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Opening The Circle

After you have completed your Working, and enjoyed something to eat and drink, you have one last part of the ritual to complete.  You must take down the Circle.  While opening the Circle can be the quickest part of the ritual to do, it is one of the most important. 

There are a lot of Witches who rush through this part, or fail to fully Banish what they have Invoked.  Banishing is probably the most important thing you will learn how to do.  If you know how to Banish properly, it won’t matter what you may encounter, you will be able to deal with it.

Every teacher I have ever worked with has always taught their students how to Banish before they teach how to Invoke, or Evoke.  The reason for this is that when you are learning how to Invoke, if your will isn’t properly focused, or your mind wanders, you may bring to you something other than you intend.  If you know how to Banish properly, you can send whatever you might call, back to where it belongs. 

Since this is the web, and people are able to read whatever sections they choose, in whatever order they like, there is no way for me to make sure that this section on Banishing is read before the parts on Casting and Invoking.  I can only explain how important Banishing is, and hope people listen to it.

Command and control

When you called the Quarters, you Invoked the Elemental energies of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.  During the Working, and even while relaxing with cakes and ale, you have commanded those energies.  You have controlled what those energies were allowed to do or not do. 

You called the Elementals to guard and protect the Circle.  You have maintained control over them during the entire ritual.  Now is not the time to relax that control.  An Elemental that is not controlled can be a dangerous thing.  You must always keep in mind that the forces you are dealing with are to be respected.  Always.

Elementals are not malevolent.  They are not evil in any sense of the word.  They simply act according to their nature.  A Fire Elemental exists to create and spread fire.  An Air Elemental will stir and move the wind.  When you see a forest fire, a tornado, a flash flood, or an earthquake, you are seeing an Elemental that is out of control. 

Are any of these things evil?  Is there malevolent intent behind any of these things?  While the damage, destruction, and death that they can create may seem evil to those effected, there is no intent to destroy or kill.  It is the nature of fire to burn everything in its path.  Given a chance, fire will consume all the fuel it can reach.

Ask anyone who has fought a forest fire, they will tell you that it is a living thing.  It consumes, it grows, it reproduces.  It will also do everything it can to survive.  When a forest fire jumps a fire line, it is finding a way to survive.  This doesn’t mean it is in any way intelligent, but it does meet the criteria for being classified as a life form.

Going through the motions

The ancients were intimately familiar with the Elements, and their power.  This is why they believed that everything was made up of the four basic Elements.  They understood that when in balance, the four Elements, are a force for creation.  Destruction comes about when one or more of those Elements become unbalanced.

The Greeks were the first to use this Elemental system. They also recognized a fifth Element, that which they called Psyche, or what we call Spirit.  It is the union and balance of these five Elements that we use in ritual.  When each Element is Banished, it creates an imbalance that must be compensated for. 

Too many Witches go through the motions, but they forget that it is their will that holds the Elements in balance, and allows the power to flow in ritual.  This is why so many rituals seem so flat, so lifeless.  If all you’re doing is going through the motions, you might as well go to Catholic Mass.  You chose this Path because following someone else wasn’t enough for you. 

Following the Judeo-Christian religions is easy because that’s all you have to do, follow.  This Path requires active participation.  Simply going through the motions isn’t enough.  At best, nothing will happen.  At worst…well do you really want an uncontrolled Fire Elemental loose in your house?  Even if you just go through the motions of Invoking, always actively Banish what you’ve called.  That way you can always be sure you haven’t overlooked something.

So now you know what not to do, what is it you are supposed to do? 

Letting the Gods depart

Before you Banish the Quarters, you give the Gods license to depart.  Here is where you can use the words, “Go if you must, stay if you will”.  You do not command the Gods, you simply inform them that you have finished your ritual.  To stay or go is their choice.

Etiquette is that if you called the Gods by name, you address them by name when you thank them for attending.  Otherwise addressing them as Lord and Lady will do.  Talk to them with respect and reverence.  Too many times Witches forget that they are communing with a higher power, and they will speak to the Gods without the respect they are due.

The standard license to depart goes something like this:

Lord, Lady.  Thank you for attending this ritual, and for your guidance.  May our Paths cross again in the near future. 

Go if you must, stay if you will. 

Hail and farewell.

In this way you are inviting the Gods to stay if they choose, but you are letting them know that your ritual is finished.  Unlike with the Elementals, where intent and command is required, the Gods must be addressed with reverence and respect.  There is no need to visualize an outcome, since the Gods will do as they wish.


First, remember that you are dealing with living entities.  The Elementals have come to your Circle because your will compelled them to.  Your will kept them in check during the ritual, and now your will must compel them to return to where they came from.

Everything you do in ritual revolves around intent.  Your intent must be clear and precise.  If your intent is muddied, or unclear, it gives the Elementals a loophole through which they can act as their nature dictates. 

When you called each Elemental, you cast your mind out to each Elemental Plain.  You felt each Elemental as it answered your call.  Now you do the same as you Banish them.  You do not need to fully understand where something has come from, to cast your mind to where that place is.  Everything that is Invoked, carries with it a link to the plain it came from.

If you can see or feel the Invoked Elemental, you can get an impression of where it came from.  Clear your mind, and concentrate on the Elemental you wish to Banish.  See and feel the Elemental.  Get a clear picture in your mind of just what it looks and feels like.

Once you have a clear mental picture of the Elemental, you will know what the plain it comes from is like.  An Air Elemental comes from a plain filled with winds.  Everything from a gentle Spring breeze to the tempest of a hurricane is encompassed in this realm.  There is no form or shape to anything on this plain.

Now send the Elemental back to this plain.  See in your mind’s eye, the Elemental moving back to this place where it originated.  The words that you speak can help you to focus your mind on the task, but they are secondary to the intent that the Elemental must return there.

It is not a matter of thinking that the Elemental goes back, or believing, or wishing or hoping.  You must know that the Elemental has gone back.  You must have enough confidence in yourself, and your abilities, that you know that the Elemental has returned.

Whatever you do, never say “Stay if you will, go if you must.”  This gives the Elemental the option to do whatever it desires.  It will follow its nature, and stay.  This can cause no end of mischief.  If the Air Elemental stays in your house, mischief is about all it can cause, but even that gets annoying.  Always be precise in telling the Elemental what to do.

The words for the standard Elemental Banishing follow the form of:

Element of (Air/Fire/Water/Earth) thank you for your protection. 

Return now to the realm from where you came, harming none along the way, be it man nor beast. 

May there be peace between me and thee forever.

(Mentally push the Elemental back to where it belongs)

Hail and farewell!

(Draw a pentagram toward the direction you are Banishing, and extinguish the Quarter Candle)

As I’ve said, the actual words used are secondary to your intent.  Because the Elemental has performed a service for you, it is customary to thank it.  You also tell it where you expect it to go and not to harm anyone or any thing as it goes.  You tell it that you held no malice in summoning it, and then you give it license to depart.  By following this form, and mentally sending it back, you are not giving the Elemental any choice but to do what you tell it.

 You must do this for each of the Elementals you have summoned, in turn.  You must exercise the same force of will with each.  That’s not to say that you can’t Banish the Elementals at the same time.  I once took part in a ritual where the Priest was in the military.  It was a handfasting outside, and it began to rain.  They quickly opened the Circle, and everyone ran for cover.

The Priest realized that he hadn’t fully closed the Circle, so he marched out to the center of the Circle, stood at attention, and as if addressing a platoon of soldiers, he barked “Dis-MISSed!”.  He then did an about face, and marched back out of the Circle. 

Because the Priest showed that he had authority over the Circle as a whole, and because he held a clear intent that the Elementals should return where they came from, he was able to Banish them all at the same time.  This brings up a point that you should understand.  You do not need to be the one who Invoked, in order to Banish.  As long as the Elementals recognize you as having the authority, they will follow your instructions.

Opening the Circle

At this point, you open the Circle.  Walk to the East side of the Circle, and with the tool you used to draw the Circle, draw three slashes across the line of the Circle, while visualizing the Circle being cut.  Each slash creates a gap in the Circle. Visualize these gaps as you make the cuts.  Because you cast the Circle three times, you make three cuts, one for each of the castings.

In public rituals, the one cutting the Circle will usually say, “The Circle is open, yet unbroken”.  This alludes to the fact that the Circle has served its purpose, yet it is not uncast.  It is simply opened.  A Circle opened in this way will retain some energy, and if other Circles are cast in the same place, the area can become quite powerful.

This is why ancient ritual sites seem to resonate with energy.  The type of ritual will also have an effect on how a site feels.  When a site is used over and over for a specific type of ritual, it will retain the energy of that ritual.  If you do ritual in a public room of your house, this can cause people who visit to feel comfortable in that room.

If you go to a Witches house, and it feels uncomfortable, you probably won’t want to associate with that Witch.  On the other hand, and Witch who has a house that feels comfortable is probably someone you will get along with.  The energy of a Witches house can give you a very good idea of the type of person they are, and how close you will want to associate with them.


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