Ritual in Witchcraft is practiced in an area of magickally created sacred space called a circle. The circle serves both to keep the unwanted energies outside and the desirable inside. The shape of the magickal space is actually that of a sphere. The intersection of the sphere and the earth or floor is in the shape of a circle, which is how it gets its name. Circles are created by a technique called ‘casting’, which will be covered in a later lesson. The layout or arrangement of items inside a circle largely depends on the tradition practiced, whether the location for circle is indoors or outdoors, how much room is available, and how many people will be working in the circle.
Circle Layout Small Groups
For a small group meeting indoors the typical circle is 9 feet in diameter with an altar in the center. This size circle is quite comfortable for four to six people, however with more than six it can be quite cramped. It is common for the altar itself to be round or square, but it is almost always quite small to save floor space. In this type of a layout, the quarter candles on the floor are easily kicked, especially when working in dim lighting. Setting them on small tray tables is probably a bit safer. A common variation of this layout is to place the corner candles on the altar aligned with the appropriate directions. If space permits, having a larger circle can make moving around a lot easier.
Circle Layout Solitary
There are many ways to setup a circle for solitary practice. Some use the identical layout as small groups, which provides plenty of room for movement and fits easily in an average sized living room. An alternative layout is to omit the quarter candles and place the altar to the north. This is space efficient and handy for those who wish to keep a permanent altar setup but do not dedicate a room as temple. Working in such a small area can hinder the visualization of the sphere of magickal space.
Circle Layout Large Groups
For a large group practicing outdoors, it is common to have a bonfire in the center of the circle and an altar to the North. The North quarter candle can go on the altar with the other quarter candles either on the ground or on surfaces placed in alignment with the directions. I have seen circles setup this way that are 40 feet or more in diameter. Using a circle this large for a small group may sound excessive but is very comfortable.
Altar Layout & Tools
With the diversity in Witchcraft, items needed in circle range from nothing at all to an elaborate setup of tools, props and regalia. As with most aspects of Witchcraft, Orthodox Traditional tends to be the most formal in circle setup, Reformed Traditional perhaps a bit less and in Eclectic, it is a matter of choice. The most common altar tools are the Goddess and God candles, incense, an altar plate, an athame and a chalice. As mentioned earlier, some altars also include the quarter candles.