0) Preparation -- Participants prepare with a ritual bath and/or centring meditation. The altar is set up (usually in the centre or the north) and, if desired, quarter altars and circle boundary markers are set up.
1) Banishing -- With broom, or with words, or with gestures, go around the circle (widdershins or deosil, depending upon your preference) and evict whatever doesn't belong at the rite.
Lead the entire group in noisy random drumming or shouting to chase out the nasties
Lead the entire group in a centring/cleansing meditation.
2) Purification with the Elements:
a) With Earth and Water -- Pour the salt (Earth) into the water (silently, or with appropriate words) and, starting in the east, sprinkle the perimeter of the circle and/or the people with it, going deosil.
If the group is small enough, annoint the forehead of the person next to you (silently, or with some appropriate blessing), then pass them the bowl so they can do the same for their neighbour, all around the circle.
b) With Air and Fire -- Light the incense (silently, or with appropriate words), and, starting in the east, cense the perimeter of the circle.
3) Cut the Circle -- Use sword, athame, or bare hands. Start in the east and go deosil, silently or with appropriate words, once or thrice around, depending upon your preference.
4) Call the Quarters -- Separate individuals invoke East, South, West, North, and (optionally) Centre. If no script is given, use whatever words and/or gestures seem appropriate to you.
5) (optional) -- HP/s charges the circle, and/or briefly acknowledges the existence of a completed circle. If Centre has been invoked, this step is almost certainly redundant.
6) Invocations -- Goddess and God are invoked, usually by the HPs and HP.
At the end of the ritual:
1) The Gods and the Elements are bidden farewell by the individuals who called them, in the reverse of the order in which they were invoked. If no script is provided, use whatever words/gestures seem appropriate.
2) (optional) The person who cut the circle retraces widdershins with the sword, unmaking it.
3) The HP/s declares the circle open.
The first five steps of the circle casting may each be done by different individuals. Thus, up to nine people, besides the HPs and HP, may take active roles in the circle casting. Conversely, everything may be done by a single person working alone.
Often, especially if there is no elaborate scripting or special instructions, these roles are handed out at the last minute. A group that's accustomed to the same ritual framework may even play "ritual tag" -- the HPs picks the person to start, and thereafter each person, after completing their bit, tags someone to do the next segment.
Ritual tag is not appropriate if there are unskilled ritualists, or people accustomed to different ritual formats, present.
Remember always that intent and focus are more important than words and gestures. Some of the most powerful rituals ever performed have been done with no ritual tools, and with a minimum of formalities.
Some groups do everything deosil (clockwise), and never move widdershins (counterclockwise) even to banish.
Some groups begin in the north rather than the east.
Some groups omit the banishing and/or the Elemental purifications. Conversely, some groups expand this part, carrying each of the four elemental symbols around the circle separately.
In some groups, the ritual leader(s) cast the circle alone, while everyone else waits elsewhere. Then participants are admitted to the circle one at a time, with a challenge and/or a greeting/ and/or an annointing or censing.
In some groups, certain ritual tasks are assigned by gender. In other groups, the gender of participants is considered irrelevant.
If in doubt about any of these factors, ask before the ritual begins.
SAMPLE ELEMENTAL INVOCATIONS
Guardians of the East, powers of Air, Gentle morning breezes and sweeping storms, Source of knowledge and of change, Come, watch over our rite, and be welcome. Blessed be! Guardians of the South, powers of Fire, Hot noontide sunlight and dancing flames, Source of will and passion, Come, watch over our rite, and be welcome. Blessed be! Guardians of the West, powers of Water, Deep ocean tides and gentle evening rains, Source of courage and love and intuition, Come, watch over our rite, and be welcome. Blessed be! Guardians of the North, powers of Earth, Steep icy mountains and dark midnight forests, Source of hidden strength and silent endurance, Come, watch over our rite, and be welcome. Blessed be! Guardians of the _____, powers of _____, Thank you for your presence at our rite. Go if you must, stay if you will. Hail and farewell!Copyright © 1995, 1997, Margarian Bridger