A Beginners Guide to Circles

I remember when I first started practising. I had so much inspiration and motivation, but exactly zero guidance. I would be excited to try a ritual or spell, but when I would read about it beginning with opening a circle, my excitement would turn to uncertainty. What if I did it wrong? Would the ritual be a waste of time? How do I know I’m doing it right?

It didn’t matter how many books I had that glossed over the subject of circles. There was always an element of uncertainty, and a worry that if I did it wrong I would upset some divine being and get some sort of karma for practising something that hadn’t been passed onto me. 

Looking back, I realise I could have started much sooner. Because the rules of witchcraft are: There Are No Rules. 

Really. I mean, different paths and traditions have certain ways of doing things, and if you’re practising under a particular belief system there will often be a structure to follow. But what about those of us who just want to practise witchcraft? No path, no tradition, just plain old witchcraft.

Well, what I’d like to do today is give you my own guide on how to get started with opening and closing circles. I hope that it gives you the confidence to dive in, because if I could tell the baby witch version of myself one thing, it would be this: if it feels right, you’re doing it right.

So, let’s get started!

Opening and closing a circle in witchcraft and pagan practices is like creating a sacred space where magic happens. Think of a magical Tupperware container, nothing in or out. It’s a personal and empowering ritual that connects you to the energies around you. Don’t stress about rules and tradition – again, witchcraft is really about what feels right for you.

Start by choosing where you’ll be doing your work. Always try to choose a space where you won’t be disturbed, inside or outside. All you will need for this is your finger, or an athame or wand if you already have one.

Your circle can be as big or small as your work requires. You can open a small one on a table or desk if you’re working with something small, or you can open one big enough to walk around in. It’s entirely up to you and what you’ll be doing within it.

In your chosen area, take a moment to ground yourself. Try some deep breathing, centering your energy, or rooting to the earth (or all of the above!) to connect yourself to the present moment. It’s important to do witchcraft intentionally, and grounding yourself can really help with that. 

When you feel ready, point your finger down (or your athame/wand) and envision a white light shooting out the end. This light is pure, unflavoured energy. For some it might shoot out like a lightning bolt or zap of electricity, for others it might light up like a lightbulb. For me, it’s like the rising sun shining through a tiny opening of a dark curtain. It’s different for everyone.

As the light shoots out, begin to trace a circle. Again, make this as big or as small as you need. Some will say to go clockwise and some will say anticlockwise, but for the purposes of getting started, go in the direction that feels natural to you. This will be far more powerful than following rules you don’t yet understand, trust me.

When you are back where you started, you can lower your finger (wand/athame). Now, in your mind’s eye, picture the circle expanding into a bubble. The top goes up into the air and the bottom stretches way down beneath the earth’s surface. Your circle is cast, and within it you have a sacred space where intentions are amplified and your workings protected. Here you can explore, cast spells and enchant objects, perform rituals, meditate, or simply commune with the divine. Your circle is a boundary that sits between the mundane and the magical. A bubble of protection encasing your sacred space.

Once you’re done with your workings, closing the circle is just as important. I like to start where I left off when casting the circle and go in the opposite direction, but you don’t have to. Simply take out your tool and point it at the circle, tracing it again. Watch as the light gets pulled back into its source and your circle dissolves. Always remember to thank the energies that supported your magical work.

Honestly – that’s it. There’s other rituals you can do in conjunction with this for a bit of a power boost, such as calling on the Watchtowers or Invoking the Pentagram, but really these are the basics of how you open and close a circle. So, trust your instincts. If a tradition doesn’t feel right, adapt it. The power lies in your connection to the energy, not rigid adherence to rules. 

Remember, it’s your journey, your magic, and your circle. So open it with joy, explore it with wonder, and close it with gratitude. 

Jade is a shadow worker and lunar witch, an experienced witchcraft facilitator, and hosts the 8-week High Priestess course: Dedicant.