/image of a beam of light that represents either
God/Goddess (whichever one they like) or the power of light and life and
goodness in the Universe.
The number of powers called as guardians varies. You may choose to invoke
one powerful being to protect your circle. Or you might call on the
Universal Being/Light and four guardians (one for each quarter of the
compass). A third approach is to use a guardian for the four quarters of the
compass and no higher being. There is no "absolutely correct" system; the
correct system is the one that you are comfortable with.
Take time to choose the guardians of your circle carefully. You should
select guardians (gods or animals or some form of life) which have a deeper
meaning to you and whose qualities are in harmony with your goals. For the
new student, it's best to have all your Powers and Guardians from the same
belief system/religion/mythic universe so that the symbols will be
consistent and not confuse the Id.
You can use people -- saints, movie actors, figures from favorite books as
guardians. Do, however, pick someone who's dead or non-existent. The dead
can't argue with your interpretation of them, whereas the living may be
highly offended to be approached as gods/guardians.
As your studies continue, you will find that your totems or guardians
change. This is to be expected; as you explore new realms in your studies,
you may find you need guardians who deal with very specific areas to
strengthen and guide you in these new fields.
But don't make the mistake of assuming that you'll become so powerful that
you will never need the protection of the psychic shielding circle in some
form. And don't assume that you will not need a circle for "positive"
magicks such as healing. Open is open -- and open is vulnerable. And circles
strengthen and protect you by defining what psychological influences will be
allowed to work with you.
“I charge this wand to catalyze my every thought and deed by my will. I ask that
this will be correct and for the good of all.”
This procedure is basically the same for charging any other tool that will be
used for casting a circle. If the object is small enough, just hold it in your left
hand and push the negative energies out with your right. You could also just dab it
with Protection Potion before charging it.
5. To open the circle, sweep away the sea salt and say,
“I send this circle into the cosmos to do my bidding. This circle is undone
but not unbroken.”