Magic Circles have been depicted in popular expressions of witchcraft and magick in general but where do they come from? What exactly are they? What do they really represent? and how do they link in with the aura?
Magick Circle's in the Grimoire Tradition
Magick Circle's feature prominently in traditional manuals of magick (Grimoires) such as Heptameron, Clavicula Solomonis or Libre Juratus and were used in various forms and functions such as to provide authority and protection to magicians and occultists of western Esotericism.
What is a Grimoire?
Grimoires are special manuals of occult practice created to teach a complete or almost complete system of ceremonial magick (basically a text book of magick). Unlike a "Book of Shadows" which is considered a personal private book of magick, Grimoires are designed and written to guide and teach any reader a specific magical system. That being said many Grimoires can be hard to understand without some form of prior training in, or knowledge of, the basic principles of magick (initiation).
What is the purpose of a Magic Circle?
The most common purpose of magic circles in ceremonial magick is to provide a safe, fortified space for a practitioner to perform a magickal operation, usually the evocation of a spirit.
The magician would draw this symbol on the floor and stand in it to create a safe barrier which spirits or energies would not be able to cross. By including the names and sigils of certain deities, energies or spirits the use of the magic circle gave protection to the practitioner from anything outside of it's boundary. The magician would attempt to conjure or evoke other spirits some of which may be considered harmful and dangerous in an attempt to coheres and possibly even force said spirit to do the magicians bidding.
I should note, not all forms of ceremonial or ritualistic magick work in this way but it is a major theme found among many classic Grimoires.
Circle Casting in Modern Witchcraft & Wicca
Circle casting in Witchcraft practices can be somewhat different as although it acts as a magical barrier and offers protection for the practitioner it also serves as a container to keep energies in.
The big difference here is all the magick takes place inside the circle and not outside such as in the examples given earlier.
The evocation of spirits, deities, and energies such as the elements is again often used when casting a circle in witchcraft practices as well as the the witch or practitioners own energy.
Are circles always cast in Witchcraft?
No, most of the time physical circles are created or cast for larger workings especially those which include multiple people but for simple spell work a full circle isn't necessarily cast.
So what are Magic Circles really?
A magic circle is simply a circle, sphere or field marked out by a magical practitioner or group of practitioners. It is used to contain energy and form a sacred space in order to perform a magical operation but is basically a persons "Aura" which is being consciously manipulated.
OK, so what is an Aura?
The aura has often been described as an electromagnetic energy field that usually extends approximately an arms length from the body. It surrounds all people often taking on the form of an etheric egg shape.
Everyone has an Aura and some psychics offer "Aura Readings", where they may claim to be able to see colours in the aura, which can help them determine information about the person, such as: health concerns, personality traits, recently performed magical workings, possible energetic blockages and even influences spirits may have over you.
Most people are aware to some degree of their Aura even if they don't really understand it's importance, or even what it is. Many people use the term "personal space" ("Stop invading my personal space").
The Aura in actuality is the field surrounding a person where all their energetic centres and Astral bodies intercept (such as the Physical, Subtle Physical, Spiritual, Mental and Emotional bodies).
I personally think of the Aura as a "sphere of personal influence" as it is the area you personally have the most control over. It is your energetic super crossroads and all that you are. It is incredibly important and your ability to manipulate it forms the foundation of higher magical practice.
In Ceremonial Magick when you stand in the centre of the Circle you assume the position of god in the circle, this is where your authority to make change comes from. You are at the centre of your very own universe which is a reflection of the greater universe "Macrocosm and Microcosm".
When you make a change in your mini universe (Microcosm), you effect and change the greater universe (Macrocosm), this is where we get the old idiom "As Above, So Below".
What are the connotations of this?
Lets think about this. If your Aura is your energetic crossroads and the circle is the symbolic representation of that fact, what then happens when you start to introduce things into this energy field?
Going back to ceremonial magick and magic circles in traditional grimoires, what do these symbols mean? and from an energetic perspective and are there some important factors we might want to consider when using them?
Think about it, you are a magical practitioner who has decided to use a magic circle such as the one pictured above which you presumably copied from some random Grimoire. You stand in this circle and attempt to perform a magical working.
By doing this you are introducing and invoking energies represented in this circle into your Aura. When you summon these spirits you are actively inviting them into you and your Aura.
Asking them to "protect and fortify your circle" is inviting them to interact with it and there's no problem with that if you understand the energies your dealing with but what if your don't.
As a practitioner before using random symbols and magic circles I suggest you ask yourself what does this image mean? Do I understand the energies represented in this symbol? Can I even read the names of the spirits?
If the answer is No, then maybe it's best not to use it.
Is a Magick Circle required?
Technically seeing as the magic circle is basically just your Aura then the answer is yes it is always necessary but is also always with you. The use of a physical magic circle such as the type drawn on the floor is not really necessary as it is merely a physical representation of your Aura.
In many ceremonial and ritualistic magical workings people tend to like having these physical circles as it helps us consciously picture and break down parts of the operation. It also makes it easier for more inexperienced magicians, witches and practitioners of magick as it again can help with visualisation.
Working with your own Sphere of Personal Influence
Keeping your own Sphere of Influence or Aura strong is incredibly important especially for psychic self defence (and indeed physical defence).
Fortification of the Aura is done through meditation, cleansing, a through the introduction of external energies such as by wearing talismans (jewellery even tattoos) and carrying magically charged items (crystals, charms, etc).
Always remember an integral part to your Aura or Sphere is your physical body, "your body is a temple" so take care of it. You are not merely an energetic entity and bringing things into the physical body can effect your aura. "As above, So Below, As within, So without" if your physical body is weak so will your Aura and energetic bodies and vice versa.