November 08, 2006
Circle has many meanings including halo, an area of influence, cycle, or a group bound by a common tie.
All of the above apply to the sacred circle in Wicca where magic happens. Vastly misunderstand, modern day witchcraft has nothing to do with pointy black hats, riding broomsticks, or curses (except for a few expletives I deliver when I trip over the altar and maim the Aphrodite statue). White witchcraft operates strictly under the motto "If it harm none do thou what you will." I have of late strayed from my pagan roots and been an admitted lazy witch, but I was reminded that Halloween is not just a sugar-coma-inducing fishnet stocking-wearing experience but Samhain, the witch's New Year.
There is a belief that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest at Samhain. If there is ever a chance to commune with the spirit world, this is it. Through sheer happenstance (although really with magic there is no coincidence) I had received a note from a woman who felt a deep need as she was facing her own mortality to celebrate this ritual and connect with like-minded people. This was my inspiration.
I issued invitations to other women and also men although they couldn't make it. (I am an all-inclusive witch.) I even invited a priest which maybe was inappropriate but the great thing about Wicca is that it is a religion that endorses all paths that are taken to seek a benevolent and loving god.
Some total strangers ended up on my rosemary-strewn doorstep but by the end of the night I felt I knew them and stood in awe and admiration of their collective strength. The beauty of ritual in a fast-paced world full of distractions is that it forces you to stop, shut out the world, and breathe. Each religion uses its own time-honored rituals to bring people into their bodies, minds and souls, but also to remind them of all who have repeated the words and actions before them and all those who will after them. In Wicca the cycle of life begins with death then moves to rebirth then back again to death.
In honor of this cycle, we formed our sacred circle with a multitude of candles then protected it with salt water. The altar bore apples, pumpkins and sunflowers, the fruit and flowers of the season as well as symbols of both life and death. Each direction of the circle is marked by an element, thus North is earth to remind us to stay grounded, East is air to remind us of our intellect, South is fire representing passion, and West is water, the emotional connection. We are reminded of the balance as well as our internal power. "For if that which you seek you find not within yourself you will never find it without."
Each of the women lit a candle for someone very near to them who had passed, and their stories were so powerful and tragic as to make you cry. But we didn't. If you have intimately experienced the death of a loved one you share an emotional shorthand and the freedom to speak openly without the pity or discomfort of others is liberating. Only if you have tried to scatter ashes can you belly laugh when you speak of the importance of judging wind direction. While the stories of cancer and suicide and accidental death way too young were heartbreaking, the storytellers were bold and beautiful with very big hearts indeed.
To feel a connection to a soul who is no longer doing earth time is a great gift, and in the shared magical energy of that circle, the impossible became possible. This group bound by a common tie exerted its influence to honor the cyclical nature of life and create a halo of bright light reaching to the heavens. And that is both the best trick and the best treat I can think of.
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