Sacred Space and the Circle
If you enter the heart of the teachings of witchcraft, at the core you will find the power
of sacred space. When I started, "sacred space" was just words in a ritual. No one really
explained the true meaning of that term to me. "Sacred space" was just a buzzword.
But as I kept saying it as a part of the rituals, I learned. Eventually, the layers of the mystery
were revealed to me. I finally understood what sacred space was all about.
Looking back on it, it seems so obvious, but the teachings I initially received didn't
emphasize the sacred aspects of the craft. Everyone around me was so afraid of using
the word "religion" or "spirituality"; so much was kept to the technical and philosophical.
And at the time, that's what I needed. My emphasis wasn't on the sacred. Now, in
my own teachings, I have a hard time divorcing myself from talking about the spiritual
path of witchcraft, because it is all part of what led me to my spiritual path. At the moment,
if you are like I was, you might not appreciate this. In fact, I can describe it at
length and with my own personal stories and meanings, but until you seek spirituality
out and start to experience it yourself, my words are meaningless.
I've contemplated not sharing these things, but letting my students figure it out for
themselves, as I did. I decided not to for one simple reason. For many people, the craft
of the witch becomes so focused on spellwork or memorizing rituals that even the
concept of the greater meanings and mysteries never cross their minds. The possibility
is not contemplated and explored because, for so many, it is unknown. Students will
still have to figure it out on their own, truly, because it must experienced.
All I hope to do is plant a small seed of awareness, and give you the means to be
your own gardener, the means to care for and nurture that seed. You can always
choose to grow something else. You can save the seed of truly understanding sacred
space for a later time, like I did. Or, you can grow it and make it flourish right now.
The choice is up to you.
Perfect Love and Perfect Trust
Sacred space is simply honoring the sacredness, the divinity, found in all things everywhere.
Through the ritual of the witch's circle, we mark a territory, a circle that can be
out in nature or in our bedroom, and recognize its sacredness. We acknowledge that
this space exists not only in the physical, but also in all worlds, and opens the doorway
between the worlds, to be in conscious communion with the sacredness on all levels of
reality. Our temple is said to stand not in any one world, but between the worlds, and
in all worlds. In our sacred space, there is no separation. Through it we partner with all
that is seen and unseen, through perfect love and perfect trust.
"Perfect love and perfect trust" were other buzzwords I heard in circle. Some traditions
used them. Others didn't. But no one really explained to me what these important
words meant, other than saying "sacred space" or "love and trust." I knew the
"perfect" was a big key to this mystery, but at the time, I was focused on the Moon,
and picking the right time to do my spells, rather than really understanding what I was
saying. I was told to say "perfect love and perfect trust," so I did, but didn't know why
and didn't really dwell on it.
Only once I ventured out of my safe world of Wicca did I really come to understand
these five important words. I developed a very eclectic view of the witch, looking
to all traditions, not just Celtic. I studied shamanism, energy healing, Kabalah,
yoga, reiki, flower essences, and herbs, purposely looking outside the pagan view.
Witchcraft became a vast umbrella for all these disciplines, since its philosophies gave
me a great grounding that I noticed many in the "New Age" world didn't have. As the
craft of the wise, I saw all these disciplines as part of witchcraft, though I soon found
out many did not.
Through this exploration of new techniques and philosophies, I found a common
thread: unconditional love. I wasn't big on the word "love." I thought it misused. So
many people say the word "love" but never really back it up with any meaning or intent.
As a songwriter, I thought of all the trite songs using the word "love," and how it
has lost its value. So I avoided the word in my creative work. Even in my Witchcraft I
class experience, I thought of self-love as self-confidence, assurance, and esteem. But
here the word "love" kept on popping up. I thought these New Age practices a holdover
from the 1960s, with vague concepts of free love and spiritual love, and started to question
if I was learning anything of real value. Then I felt the love.
Through various meditation workshops, one in particular about awakening the
heart chakra to unconditional love, I really felt it. I really awakened it. Like all things, I
entered a skeptic, but from the first moment, I felt heaviness in my chest. As the day
went on, it melted away and I left the weekend course dazzling, light, and with an
open heart. Not only did I feel this nebulous unconditional love coursing through me,
I had a sense that I am the love, too. Everyone is.
While reflecting on that experience in my Book of Shadows journal, I skimmed
through my notes and realized that the first time I felt this type of love was in the
witch's circle. It wasn't the same because I was not taught to really focus on it as a
witch. In the workshop, that was the purpose of the entire weekend. But it was present
in the first magickal circle, even if I had my eyes closed to it. I traced the teaching
of this unconditional love back, and the start of my personal thread was in witchcraft
classes, through perfect love and perfect trust.
Slowly on the intellectual level, I began to distinguish the difference between what
my society had been calling love, what I would later call personal love, and what the
mystics call unconditional love. Witches call it perfect love. Unconditional love is just
that: perfect, unattached, without limits and restraints. This love simply is, and to me
it is the binding force of the universe. In the ITOW, we covered the Hermetic principle
called the Principle of Mentalism, stating "We are all thoughts in the divine mind,"
meaning we are all part of a greater whole. I wish there was another principle stating
we are all pulses within the divine heart, because it is through this heart we truly feel
the unity, even though the mind can intellectually know it. With unconditional love,
you are loved simply because you exist. You are love.
With personal love, that is our relationship love, be it familial, romantic, or friendship.
There are often conditions to it and it sometimes seems to come with a struggle.
The dichotomy between unconditional love and personal love, what mainstream society
simply refers to both as love, pushed me to avoid the concept altogether. Unfortunately,
English often lacks the subtleties of other languages, particularly on the spiritual
concepts. Many other languages have separate words for differing kinds of love.
Perfect trust is a divine sense of knowing and security with the creative spirit, the
Goddess and God. We work actively to partner with the divine ones, through our magick
and meditations, realizing that we are all part of that divine mind. But when things
seem confusing, when our guidance isn't clear, when our magick isn't working as we
planned, and when we are suffering tragedy, we have a trust in the divine through our
knowing of being unconditionally loved. It isn't logical or rational, but when we truly
experience and know it, no personal challenge will ever be viewed the same way again.
Perfect trust runs both ways. As we have it through this unconditional love for the
divine, we know the Goddess and God have it for us. They trust us to fulfill our parts
of the pattern. We have infinite choices and freedom as to how we serve the large pattern
and fulfill our parts, but we trust that all actions can serve the greater spiraling
pattern of the universe.
Through practicing the rituals of perfect love and perfect trust, through creating
sacred space, we grow in our sense of connection and love. Even if we don't initially
feel it, it is there, growing and expanding in our awareness, until we are ready. We best
manifest our desires, our magick, through truly feeling our connection to the Goddess,
the God, and all the universe. We connect and create sacred space through the perfect
love and perfect trust the divine has for us, and we have for them. If everything is sacred,
all the time, and we simply do our rituals to open the door to a partnership with
the sacred, everything is therefore filled with this unconditional love, this perfect love
and perfect trust. All we have to do is open our eyes to it, in and out of our rituals.
The challenge we have, as those walking the spiritual path of witchcraft, is to inject
more and more perfect love and perfect trust, or sacredness, to all thoughts and actions
in our life, bringing it to every relationship and exchange. No small feat to accomplish,
but this is the path of enlightenment, taken one step at a time. As overused as the say-
ing may be, it truly is the journey, and not the destination, when walking the witch's
The most important lesson I've learned in applying perfect love and perfect trust to
the world is that unconditional love doesn't mean unconditional relationships. You can
hold a sacred love for someone in your heart, and honor that person as a living being,
as a spiritual soul, but you can draw a boundary for your own health and well-being.
Unconditional love doesn't mean you encourage others to walk all over you and hurt
you. As the witch's circle casts a boundary of sacred space, I think it is an important reminder
that we, too, while in the physical plane, have appropriate boundaries of our
own space, health, and well-being.
Return to the Inner Temple
Before we go forward in our work, we should reflect on the inner temple. In ITOW,
the lessons focused on finding a sacred space within yourself, on the inner planes of reality.
Only through finding the sacredness on the unseen planes can you truly open the
doorways between worlds and create a temple of sacred space intersecting with the
physical world through the rituals of witchcraft.
A key lesson of this previous work was to gain the discipline to enter a meditative
state, a level of altered consciousness where you can perceive energy more easily and direct
it with your will. In the ritual state, you will not go as deep as in meditative, but understanding
how to enter both levels of consciousness, easily at anytime, is a measure of
a truly well-trained witch. Laurie Cabot used to say to my class that you should be able
to enter alpha state while riding a crowded subway train. I don't recommend it, since
that might blind you to the dangers of urban travel, but in theory, you should be able to
The discipline aspect bothers some students. Feeling witchcraft is light, spacy, and
free, they don't understand the need for discipline. Discipline is one aspect of the craft,
but an important one. It is the earthy foundation upon which all other free and ecstatic
practices are built. It is easy to get distracted, physically or magickally, and proper
discipline lets us keep our focus clear regardless of distractions or surprises.
When in the sacred space, all thoughts become thoughts of creation. Without
mental discipline, you might create something you don't want. There are all sorts of
precautions built into the rituals for this reason, but the best precaution is self-awareness.
When I first started in Wicca, I was untrained in my first circle. Although it was
a very magickal experience on all levels, I couldn't help but have distracting thoughts:
"Is this real? I feel silly wearing a robe. Wow, the Moon came out from behind the
clouds when she called it."
I even had thoughts from my previous years of Catholicism, thinking, "Uh oh, perhaps
I was wrong about this witchcraft thing. Perhaps God is mad at me for this and
we are going to Hell." Not the best thoughts to be having in a sacred space, but perfectly
understandable. I had them flash in my mind, and hear many first-time witches
feel the same thing, but feel embarrassed to admit it. Thankfully none of us created
from those thoughts, but the circle space can intensify all feelings. Some people feel
overwhelmed in the sacred space. They are usually people who are undisciplined or
ungrounded in themselves and their own self-image and self-esteem. Such energy can
be overwhelming even to one fully aware, depending on the ritual.
The key to fully integrate into the sacred space and be open to the most magickal
of experiences is the ability to clear the mind, enter an altered state, and tune into the
sacred energies within you and the circle, to bring balance and harmony. Some people
can do it naturally without any training, but the best way I've found to teach it to others
is to learn the discipline of meditation.
To work magick and meditation, you must be able to enter an altered state, often
called gnosis. In magick, an altered state is any level of brain activity that is different
from normal waking activity that helps you process energy, will, and intuition.
Our states of consciousness are based on brain wave activity. The four states we are
more concerned about are beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Beta is normal waking consciousness,
at thirteen to sixteen hertz, or cycles, per second. Alpha is the magickal
state most people talk about, a light meditative state clocking in at eight to thirteen cycles
per second. When we visualize creatively, daydream, meditate, and enter a light
hypnotic state, we are in alpha. Theta is a deeper state, ranging from four to eight
hertz. The lowest state is delta, at four or less hertz.
Alpha is the state we are most involved in for this book. Light states of alpha are
called ritual consciousness. You must be open and aware to energy and intuition, but
not so deep that you are immobile. During rituals you still need to speak, light candles,
read spells, and perform other actions. In group rituals, you need to be aware of silent
cues and group dynamics while still maintaining your magickal awareness. On the
deeper levels of alpha, moving toward theta, we enter a more immobile, deeper awareness,
tuning into the inner planes. Some totally block out the physical world, while others
are true walkers between the worlds, aware of both the inner reality and outer
world simultaneously. I've had both experiences, depending on my own times of personal
power and awareness. Neither is better than the other, as long as it works for you.
Learn this technique to enter a meditative state. Use only the first countdown
when needing to enter ritual consciousness. Do the complete countdown for deeper
meditation and journeying.
Entering an Altered State
1. Get into a comfortable position. If you are going into an inner meditative
experience, make sure you are sitting comfortably, either feet flat on the
floor, or cross-legged on the floor. If you are getting into ritual consciousness,
simply stand with feet apart to give you balance and support.
2. Take a few deep breaths and relax your body. Bring your awareness to the
top of your body, starting at the head, and give yourself permission to
relax. As you breathe, release the tension. Move from your head and neck
into the shoulders and arms. Relax and feel all the tension melt away. Relax
your chest and back. Feel waves of relaxation move down your spine. Relax
your abdomen, lower back, and hips. Relax your legs down to your ankles
and feet. Feel the waves of relaxation sweep all that doesn't serve your
highest good out through your fingers and toes, grounding and neutralizing
this unwanted energy into the Earth, transforming it like the earth
turns fallen leaves into new soil.
3. Relax your mind. Release any unwanted thoughts and worries as you exhale.
Relax your heart and open it to the love of the Goddess and God.
Relax your soul and follow your inner light, guidance, and protection.
4. Visualize a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen. This
is the screen of your mind, or what is called your mind's eye. Whenever you
visualize or recall anything, remember a person's face or anything else, you
project it onto this screen. Anything you desire will appear on the screen.
5. On the screen of your mind, visualize a series of numbers, counting down
from 12 to 1. With each number, you get into a deeper meditative state.
The numbers can be any color you desire, drawn as if writing them, or appearing
Now visualize 12, see the number 12 on your screen, 12.
11, see the number 11 on your screen, 11.
10, see the number 10 on your screen, 10.
9, see the number 9 on your screen, 9.
8, see the number 8 on your screen, 8.
7, see the number 7 on your screen, 7.
6, see the number 6 on your screen, 6.
5, see the number 5 on your screen, 5.
4, see the number 4 on your screen, 4.
3, see the number 3 on your screen, 3.
2, see the number 2 on your screen, 2.
1, see the number 1 on your screen, 1.
6. You are at your ritual consciousness. Everything done at this level is for
your highest good, harming none.
7. You are now counting down to a deeper, more focused meditative state.
Count backward from 13 to 1, but do not visualize the numbers this time.
Let the numbers gently take you down. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
You are now at your deepest meditative state, your magickal mindset, in
complete control of your magickal abilities. Say to yourself,
"I ask the Goddess and God to protect and guide me in this meditation."
8. From this point, you can continue on to other exercises and experiences, or
meditate at this level for a bit and bring yourself up, counting from 1 to 13
and then 1 to 12. Gently start to wiggle your fingers and toes, and slowly
move to bring your awareness back to the physical.
9. Take both hands and raise them up over your head, palms facing your
crown. Slowly bring them down over your forehead, face, throat, chest, abdomen,
and then groin, and "push out" with your palms facing away from
you. This gives you clearance and balance, releasing any harmful or unwanted
energies you might pick up during your magickal experiences. Tell
"I give myself clearance and balance. I am in balance with myself. I am in
balance with the universe. I release all that does not serve me."
10. Ground yourself as needed. You can ground yourself back into the physical
state by pressing your hands down onto the floor and releasing excess energy
to the Earth. You can also visualize your feet and toes as roots digging
deep into the earth. When all else fails, activate your digestive system by
drinking a full glass of water or eating something can bring your energy
back to your body.
The following meditation is the most important experience from ITOW. Called the
Inner Temple meditation, it is to help a witch find the sacred within her- or himself. If
you have already experienced this or a similar meditation, try it again. Visiting your
own inner sacred space regularly is an important part of the practice of witchcraft.
The Inner Temple
1. Start Exercise 1: Entering an Altered State to get into your meditative mindstate.
2. In your mind's eye, visualize the great World Tree, a gigantic tree reaching up
to the heavens and deep below the earth, larger than any tree you have ever
seen. It is a sacred tree and you may recognize it as oak, ash, pine, willow, or
any other tree that has meaning for you. If you don't visualize anything, sense
the tree with your other psychic senses. Hear the wind through its branches.
Smell the earth where its roots dig in. Feel the texture of the bark. Simply
know the tree is there and it will be. The tree is ever present and everywhere.
3. Imagine the screen of your mind's eye is like a window or doorway, a portal
you can easily pass through. Step through the screen and stand before the
World Tree. Look up and feel its power. Touch the tree and place in it the intention
of visiting your inner temple.
4. Look around the base of the giant tree, in the roots, and search for a passageway.
It may be a hole or tunnel, or even a pool of water that gives you
entry into the tree. As you enter, you find yourself in a tunnel, winding and
spiraling to your inner temple.
5. At the end of the tunnel you see a light, and you move toward that light and
step out into your inner temple. Look around. Take stock of all you see. Notice
all the fine details of your sacred space. Let the images come to you.
The inner temple can be a place you have visited in the physical world, or an
amalgam of sacred sites and shrines from your deepest inner knowing.
6. Explore your inner temple. You will find a variety of sacred objects for your
use. Usually there is a reflective surface, such as a mirror or pool of water for
gazing. Gardens, plants, altars, crystals, and a variety of tools will be found.
Gateways leading to other energies and levels of consciousness can also be
found. Your inner temple is like your launching pad for deeper journeys.
7. If there is anything about your temple you do not like, you can change it
now by doing some inner spiritual decorating. Your temple will reflect your
own inner being. Usually it responds to your will, and reflects your state of
inner awareness. If something will not change, it is usually a message that
you need to change something in your physical life to make the inner
change a reality.