Many ancient cultures recognize the synergy of the circle and its inherent power. Learn how to use it as a focal point for your rites and rituals.
Nature uses circles or spheres to build and organize. It’s also a standard behavior of energy. Drop an object into water, and you will see how the energy projects outward in equal concentric rings.
Circular structures are a preferred type of construction for everything from the cells in our bodies to trees. This spherical shape is stable and sturdy. We observe the world through eyes with a circular iris.
The Sacred Magical Space
The circle is a simple but eloquent symmetric geometric shape with a central axis from which the distance to the center is equal. The curve of the line around this axis maintains the same arc. It is a shape challenging to draw freehand. If this arc is off 1%, most people can see this flaw.
A magical space is a vortex of energy traveling outward. When we contain this energy within any enclosure, it reverberates. Over time, it will dissipate unless the energy source produces more. People are both the generators and containers of this force. Gathering together in a circular pattern is a way to generate and direct the vibration.
An excellent example of the use of the practical and synergistic effect of this shape is the use of the fire circle. Here, people used the light of the fire and drums to create community. It provides the ability to connect with many people in a small space. It is also a common shape for ancient camps and caravans because it provides practical protection.
“The ‘squaring of the circle’ is one of the many archetypal motifs which form the basic patterns of our dreams and fantasies. But it is distinguished by the fact that it is one of the most important of them from the functional point of view. Indeed, it could even be called the archetype of wholeness.” — Carl Jung
Many places incorporate the symmetry of a circle into their design. The arch is a symbolic doorway that links to a sacred magical space or portal. Many structures like temples and churches have arched ceilings. Arches are self-supporting forms. Many churches decorate these vaulted spaces to draw our attention.
The Synergy of the Circle
Many cultures use this symbol. For instance, the Greeks saw it as a symbol of divine symmetry and balance in nature. However, the Greeks refer to the Egyptians as the inventors of geometry. The author of the Egyptian Rhind papyrus, Ahmes, shows us the rule for determining the area of a circle. The wheel is a practical application of this shape.
They say hermetics (1) is the birthplace of real alchemy and magic. It’s an esoteric tradition (2) based upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice Great”) (3). It talks about spheres as planets and how they have their unique characteristics.
The Kybalion is a classic work of Hermetic Philosophy, originally published in 1908 under a pseudonym. It expounds on the idea that motion is manifest in everything in the Universe, that nothing rests, and everything moves in a circular or spiral fashion.
One thing that all cultures have in common is their affinity for using this shape. It holds inherent power because of its uniform shape. It is a powerful symbol and typology today. As a sphere or round object, they often represent harmony and unity. It is a versatile shape. Each culture adopts and adapts this shape for its own needs.
The synergy of the circle is the secret to the operation of magic. Creating this kind of magical space is fundamental to the practice of harnessing energy. You can do this by marking the ground. Attach a string to a stick in the center and walk around, tracing the circumference. The area within becomes your sacred magical space for everything from healing to protection spells. You can also create circles within circles for more advanced processes.
The Circle as a Universal Typology or Archetype
“Archetypes are universal, and, in subtle or extravagant ways, interchangeable.” — Tanith Lee
There are six primary universal shapes or symbols from which most other archetypes are made. A dot, a straight line, a triangle, the cross, an S shape, and a circle. The latter represents totality, wholeness, and the demonstration of perfection. For these reasons, the circular shape is often used with other shapes to create unique meanings. (4)
“All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes.” — Carl Jung
A circle suggests a sphere and so becomes a three-dimensional representation of time and space. It is a symbol of celestial unity. A shape that is echoed in the heavens with our closest lunar partner, the moon. It has become codified in ancient texts like the Hermes Trismegistus, which says, “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.”
“The Pearl of Great Price” is a typology of the circle which is found in the New Testament, Matthew 13:46, and shows the extent to which this symbolism permeant culture. The shape is married with other forms to create more complex meanings. A winged circle represents the primordial cosmic pair. Twin circles represent male and female genders. The Dioscuri or triple circle represents the triad, the three persons of the trinity, and four circles form an x, which is the Celtic cross. The seven-fold circle symbolizes the “all-knower.”
“Concern for the symbol has completely disappeared from our science. And yet, if one were to give oneself the trouble, one could easily find, in certain parts at least of contemporary mathematics… symbols as clear, as beautiful, and as full of spiritual meaning as that of the circle and mediation. From modern thought to ancient wisdom, the path would be short and direct if one cared to take it.” — Simone Weil
Many cultures use this shape as a vital part of healing rituals. Shamanic practices still use fire as a central point, with circles surrounding it to denote where certain people should sit, stand, or dance. Reiki uses them in many of their hand-motions and sigils. Circular motion is a classic method in Tai Chi and Tai Ka to collect and direct energy.
Witchcraft and Wicca use the synergy of the circle. The classic form is gathering around a fire. Its value as a focal point and mechanism to generate power is fundamental to these arts. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round. You can draw a circle in the air with your hand. This shape and its cousin, the spiral, are common elements of Eastern healing and martial arts. You can create sacred magical space anywhere.
Western organized religions use the symbol of the circle extensively. It represents the halo, a sign of divinity. It is represented in the crown of thorns, which is one of the ancient interrogation devices used in many cultures before Christianity. (5) It was a way of mocking, torturing, interrogating, pushing in, or twisting to cause more pain.
Three circles intertwined form the Triquetra, an ancient Celtic symbol of unity, here used to represent the trinity. The most common representation is the use of a ring to symbolize a bond of commitment. It’s used in many marriage ceremonies, not just within Western religion.
Creating Rites and Rituals with Circles
Personal rituals have power. The symbols we use help generate and focus our intent and willpower. Reiki is an excellent example of how symbols enable us to focus our energy. Reiki is a relatively new alternative healing art created by Mikao Usui (6) from Japan in the 1920s, using hand gestures to focus their intent. Many of these contain circular motions.
You don’t have to create a whole new healing arts system. However, you can develop your symbols to create meaningful rites or rituals. These rituals are a way of commemorating, honoring, or celebrating a milestone.
Many masters and teachers tell us that creating symbols is more effective than copying someone else’s ritual or pattern. It’s easy to develop ceremonies incorporating the synergy of the circle. It will become a powerful tool in your practice. You can use it to create your own sacred magical space.
If you play a simple game, you will see how prevalent the shape of a circle is in our modern world. Aside from every car on the street, there are thousands of opportunities to find this ubiquitous shape. It’s one of the common street signs and one of the most used forms for advertising logos.
“There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the forms of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action.” — Carl Jung
We hope this article sparks your imagination for ways to incorporate the synergistic power of this shape into your life. If you like our content, perhaps you’d like to buy us a cup of coffee? Use the donate button to help keep us online. If you have suggestions or questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
(1) hermetic knowledge or Hermetic Writings: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hermetic-writings
(2) Western Esotericism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_esotericism
(4) An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, J.C. Cooper, 1987: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/211588.Illustrated_Encyclopaedia_of_Traditional_Symbols
(3) Hermes Trismegistus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_Trismegistus
(5) Myths & Legends, Babylonia and Assyria, Lewis Spence, 1916: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupid?key=ha007692812
(6) Mikao Usui and Reiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikao_Usui