Sacred SpaceóCircles and Elements (the Four Magickal Essences)

The casting of the circle is an important part of Wicca and Neo-Paganism. It marks out the sacred space which serves as the temple of the old Gods. The method and manner in which the circle is cast and how the elements are called will vary from occasion to occasion.

In a coven or grove, the circle is cast before the four Elements (or the four magical Essences, aka "Elemental Spirits", "Directional Quarters", or "Directions") are called. An example of casting a circle is below. Walking clockwise or deosil or sunwise, a participant takes a sword, athame, wand, or uses her/his finger to trace the outline of the circle in the air. S/he performs this action silently or s/he recites:

"I cast this circle to be a boundary and protection between the worlds, to preserve and contain the power we raise within. Wherefore I bless and consecrate this space."

As s/he traces the circle, s/he visualizes it appearing.

The circle is erased at the end of the ritual by the participant who cast the circle. She/he again walks clockwise or deosil with the sword, athame, wand, or her/his finger to erase the circle. She/he may do this action silently or she/he may recite:

"I erase this circle. No more is it set between the worlds. Fade away."

(Repeat as needed.) As s/he traces the circle, s/he visualizes it disappearing.

Working with a training coven, or teaching grove, one may wish to constantly use the same method to build up associations within the participants' minds. In a very large group, 40 to 200 people, the circle may be cast before the bulk of the participants arrive and process in. However, the elements will then be called with invocations by four different people. In a coven or grove, a single participant may call all four elements, or four different participants may each take one element. In a solitary circle an individual may trace a circle with a stick of incense, visualize the circle in her or his head, or use a short chant.

For examples of formal invocations and dismissals, see:

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Example 4
Example 5
These examples illustrate calling and dismissing the Quarters, aka the Elements, the Elemental Spirits, etc.

Below are some examples of simpler methods of invoking the Elements. The first such method below, is similar in style to Example 1.

Starhawk's Short Form for Casting the Circle, which she learned from Victor Anderson

By the air that is Her breath,
By the fire that is Her spirit,
By the living waters of Her womb,
By the Earth that is Her body,
The circle is cast.
Below, there is another chant (author unknown, apparently public domain) which can be used.
Air moves us,
Fire transforms us,
Water shapes us,
Earth heals us,
And the balance of the wheel goes round and round,
And the balance of the wheel goes round.

Doreen Valiente channeled the following chant from John Brakespeare, which serves the same purpose.

Black spirits and white,
Red spirits and grey,
Come ye, come ye, come ye that may.
Throughout and about, around and around,
The circle drawn, the circle bound.

There is another chant, allegedly old, which calls the four Elemental Spirits. I got it ages ago from a flyer distributed at a Pagan event. (You may note its similarity to a chant which Doreen Valiente stated she got from Gardner.)

EKO EKO PARALDA
EKO EKO JINN
EKO EKO NIKSA
EKO EKO HOB
ZOD RU KOZ E ZOD RU KOO
ZOD RU GOZ E GOO RU MOO
EEO EEO HU HU HU

Supposedly HU is the God, Hu Gardan. P ARALDA, JINN (Djinn), NIKSA, HOB (Ghob) are the four Elemental rulers of Sylphs (Air), Salamanders (Fire), Undines (Water) and Gnomes (Earth). *

Authentically old or not, the chant for the four Elemental rulers inspired me to write the following chant. Drakes or Firedrakes are the same as Salamanders. I originally used the word "Salamanders," but the word, "Drakes," scans better.

Eko Eko, Sylphs;
Eko Eko, Drakes;
Eko Eko, Undines;
Eko Eko, Gnomes;
Peace and welcome unto all the spirits!
Peace and welcome unto all the spirits!
Below is a longer invocation of the Elementals, which I wrote.

After a circle is cast, a person walks to each direction in deosil, or sunwise order. S/he raises an athame, wand, or finger and draws the invoking pentagram while calling the Element of that direction. S/he lights a candle.

East: Hail, Sylphs of the East, creatures of air, I call you to send forth your breezes and join in these revels. Hail and welcome!

South: Hail Salamanders of the South, creatures of fire, I call you to illume me with your flames and join in these revels. Hail and welcome!

West: Hail Undines of the West, creatures of water, I call you to cleanse me with you flow and join in these revels. Hail and welcome!

North: Hail Gnomes of the North, creatures of earth, I call you to fortify me with your strength and join in these revels. Hail and welcome!

The farewell to the Elements would be:

East: Sylphs of the East, creatures of air, we thank you for bringing your gentle breezes. We ask for your blessing as you depart for your lovely realms. Hail and farewell!

South: Salamanders of the South, creatures of fire, we thank you for bringing your flame. We ask for your blessing as your depart for your lovely realms. Hail and farewell!

West: Undines of the West, creatures of water, we thank you for your flow and ebb. We ask for your blessing as your depart for your lovely realms. Hail and farewell!

North: Gnomes of the North, creatures of earth, we thank you for bringing your strength. We ask for your blessing as your depart for your lovely realms. Hail and farewell!

A more poetic invocation which I wrote, is:

East
Sylphs, yellow butterflies,
floating lightly
poetry
on the breath of the wind
ride our sweet incense
with wishes born on fragrant smoke.
You are welcome; come in.

South
Creatures of the hearth
Warming our hearts
children of red and blue-white heat
will you play in our candle flames
gentle Salamanders?
Transforming fire
come from the south.
We call you; be here.

West
Undines of waves
twilight fish scale ladies
creatures of movement
living currents
salt and fresh
swim in these waters. Welcome our friends.

North
Gnomes of knowledge
black soil secrets of earth
little ones of roots and gems
you know the way of trees and grass
see stones on the altar
the bones of our grandmother.
We ask you, we ask you,
sit with us here.

--Myth Woodling, 2000

To call the angels of the four watchtowers

Some mystics trace the use of the watchtowers of the four quarters back to the nineteenth century Order of the Golden Dawn. Others claim their use stretches back to the practice of Elizabethan and Medieval mages, with even possible pre-Christian connections.

For example, some scholars have found a pre-Christian link in the four Celtic treasures, Spear of Lugh, Sword of Nuada, Cauldron of Ceridwen, and Stone of Fal, to the mage's rod of air, the sword of fire, the cup of water or witch's cauldron, and the pentacle or protective shield or plate of bread. However, there is no indication that the Celts ever called the four Elements in circle.

This elaborate method of calling the four angels can be used either for the first consecration of your devotional space, or it may be used in preparation of each time you hold meditation, prayer, or worship. Some may reserve its use for High Holy days. Through this ritual the sacred space becomes a living mandala in which the devotee is centered.

Mix one spoon of salt into a cup of water. Light a stick of incense. Take the cup of saltwater and the lit incense stick and walk to the east of your sacred space. Sprinkle three drops of saltwater towards the east saying:

"I cleanse the East with water and salt."

Wave the incense stick in the air three times saying:

"I bless the East with air and fire."

Now invoke by saying:

"Hail, Michael, messenger of the Watchtower of the East, Angelic Power of the Morning Winds, I invoke you and call you to witness my devotions and guard this sacred space. Hail and welcome."

Go to the south of your sacred space. Repeat sprinkling of saltwater and the waving of incense while saying:

"I cleanse the South with water and salt. I bless the South with air and fire. Hail, Uriel, messenger of the Watchtower of the South, Angelic Power of the Noontide Wind, I invoke you and call you to witness my devotions and guard this sacred space. Hail and welcome. "

Now go to the west and repeat your actions again saying:

"I cleanse the West with water and salt. I bless the West with air and fire. Hail, Raphael, messenger of the Watchtower of the West, Angelic Power of the Evening Wind, I invoke you and call you to witness my devotions and guard this sacred space. Hail and welcome."

Go to the north and repeat your actions again saying:

"I cleanse the North with water and salt. I bless the North with air and fire. Hail, Gabriel, messenger of the Watchtower of the North, Angelic Power of the Midnight Wind, I invoke you and call you to witness my devotions and guard this sacred space. Hail and welcome."

Now the space is ready for you to perform whatever meditations or worship you desire to. When you are finished, thank the four angels by saying in each direction:

"Michael (Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel), messenger of the Watchtower of the East (South, West, North), Angelic Power of Morning (Noon, Evening, Midnight), I thank you for attending my devotions. Stay as you will; go as you must. Hail and farewell."

The four directional quarters are invoked in ritual because all shrines, altars, temples, are the center of the circle during worship. The microcosm of the sacred space resonates to the macrocosm of the world.

Historically, there was the Black Paternoster, which actually doesn't sound like malifica (evil intentioned magick). The Black Patemostre, as quoted by Paul Hudson (Mastering Witchcraft, p 158), gave an old method for invoking the four quarters or directions.

Four nooks in this house for holy angels,
A post in the midst, that's Christ Jesus,
Lucas, Marcus, Matthew, Johannes,
God be in this house and all that belongs us.
A very old children's prayer, with versions dating back to the English Renaissance, ran:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Bless the bed that I lay on.
Four comers to my bed,
Four angels round my head:
One to watch, one to pray,
Two to bear my soul away.

The four evangelists and the four archangels represent the regents of the four directions, standing guard over the sleeper.

There's a charm to be written on paper to protect against mishaps and dangers in the house. In this illustration, the plus sign represents a larger cross.

Sanct Johannis
Sanct Lucas + Sanct Matheus
Sanct Marcus

Leonard R. N. Ashley, in Magic & Witchcraft (p. 30), gave this Texas Hispanic protective prayer, which also involves the four evangelists. It should be recited three times.

Cuatro osquinas tiene mi casa
Cuatro angeles quela adoran,
Lucas, Marcos, Juan, y Mateo.
Ni brujas, ni hechiceras,
Ni hombre, malchechor
En el Nombre del Padre
Y del Hijo, y del Espiritu Santo.
Ashley translated the prayer as:
Four comers has my house.
Four angels adore it,
Luke, Mark, John, and Matthew
Neither witches, nor charms
Nor maleficent man [can harm me].
In the Name of the Father,
And the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

I don't usually invoke the angels myself, but some Wiccans, such as Silver RavenWolf, do. Most probably IF the wise women or cunning men of the Renaissance or Middle Ages did invoke the four quarters, it would have likely incorporated the names of the four archangels or the four evangelists.

--Myth Woodling, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2007

Endnote:

* There is an alternate version of this old "word sound" chant. Versions of this nonsense word chant have been used by several different Wiccan trads. According to Aiden Kelly, he found yet another version among Gardnerís papers. It apparently isnít used much anymore. This particular version of this chant also seems more associated with invoking the God than calling the Elements. However, I simply tacked it here for historical purposes.

EKO EKO AZARAK
EKO EKO ZOMELAK
EKO EKO ARIDA
EKO EKO KARNAYNA
BAZABI LACHA BACHANBE
LAMAC CAHI ACHABABA
KARRELLYOS CAHI ACHABABA
LAMACH LAMACH BACHARKLYAS
CABAHAJI SABAL YOS
BARYO LOS
LAZOS ATHA CALYOLAS
SAMAHAC ATHA FAMYOLAS
HARRAHY A

Balancing the Four Magical Elements
Table of Correspondences
Black Spirits & White, Red Spirits & Gray
Main Index page