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CASTING SACRED SPACE
The Core of All Magickal Work
By Ivo Dominguez Jr.
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2012 Ivo Dominguez Jr.
All rights reserved.
Although many different methods will be presented in subsequent chapters, often with somewhat technical explanations, I would like to underscore that magick and ceremony are more arts than sciences. What you accomplish using the various castings is not only dependent upon your intellectual understanding, but upon your passion, creativity, and vision. The whole of what you believe is the foundation of all your castings and informs your actions and perceptions.
In certain branches of the Western Magickal Tradition students are asked to create a pantacle, a disk marked with symbols to form a visual representation of their personal concept of the forces, forms, and essences that make up the universe. The pantacle is then used in ritual as a reminder or a focus of that integrated vision. (The pantacle is sometimes also referred to as a pentacle, but we will use the former spelling to differentiate this from the five-pointed star common to many magickal systems.) The process of taking all they know or believe and concentrating it into an image is a powerful learning experience. You may wish to undertake the task of creating a pantacle or choose another method for distilling your knowledge into an organic whole. Writing a poem or a story will accomplish the same end. You may choose to paint your vision or to create a richly detailed image in your mind's eye if your hand is not suited to the visual arts. Constructing a ritual garb adorned in a way that shows your relationship to your vision is another option. Regardless of how you approach this task, it is a work of art.
The development of a personal vision, style, or voice in the arts is a difficult undertaking. When it comes to the creation of a personal vision that encompasses the sacred, the quest is all the more strenuous because it must express the fullness of your being. A part of that search may include explorations in philosophy, mythology, and metaphysics. Perhaps the most overlooked and yet one of the most central parts of any vision or worldview is a model of or paradigm for the nature of Divinity. The meaning of sacred space and the relationship of the person creating the space to their concept of Deity have countless ramifications. One thing that I hold as true for all paths is that it is always advisable to acknowledge the presence and power of the Divine whenever a casting is performed. This can be quite simple or an extravagantly rich acknowledgment, but in either case it helps to align you as a microcosm within the macrocosm. A work plan for the development of a coherent personal vision of castings is beyond the scope of this book, but I do recommend that you consider the difference between what you think and what you believe as an essential part of your spiritual development.
Write three short myths: one should describe the creation of the manifest universe; another, the creation of humans; and the last, a meeting between humans and your concept of the Divine. A week or two after you have written the three myths, read them again and look for any resonances between the myths and your concept of sacred space. Write new myths every few months and repeat the process for new insights on the state of your beliefs. If you have access to good people, read the myths you have written aloud to these trusted souls. Myths were originally intended to be heard, not read, and the process of storytelling will reveal more about the myths that you have written than any literary critique. This exercise is as simple and as difficult as it sounds.
The Circle Is the Beginning of Magick: A Personal Vision
As a way to communicate what I mean by a coherent personal vision of castings, I offer my personal vision on the deeper meanings inherent in the casting of a circle as a point of departure for the quest for your own visions.
The basic unity of creation is held as a primal truth in many spiritual paths. This unity does not imply uniformity; it implies multiplicity connected through a commonality of source, of foundations of existence, and in some philosophies a commonality of purpose. This underlying unity of the great diversity of the Universe allows for a host of Goddesses and Gods that are each one with the whole. The word Universe (with the same root as the word unity) encompasses all of space, time, and everything that exists, seen and unseen. In Wicca, as in Native American traditions, all of space and time is held as sacred. The Universe is seen as divinity manifest, and in Wicca is the body of the Goddess. Within this perspective, the Universe is sacred; therefore every part and all of its parts are sacred. The beauty and glory of this perspective of the Universe are one of the roots of the spiritual desire to experience it as a unity.
To truly experience the whole of one's Self is a tall order; to experience the wholeness of the Earth—or larger yet, our arm of the Galaxy—is unimaginable. For humans the capacity for ecstatic union with the totality of things is generally achieved only after soul-reining work, and then only for brief periods. In some traditions this is seen as a human failing, but in an Earth religion like Wicca, this need is seen as normal and reflective of our nature as incarnate beings. To my mind, an Earth religion means focused on the Earth plane, not just on our planet. This is no more a failing than a cell acknowledging that is a part of an organ within an organism, but it should also be acknowledged that each cell carries the pattern in its DNA of the whole organism. There is no shame in physical beings abiding by the laws of physical existence, let alone the limits of psychology and personality. There is also the recognition that the fullness of experience is on a continuum, perhaps several continua.
Communion with the Universe while incarnate is much like trying to reach the speed of light while in the physical level of the Universe. As you approach the speed of light, Einstein taught that your rate of time slows down, and your mass increases until at the speed of light time stops and mass is infinite. The faster you go, the heavier the load becomes, and the less time you have to push. It would take infinite energy to reach the speed of light, whereupon time would cease to pass and your mass would be infinite. Using this as a metaphor for attempts at ecstatic union, it would take infinite consciousness to reach total communion with the Universe. Having met these conditions, you would meet the criteria that many hold true for many concepts of Deities. This imagery may seem a bit extreme, but it underlines a very important point: the effective creation of magickal space revolves around adherence to the patterns of physical, metaphysical, and psychological laws.
The casting of a Circle is an acknowledgment of the limits of human consciousness and is a tool to reach beyond those limits by choosing specfic boundaries and limits. There is a basic human need for division and segmentation in consciousness; that is what we call thought. Our concentration, attention, and rates of information processing are limited. Our limits call forth the necessity for the selection of different modes of awareness for different purposes. When we read, our attention is focused on the message carried by the words—not the slight irregularities in the shapes of the letters caused by the ink spreading into the fibers of the paper. When we dream, certain gates are open to us, but the tools of rational thought are normally confiscated by the guardians of these gates. Humans are tool users, and consciousness was our first tool, not a chipped flint or fire. Although many are versatile, no one tool is applicable for every situation—the same is true for consciousness. Castings and different modes of consciousness are among the tools that, when used with skill, allow us to build and to travel our path to the Universe.
The casting of a Circle is also an opportunity to affirm the parts of yourself that exist outside of the physical frame of reference. It is an opportunity to cocreate and to re-create yourself and your universe in conjunction with whatever name(s) you give to Deity force(s) of immanence and transcendence. It is a way to make easier the shift from the consciousness used to function in daily life to the consciousness used in connecting with Life in the greater sense. A Circle is an attempt at reconciliation between the personal, collective, and transpersonal realities.
Castings are the inception of magick and the creation of intentional paradox. The intent of casting a Circle is, in no small part, an effort to create a model of the Universe that its the scale of human consciousness. The creation of any division or subsetting of the Universe in any way produces paradoxes. The paradox of forming a representation of the infinite, the macrocosm, in terms of the finite, the microcosm, is an unending source of power and inspiration. In my estimation this is the most potent polarity we can use to power our magick.
The old Hermetic idea of the microcosm within the macrocosm is interwoven into many esoteric traditions. It is often expressed in this way: "As above so below, but in another manner." The simplicity of this axiom can be deceptive. Current Western culture tends to overvalue those things that are sophisticated on the surface, transparent in their mechanism of action, and measurable. Poetic truths are often set aside as less important or are trivialized because the concept of mystery is deeply suspect. This poetic Hermetic axiom applies across temporal or spatial spans. It is the connecting rainbow bridge between times, places, and differences of scale or vibration, and as such is a harmonizer of the paradoxes produced in the creation of sacred space.
The intentional paradox of a magickal casting is a poetic truth that is seemingly self-contradictory but coherent. The apparent simplicity of a fertilized egg, a hazelnut, or the moment before the Big Bang is each held as similar as a state of beginning by this axiom. Wiccan magick contains many poetic truths that are great levelers, that bring the sense of peer relationship and responsibility to the colossal and the small. Like the Universe, we began with all of our matter and potentiality in one cell, and we proceeded to split and to expand. Life, in its greater sense of all that is evolving, unfolds through the process of specialization, individuation, and harmonious relation to the laws of matter. Viewed in this context, the casting of a Circle is an extension of this process.
Many magickal Traditions use the Four Sacred Directions and Center as a way to plot a coordinate in space/time. In some ways the casting of a Circle is like starting a journey, in that one's bearings must be determined before setting course. Unlike mundane navigation based upon the coordinates of a finite globe, the casting of a Circle is set in all of space and time, and the movement is not through space but through planes of perception and of reality. In Wiccan magick, the Circle is said to take us between the Worlds; in this statement there are twin paradoxes. In being between the Worlds we are in all Worlds, and in no Worlds. Although we are elsewhere and elsewhen in a Circle, we still stand upon the ground and in the time wherein the Circle was cast. Even in the end, the Circle is open but unbroken because it exists in time, outside of time, and in the heart.
A Quarters-cast Circle in the Wiccan manner is more than a coordinate, a gate to higher planes, and a paradox—it is a model of the poetic vision of the faith. Present in the Circle is the Wheel of the Year and the intertwining of the Solar and Lunar cycles with the life of the Earth. Present in the Circle is the power of the Elements as well as their manifestations as forces and states, as sylphs, salamanders, undines, and gnomes, and as the five sacred parts of Self: the body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. Present in the Circle are the chants, the incense, the drums, the dances, and the people that shape and are shaped by living traditions.
In its fullness, a Circle can contain a richness so complete that if all of Wicca were lost except for the way to cast a Circle, and its symbolism, the faith would renew itself from that one seed. A Quarters-cast Circle has the potential to be a holographic representation of the evolving energy pattern that is the way of Wicca. The same is potentially true of any casting within the context of a Tradition.
Do not allow the casting of a Circle to become merely the preliminary step in a magickal working. Consider the profundity and the power of creating sacred space in every Circle. Remember and reconnect with the poetic truths that are the seed of sacred space.
O fall the variables to consider, the quality of any casting is determined in the largest part by the internal state of the person or persons involved in the creation of the space. This is one of the reasons why many systems and Traditions of spiritual, magickal, or psychic development place such a high priority on self-knowledge and self-development as prerequisites to initiation and to accomplishment. Depending upon the person, the circumstances of their life, and the stage of their development, the creation and the maintenance of the proper internal state of being that leads to effective ritual may prove difficult. Let's look at some common obstacles to development before moving on to methods of inner preparation for the work.
For many people, the lack of connection to a community, and through that community a deeper experience of themselves through rites of passage and integration, is the greatest obstacle to safe and sane progress in magickal matters. It is true that much of the real Great Work is internal and solitary, but we are social creatures. Healthy spiritual development is hitched to the same yoke as personal empowerment, and until these horses are pulling together, your chariot will not move well. Sorting through the baggage of our upbringing and realizing and correcting our deficits in awareness and experience can be a lengthy and painful process that is never quite complete. But this task is done more effectively, though not necessarily with any less pain, with the help of others.
There is a common but futile temptation to try to buy magickal prowess through tools, powerful incantations, or affiliation with practitioners of great renown in the magickal community. This is aggravated by the materialism of Western culture, where the perception of the intrinsic value of people is reduced and the value of objects or status is increased. Neither a powerful object, nor a magickal place, nor a potent astrological occurrence can substitute for clarity and strength of mind, heart, and purpose. Being the student or the initiate of a powerful teacher or well-known lineage does not guarantee your merit any more than a pedigree guarantees that a puppy will win best of show. Some suggest that we are now moving into an Age when we will use the mind alone, without props, for all our castings; I believe this to be an unbalanced reaction against the spiritual/material dichotomy of the Age that we are leaving. There are tools that can magnify the power of a casting, but the degree of their efficacy depends upon the user. If, by chaos or by fate, a person comes by power that outstrips their capacity or their wisdom to use it, misfortune frequently follows. Tools, physical or nonphysical, are useful and indeed necessary in some cases, and will be discussed later in this book.
Self-development is the basis for magickal training. Even if you are not concerned by admonitions about risks, please consider the benefits that self-development brings to every part of life as reason enough to proceed with a balanced program of magickal training. The process of self-actualization is often slow and arduous, filled with dark nights of the soul, but also brings bright days as well. It tends to follow cycles wherein we think we know nothing, then something, then everything—then nothing again. Do not despair that the road seems long or allow yourself to be trapped in the tyranny of excellence. Many people are vexed by the hidden belief that if something is not perfect, or at the very least is not comparable to the work of masters, it is not worthy. This belief often inhibits development through the imposition of unreasonable standards. If, through a mix-up, an essay written by a high school student were submitted to a college professor by an older sibling and were graded harshly, most people would think the grade inappropriate. Every stage of development has inherent beauty and strengths that are only gained at that stage. Seen in the light of cycles of growth, it becomes clear that effort and participation are the true measures of worth.
Excerpted from CASTING SACRED SPACE by Ivo Dominguez Jr.. Copyright © 2012 Ivo Dominguez Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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