Another “hot button” issue, along with the ethics of whether or not to charge for magickal knowledge, talents and spells, the ethics of using blood magick, the ethics of teaching with accountability, the ethics of teaching children, period, and the ethics of using some magick in general, is the frequent argument about casting a circle.
Some traditions insist that casting a circle for every magickal working is a strict necessity. Others suggest it is a good way to keep magick confined to keep from harming others if some nebulous “something” gets loose during a magickal working, and others do not seem to care one way or another.
On an individual level, I have met witches who swear that circles are crucial to every working; circles are required only when working with dark forces and dark magick. Some witches cast circles for rituals where power gathered from multiple sources is sent as a whole, for religious gatherings and celebrations, and some never use a circle at all preferring to trust in their skill level to control what is necessary.
Initially, I learned to cast a circle by a trad, which insisted it was necessary for every working. I must admit that I do not believe this is necessary any longer. I have cast for more than a couple of decades now, most of it healing magick, and I do not see a need to cast a circle for this type of magick. Beneficial magick is easily controlled now, since I have more experience in it than with any other type. I have learned to work with the feel of the energy and can tell if something is amiss and how to correct it.
I admit that there are spells, celebrations and magickal rituals where I do believe a circle is necessary, I think that once a witch gets a handle on the more common skills and uses of magick, a circle is a personal preference and not a requirement. When I practice alone, I have a simple circle that I have used since I created it back in the mid- 90s.
When casting a circle, it may be set to protect from within, from without or both ways. Use the setting that is most appropriate for your work.
When working alone, on magick that is unfamiliar, by all means, a circle is helpful. It can contain the power raised while the witch is focusing on unfamiliar things and might be distracted. A setting to prevent what is inside the circle from getting out is used, typically, with darker magicks. I would suggest for dark workings, unless you really know what you are doing, have a great deal of experience and control over what you are doing, that for your own protection you remain outside the circle.
To protect what is inside from influences outside the circle is necessary when the spell work or ritual is complex and the witch needs to be free to concentrate fully on what is happening inside the circle without distractions.
Personally, I only suggest a two-way circle when there are new witchlings who need to be protected from external disruption and need to be monitored to prevent their energy from going astray unexpectedly.
However, as with all things magickal, I believe that the witch who is working is the witch who knows best what is needed. Whether the individual witch wants to include their deities, powerful entities, or go it alone, it is the witch’s prerogative. Just as the witch determines the settings of the circle, they must also determine the medium used that best suits the needs of the circle, but that is a discussion for another post. 😉