Sacred Space in Witchcraft

Sacred space means different things to different people.

So really, the only way I can get around that is to tell you what it means to me.

Sacred space is an enclosure we create, if you like, an artificial bubble in mundane reality, inside which we create an environment that is conducive to whatever type of ritual work or crafting
work we plan on doing.

Now there are a lot of different methods in different traditions on creating sacred space.

A lot of different names too.

For the average Neopagan Wiccan, circle casting is the term that springs to mind.

But circle casting is not exactly what the traditional Witch or cunning folk or traditional crafter would call the setting up of their sacred

The reason for this is down to good old fashion history, and the fact that Crafters are not likely to use terms that have been borrowed from other places.

You see, circle casting is technically a ceremonial magic technique, and as Wicca borrowed quite a lot of its ritual structure from ceremonial magic, from the Golden Dawn, courtesy of Gerald Gardener and even more so Alex Sanders, who got even more ceremonial than Gerald did.

So the circle casting that you have in most Wiccan covens is very ceremonial oriented.

It uses the classical elements or the Watch Towers as they’re often called.

Even the phrase that is used when drawing the circle, in Gardnerian and Alexandrian circles at least, is taken straight out of the Key of Solomon:

“I conjure thee, o circle of power, that thou be’est a boundary between the world of men and the realms of the mighty ones; a guardian and protection that shall preserve and contain the power that I shall raise within thee.

Wherefore do I bless thee in the names of the Lord and Lady.”

Or words to that effect.

So, it’s very much about creating a barrier, a boundary within which you can work.

And perhaps the most significant difference from the point of view of a crafter between the ceremonial or Wiccan circle and the sacred space created by non-Wiccan methods is that in a Wiccan circle, in a ceremonial circle, the aim is to set up an environment.

And then bring everything you need into that environment.

So you call upon your deities and bring them into the circle with you, drawing down the Moon, drawing down the Sun, invoking, bringing things in.

This is very much the modus operandi of the ceremonial magician.

He stays put and everything comes to him or her.

In traditional crafting, it actually works the other way around.

The space is warded, or set aside if you like.

And then the crafter takes the space and themselves to where ever it is the entities or energies that they want to work with happen to be.

So, there’s a definite difference in feel, if nothing else.

There’s also a difference in names.

Most traditional crafters try to avoid saying “casting circle” unless they really have to, just because they want to emphasize the fact that it’s different from what a Wiccan does.

Names that you might find being used for creating sacred space, warding the space, laying a compass, ploughing the bloody acre, raising the hedgerow, lots of different terms like that, which tend to be very physical-sounding descriptive terms.

And each of them has a particular technique associated with it.

Some are use predominantly by a particular tradition, and some are more generic.

Warding the space is probably the most generic term.

It covers all the techniques for doing this. And it just involves essentially — and there are traditional crafters that are going to hate me saying this — casting a circle by another name.

It is making the space in which you’re standing something special, set aside from the mundane world.

Laying a Compass is a little bit more technical than just warding space, because what you’re aiming to do is to set out the lie of the land, which is a very old fashioned sort of phrase, but it involves basically setting out things that are specific to your tradition and establishing their relationship to each other within the space and  placing yourself in the centre or fulcrum-point, so that you’re able to bring about the changes that you want.

And it takes a little bit of practice. Laying the Compass is not something you can learn from a book.

It’s something you really have to either get a light bulb moment about, or have somebody who is skilled at it work you through it.

Like most traditional crafting techniques, it’s all very experiential.

You have to actually learn it hands on.

So I’m not going to try to explain it in detail here, except basically what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to superimpose your tradition’s map of the universe upon the land upon which you’re working.

Ploughing the bloody acre is more of an outdoor term.

It often involves the traditional image of dragging your left leg or your right leg, usually left leg, as you work your way around the perimeter of the circle space to
establish a boundary marker, if you like.

And the bloody acre is the area that is covered by the river of blood.

It’s a nice technical term, as used in fairy faith as well as several other old crafting traditions, that it’s basically the current of magic or crafting that the practitioner is part of, so you’re talking about immersing yourself in the current, in the tradition itself.

“Ploughing” is working the land quite literally, and making the two one and the same, because all traditions, all currents come out of the land in one form or another, because they’re tied into the Ancestors.

So do we do this indoors or outdoors? Well, as I was taught, if you can’t work your magic stark naked in a concrete bunker, then you can’t work magic period.

So ultimately it doesn’t matter.

But obviously sometimes you’re going to be working indoors and sometimes you’re going to be working outdoors.

Does the technique change?

Yes it does, mainly because traditional crafters tend to see all of the land outdoors as sacred to a greater or lesser extent.

So you don’t really need to make the land sacred — it is already.

So when working outdoors, you just basically set up your boundary markers and you do your work, and usually at the end of it, rather than taking it all down again, you just walk away from it, because you’re not going to desanctify the land, any more than you’re going to make it more sacred than it started out to be.

Indoors is a different matter.

If you work in a temple, then you’re going to build up a similar sort of effect over the years in your temple space as well.

But if you have to use the living room or a corner of your bedroom, then you’re basically going to put it up and take it down each time as completely as you can so that you don’t have any issues with using that space for mundane purposes at other times.