A magic circle is circle or sphere of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, either to contain energy and form a sacred space, or as a form of magical protection, or both. It may be marked physically, drawn in salt or chalk, for example, or merely visualised. Its spiritual significance is similar to that of mandala and yantra in some Eastern religions.
Creating a magic circle is known as casting a circle, circle casting, and various other names.
There are many published techniques for casting a circle, and many groups and individuals have their own unique methods. The common feature of these practices is that a boundary is traced around the working area. Some witchcraft traditions say that one must trace around the circle deosil three times. There is variation over which direction one should start in. In Wicca a circle is typically nine feet in diameter, though the size can vary depending on the purpose of the circle, and the preference of the caster.
Circles may or may not be physically marked out on the ground, and a variety of elaborate patterns for circle markings can be found ingrimoires and magical manuals, often involving angelic and divine names. Such markings, or a simple unadorned circle, may be drawn in chalk or salt, or indicated by other means such as with a cord.
The four cardinal directions are often prominently marked, such as with four candles. In ceremonial magic traditions the four directions are commonly related to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel (or Auriel), or the four classical elements, and also have four associated names of God. Some varieties of Wicca use the common ceremonial colour attributions for their “quarter candles”: yellow for Air in the east, red for Fire in the south, blue for Water in the west and green for Earth in the north (though these attributions differ according to geographical location and individual philosophy). Other ceremonial traditions have candles between the quarters, i.e. in the north-east, north-west and so on.
Generally, as with most magical practices, an incantation is recited stating the purpose and nature of the circle, often repeating an assortment of divine and angelic names.