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Laying a Compass v. Casting a Circle


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#1 Michele

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 04:21 PM

This is an essay I wrote and is solely my opinion at this time and does not necessarily reflect the views of this forum, its members (besides me!) and/or its affiliates.

Laying the Compass/Casting the Circle

One can find many instructions for circle casting in books, but few, if any, examples of laying a compass. The difference in meaning between the Compass and the Circle is, to me, is one of the fundamental differences between Wicca and Traditional Craft – even more so than the “an it harm none.”

In Wicca the Circle Ritual is derived from Ceremonial Magic and the circle is usually erected to create a sacred and protected space and to keep the energy raised contained until the time is ripe to send the energy. It is also raised to protect the witch. The actual understanding of the circle quarters and keys may even differ from one Wiccan to another depending on the tradition and how far removed and eclectic it has become from the original teachings. The original teachings are not necessarily “correct” they are merely the original teachings. The craft, whether Traditional or Wiccan, is a living, breathing tradition and must change or die slowly the death of the lost mythologies and mysteries.

The Traditional Witch’s compass, like the physical navigational object, is a tool to help one navigate one’s path. Depending on the tradition and/or the witch, there are many different ways of constructing a compass. It can be done as ritualistically as you like, or it can be done with extreme simplicity. There are deities and mythologies of Paganism which “rule” over the quarters and cross-quarters of the compass. These are not “gods” in the Judeo-Xtian definition and reasoning, but are “man-made” (yet no less valid and alive) gods whose mythos are used by some as keys to understanding the Path.

The compass is walked in a year (the well known Sabbats), it is walked in an hour or so (the specific working one is doing in the compass), and it is walked in a life-time (birth to death to rebirth), and deep within the compass itself is the key to understanding who and what we are as humans.

Many Traditional Witches will say they don’t need to work in a compass, and they are right. The witch (and any other human for that matter) is already in the center so there is no need to lay the compass or call the land to place one’s self there; however, to gain true understanding of the center, what the center is, and what the human’s relationship is with the center, the keys are within the compass and must be worked to be understood. The center is the Center – it is the World Tree, it is the Point in the Circle, it is the Pole Star around which everything revolves. And many witches will say they already know this – and they do. However, few actually “know” this on the deeper level. The knowledge of the compass is a bit like having your first child. You plan to get pregnant, you have taken your vitamins and prepare, you’re read every book and watched every documentary and attended every birthing class. You know that birth and parenthood will be the biggest endeavor of your life and that nothing will ever compare to what you will feel for this child. Fine – you know this, but you know it intellectually. No matter how much you truly REALIZE this, everything you thought you understood about parenthood is reduced to trivial dust beneath your heels the moment your child arrives and you actually see it and touch it. You won’t even be able to put it into words what you feel because it doesn’t translate into something so trivial as language. Suddenly intellect falls to the bottom of the barrel of understanding. You knew intellectually that you would love this child but that knowledge was completely insufficient to prepare you for what you would feel. This is the difference between intellectually knowing the meaning of the compass and the fact that we are already at center of the compass and actually “becoming” a part of the compass. Actually “knowing” this truth in every fiber of our soul, not simply in the brain which is a physical manifestation and will be reduced to bone and dust upon our demise.

I rarely do magic in a compass unless I am doing the magic with and for someone who is unfamiliar with the process. I use the compass in my spiritual practice; I use it to connect, to understand, to devote, to mingle self with the ancestors, to work the Sabbat – the meeting of the witches out of time; time past and time yet to come – and to work the Sabbats. The compass is an elaborate illusion that is necessary in our current state of evolution. The reality is deceptively simple.

So how does one lay a compass? Really, however one wants to. If outside one can actually plow the ground (make a trench or furrow). This alone is steeped in lore and symbolism and if one delves into plough-lore one can find much of value in the simple act. One can mark the compass with anything one wishes from leaves and stones to candles or a pre-cut cord. You could mark it with chalk. I once marked one in a woods with Cheerios. Outside in the land the space is sacred already. If you do work indoors you may want to do a cleaning simply to remove the human emotional ups and downs that often collect in the dusty corners of one’s home. Once one has marked out the compass (and you don’t actually have to physically mark it although it is advisable) one “raises” energy by whatever means one uses. This energy raised is conducive to realizing the difference of the space. Technically it is not different, but also, on a much deeper level, it is very different. Form here on almost everything is oxymoronic and paradoxal – it is different but it isn’t different, fair is foul and the sun shines brightly at midnight, dreams are reality and reality is sleeping. The circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is no where. Once you have achieved this, have raised this cone, you will feel a “heaviness” to the air. You can raise this cone by chanting, by curcumambulating (sp?) the space, by dance, by song… the correct way is the way which achieves results for the witch. Now one can do one’s work, devote, tread the Mill, mingle, or work the mythologies, keys and mysteries of the Compass.

Does the Compass need to be “taken down”? Probably not – outside the land is sacred and the space is not changed, so I would just leave something behind (an offering, thank you, or paying of the Keeper – whatever one wants to call it). Inside, as I do most of my work in the kitchen or living room I do take it down. I have affected the energy of that environment. I do not “negate” the Compass by totally deconstructing it, but simply make clear that I am finished, the work is over, and the area is going back to being my kitchen. Is this absolutely necessarily? Probably not. If you have, whether outside or inside, opened any door or portal during your workings you definitely want to close that prior to leaving your space.

So is the Compass necessary to work as a witch? No. Is it necessary to work and understand the mysteries? In my opinion, yes. The mythologies and the rituals themselves are not what is important – it is the mysteries hidden within the rituals, and the mystery hidden within the Compass which are waiting to be re-lived by the witch. These mysteries may not be important to the witch who is solely practioner of magic, but to the witch of a spiritual practice the Compass is one of the keys of discovery. It is a key which is used to work the rituals in which are hidden the keys to unlock the doors to that which has been forgotten and hidden. It is but part of the layers and veils that shroud the mysteries from the eyes of the profane (not meant in a negative sense, but more as "unawakened"). These are simply my truths at this time. Each witch must find her own truths and her own answers to the mystery of the Compass.

M

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#2 Pye

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 07:38 PM

Beautifully put Michele. I agree wholeheartedly.x
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'The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.'
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#3 CelticGypsy

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 01:36 AM

Posted 16 May 2010 - 09:16 PM

I will call a compass a circle (rightly or wrongly, lol) simply because it's quicker in a note - I just draw a circle. The compass is the center. It is the point and the beginning and the origination. It places you in that point where all who went before and come after you are (remember time is not liniar there). It draws in the energies of the points in whatever mixture you choose to pull them in. The universe has a point without origin - the point that grew into a line and bisected the 0 making it the first duality. The circle/compass places one at the point of origin. Some may use it for other reasons, including protecting if conjuring up demons, or as a "container" for energy. But it is the center and it places the magician at the center. The point of the circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is no where.

M

Michelle, you always give me something to ponder, thank you so much for that. A link of possible interest.


http://witchofforest...the-world-tree/


Warm Regards,
Gypsy

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" The last thing you wanted a Witch to do is get bored and start making her own amusements, because Witches sometimes have erratically famous ideas about what was amusing "

 

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#4 Michele

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 03:14 AM

Wow - took a brief look at the site and totally loved the article. I will explore more of the site - Thank you!!

M

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#5 JessicaAFM

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 04:50 AM

This brings to mind a book I started reading for a pagan book club. I am still working on it as real life intervened for me but I have since picked it back up. The book is Evolutionary Witchcraft by T Thorn Coyle. I think I may have mentioned I was reading one of her books earlier but I could be wrong.

Anyhow, this book is based off the Faery Tradition of Victor and Cora Anderson. It is not Wicca nor Traditional Witchcraft but sort of a blend between the two. In the beginning she discusses circle raising and one of the methods involves the sphere. In her tradition, the sphere is raised from the inside to out by pulling in energy via breathing. As you breath you expand your core energy (found in your abdomen) and gradually expand it until you are surrounded or a certain space is surrounded with you at the center, like the compass point. This to me, makes perfect sense. Now she also goes into making a "formal" circle and there is a lot of Wiccan type pentacle shaped waving of the Anthame so take everything with a grain of salt. But for the most part I am enjoying this book. And I also enjoyed your essay. Kudos!

Jessica

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#6 Marshy

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 08:20 AM

Dont draw circles myself, although cud be handy for trapping bunnies I suppose :wiccanpie: :cauldron04:
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Hal wes u, folde, fira modor ! Marshy :flyaway:

#7 Guest_willynilly_*

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 04:05 PM

Thanks for this post! I was having trouble understanding the compass concept or thought I was. This was clearer than most articles on them. I was on track just didn't know it.
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#8 Guest_Chatters_*

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 10:50 PM

Thanks for this post Michele. I have never seen anything written about the compass round in very much detail. I had heard about the compass round but nothing much more then that it is a protective shield. I knew it was more then this but as I have said have not seen anything written about it. I really liked a lot of what you said. I did use to not want to cast a circle because of my belief that everywhere and anywhere can be a scared place and because of this I felt there was no need. However creating a space to be help you to access and work with spirits, ancestor's and to aid you in similar work appeals much more to me.

I create a compass round as a kind of dome/bubble shape that grows outwards from me, from my centre. And I don't create one for magic every time either. I use it more for spiritual work, especially in contacting my ancestors. Its where I can open a door. I have also felt a slight heaviness to the air. When I move, it is almost similar to moving your arms through water, only much more subtle.

I'm glad you posted this Michele. I will have this in mind for when I next create a compass round.

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#9 aurorarose

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 09:45 PM

This was really informative thank you for posting. I think I can really use this a lot more than my current method.
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#10 ashley

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:13 PM

Thank you SO much for this - i really needed it :]
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#11 Michele

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 02:26 AM

I had forgotten about this post, and reading back over it I sould add the cauldron. That is often (depending on path and working) the center as well. The cauldron is the "pot" wherein everything is mixed and manifested, and in the center of the circle it is where then 4 roads meet (the four points of the compass directions, essences of those roads, elements).

When I awakened my house "Old Lady" I actually did that in a compass (I don't usually do magic in a compass) becuase of the magnitude of the work, and she was in a cauldron in the middle where the four roads would mix (in this case equally) in the pot and "cook" her and she then had life breathed into her and a ritual done to programme her, and was then bound to me. So yes, I should also have included the cauldron as a center, depending on the working.

M

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#12 Jevne

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 02:44 AM

When I awakened my house "Old Lady" I actually did that in a compass (I don't usually do magic in a compass) becuase of the magnitude of the work, and she was in a cauldron in the middle where the four roads would mix (in this case equally) in the pot and "cook" her and she then had life breathed into her and a ritual done to programme her, and was then bound to me. So yes, I should also have included the cauldron as a center, depending on the working.

M


I have a location in my home, which serves as the physical and metaphysical crossroads of the house. This space is the spiritual center of my home and has a strong connection to my personal energy. I believe that it is one thing to feel the inherent power of a place, and quite another to purposely seek out and cultivate a connection. "Then bound to me" is a good way of putting it. The home, at least for a time, becomes part of who you are; like part of the family, rather than just a dwelling.

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#13 CelticGypsy

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 02:52 AM

I have a location in my home, which serves as the physical and metaphysical crossroads of the house. This space is the spiritual center of my home and has a strong connection to my personal energy. I believe that it is one thing to feel the inherent power of a place, and quite another to purposely seek out and cultivate a connection. "Then bound to me" is a good way of putting it. The home, at least for a time, becomes part of who you are; like part of the family, rather than just a dwelling.



" Bound to me " ? Yes ... I have turned what I am working with "up-side" down, as I have found that to be beneficial in my work.... a different aspect.

Regards,
Gypsy

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" The last thing you wanted a Witch to do is get bored and start making her own amusements, because Witches sometimes have erratically famous ideas about what was amusing "

 

Terry Pratchett Legends 1 


#14 ashley

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 04:22 AM

I had forgotten about this post, and reading back over it I sould add the cauldron. That is often (depending on path and working) the center as well. The cauldron is the "pot" wherein everything is mixed and manifested, and in the center of the circle it is where then 4 roads meet (the four points of the compass directions, essences of those roads, elements).

When I awakened my house "Old Lady" I actually did that in a compass (I don't usually do magic in a compass) becuase of the magnitude of the work, and she was in a cauldron in the middle where the four roads would mix (in this case equally) in the pot and "cook" her and she then had life breathed into her and a ritual done to programme her, and was then bound to me. So yes, I should also have included the cauldron as a center, depending on the working.

M



this is going to sound like a really strange question. i know that, i apologize in advance - i've been sitting here for like 20 minutes debating asking, but this seems like a proper place for it, and you seem like you're experienced with circles/compasses, etc.

I worked my first real spell earlier tonight (that's actually how i found this post, i was looking on info about a compass) because i thought it would be significant to the beginning of a journey. I'm not entirely sure i did it correctly (i'm not even sure if you can do it incorrectly with the right intent) - newbie witch alert. i'm cringing at myself. Have you ever gotten lightheaded? Like, it almost feels like when you're on a plane and your ears pop? I started out standing, ended up having to move to a kneeling position, and ended sitting on the floor. Is that ... normal? I mean, i could just be silly and was taking too many deep breaths while I was visualizing. I guess a better question is - do you (and anyone can answer this) physically feel something when you're either casting a compass or a spell, or doing work in general.

Edited by ashley, 22 August 2011 - 04:23 AM.

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#15 Michele

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 11:30 AM

I would say it can easily happen depending on what one is doing, on the energies involved, on how used you are to energies, and whether or not trance is involved so you'd have a lot of answers (and probably others can think of even more!).

There are different versions of treading the mill, including one that uses a stance that affects blood-flow. This is often used for getting into trance so depending on what you did, you could have felt that. Also, energies brought up, and even energies not specifically "invited" - especially if you were outdoors. And it won't happen every time. Sometimes one does their working and doesn't feel a thing, sometimes one does it and everything is just right and one is highly receptive and everything falls into place. Energy rushes can also make one light-headed, and sometimes escatic. Also, if you were using the circle to open the doors to above and/or below worlds it shifts the energy of the place and one could react to that.

M

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#16 anjeaunot

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 03:36 AM

Marshy says he never uses a circle but speculates it could be useful for trapping bunnies. Please leave those poor bunnies alone, Marshy. The white rabbit is the animal familiar of my family.
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#17 Jevne

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 01:47 AM

Bumping for those who are interested. There are other public threads on this subject.

J

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#18 zZAKk

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 05:04 AM

great information. thanks
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" Some people always throw stones in your path. It depends on you what you make with them, WALL or BRIDGE?? Remember that you are the only architect of your LIFE."
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#19 sarasuperid

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:00 PM

I too have always cast a circle as a place beyond time. Protection of that space from daily annoyances and from ickies is a part of it. But its a way of attuning the witches with the celestial and underworld currents as well as the land we interact with constantly in between. I have tried doing the circle different ways, and I like a number of ways. Some people use the circle like a container, I haven't so much. I say circle loosely, its more like an egg or a sphere or even a pillar connecting the realms to the witch.
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"A Craft, a calling, a set of Keys to unlock a particular cosmology that is borne, and born, in the blood of the practitioner, and sets the Work to be done with which one may commune with those who hold the patterns and keys of the life of the practitioner and hir stream. The Work is to be done, and we are to do it." --Aiseling the Bard

#20 Wexler

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 06:24 PM

I found this using my search engine :D Anywho, bumps ahoy.


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