Many, many teachers and authors emphasise the need for creating a circle when performing ritual, or doing inner pathworking, or meditation, and so on. My first steps on the pagan path were Wiccan, and creating the circle is a large part of any ritual action. I cringed, and still do, at any mention of creating a circle with salt – especially out of doors – it’s something that lacks all common sense in a nature-based spirituality; let’s protect ourselves by throwing salt down on the ground and potentially killing all nearby flora and fauna. But I digress – the question is, how important is the creation of sacred space?
One of my patron goddesses is Nemetona, the goddess of sanctuary. She is the representation, the embodiment of sanctuary, a place where we are held; a safe place. She is a goddess of transformation, for in a safe space we are able to explore, to try new things, to grow. Much as under our mother’s watchful eye, we can learn and develop as human beings. However, we must also push the boundaries in order to develop – we must leave the protected and safe spaces to discover our own, to create our own.
When I perform ritual by myself, I don’t see the need to create a circle. For me, either in my home or outside, the creation of a circle is setting a time and space outside of time and space, and this is not something I want to do. I want to be wholly in this world, grounded and interacting with it. When performing rituals for others, I always respect their wish to create a circle if they so choose, for that is their path. For me though, it just isn’t necessary.
Inner pathworking is simply done, without the complex or simple creation of a safe place where I cannot be harmed by outside influences, or where my own energy can harm others, for I don’t believe energy works this way. Much like a curse, it only has an effect is the cursed believes in said curse. I don’t believe that external energies are grasping and clawing around the edges of my circle, trying to get inside my mind as I undertake an inner journey, or that there are things crawling around the boundaries of my circle in ritual; demonic forces waiting to get in and cause havoc. I also don’t believe that I can unwillingly send energy in ritual, thereby needing a circle to contain the energy until I so choose. It’s something that some pagans agree with, but many do not.
In public ritual, I have also often found that the creation of the circles is merely words and actions – there isn’t any actual manipulation of energy behind it; the circle isn’t really created, as far as I’m concerned. Someone may walk around saying the words, then consecrating however they choose, but there is no energy in it – they are simply going through the motions. That, a circle does not make. Just walking around in a circle doesn’t create magical space unless there is sufficient intention behind it.
My home is a sanctuary. It is a blessed and sacred space. If I choose to do an inner pathworking there, “unguarded from external forces”, I don’t believe that they have the capability to do any harm. In fact, I don’t believe in them at all. My home is sacred because of the way I feel about it, the way I honour the spirits of warmth and energy, of rest and play, of love and laughter that occurs within those walls. I feel the same way about ritual outside in the wilds – the circle is unnecessary, for nature is simply nature. Were I to work outdoors in the city, perhaps, where the human threat of physical violence must be considered, then perhaps I would create a “magic” circle. Most likely I would simply find a safer place from physical harm.
I’m currently reading a book on Druidry that does quite a bit of inner pathworking as part of the suggested work. This book is fraught with warnings, about when something happens in your inner pathworking that you don’t like, that you don’t control – people entering, things not going according to plan. I think that the mere suggestion of the possibility of this is leading people to self-sabotage their pathworkings – if you believe it, then chances are that the suggestion planted in the subconscious can and will emerge when we feel most vulnerable. Suggesting that we must protect ourselves, that we are vulnerable when we perform these actions – to me this is nonsense. If these suggestions had never even been made, then most likely “bad things” would never happen in pathworking. I have done many pathworking, and undergone hypnosis – both in classes teaching it and myself being a subject to know what it is like. You are fully in control, as if you were not “under” hypnosis. It is merely a state of relaxation where you can access parts of the brain that the “conscious” mind just shouts over. I know that many would disagree with me – again I will reiterate that this is simply my personal opinion, and that others will have their own equally valid opinions. The whole subject is subjective – and what works for you may not work for others.
I suppose sacred spaces for me are those places where there is no need, no desire to protect myself from outside influences, at least those that I believe in. My rituals are open to the world, so that I can connect fully and wholly with the world around me. The intention behind my rituals, behind the way that I live my life, is what matters most – and that does not include creating spheres around me for protection. It’s all a bit Hollywood for me – I just don’t believe in it. I do, however, believe in sacred space, in the sanctuaries that we create, or that we come across – a grove in a forest, a clearing on a mountaintop, a space behind a waterfall, a corner of the bedroom – all these places that sing to our heart, these are our sacred places. I feel no need to fence them in, in the physical or the spiritual sense. I am a part of them, wholly influenced and touched by them when I am sharing their space and time. It is a gift, and one that I accept wholeheartedly.