I have written often of the compass (or circle of art, whatever you want to call it) but I don’t think I have written of -why- one can make use of it. There are many different circles in magic and witchcraft and many different ways to use them.
In neo-pagan eclectic witchcraft a circle is used to hold in energies until they are released out into the world to bring about the results of the spell/ritual contained therein. This type of circle can also be used to trap entities in evocation. When this happens the circle is usually outside of another, bigger circle in order to protect the magician from harmful energies as the spirit manifests. It is rather Solomonic in this regard.
There are also circles of protection, which one might draw about an object, a house or building, or themselves to create a protective field against spirits, people, or what have you. Most circles have an element of protection within them as a foundation.
In the circle casting that I utilize I try to go “between” the space to reach the sacred landscape of the spirits and the gods. I do not physically go there, of course, but the actions and words I use take my mind there, and indeed my spirit. The word for this type of casting has been popularised as “compass” by many modern crafters. I call it that simply because it makes sense to call it that. To paraphrase another it “orients the witch on his or her path.” And this is perfectly true, much like a compass orients one when travelling on foot.
In laying down the compass I create a microcosm to the macrocosm of the universe. Lately I have been using an augmented invocation of the compass inspired by Gemma Gary in her book Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways. The line states:
“I conjure thee, O Compass Round.”
As if the witch is conjuring up a named compass. And indeed this is true. When I conjure the compass I know that I am conjuring the Circles of Circles, the Universe in Miniature, the Great Compass of the World which connects me to the Land and to the Spirits. It is as though I am plugging in to a separate reality, but that is always there. With the Stang/World Tree as the center I can go anywhere, and call upon any spirit that would like to assist me.
It focuses and empowers my calls and workings. It makes it easier to connect to spirits and communicate with them. The Land is sacred, but the compass, at least for me, acts as a megaphone to the Otherworlds. When I am within a compass I stand upon Sacred Land that is the Sacred Land of the All. I am within the Upperworld, the Middle World, and the Underworld all at once. I am between.
It is important to experience this, I think. I can almost physically feel the expansion of my mind when I am in a compass. It is thrilling and terrifying.
And is that not the point of being a witch? To be in many places, yet in one place. To walk between the worlds the way that others can not? To be Living and Dead, Beast and Man, Light and Shadow at once?
How do I know it’s working, I ask myself sometimes. Well, I do have one confirmation that at least one circle casting was very effective. I was out in the woods with some friends for a Lunar rite or some such and I had a cast a circle. After a while some woman came wandering by outside of the circle looking for someone. She was calling out a name (David or something). We had a fire, so we all thought she would come over here sooner or later. Which she did. She came within six feet of us and asked “Who’s there?” as though she could not see us.
I was staring right at her and my face was clearly illuminated, we all were! Yet she could only see the fire, seemingly, and would not get any closer.
One of the group finally spoke and the woman suddenly was able to see us.
It was truly fascinating and was an “oh, shit this works” moment.
To be within a properly cast circle is to be Between, where the Spirits lie. Which is the entire point of witchcraft.