Black spirits and white, red spirits and grey
come ye, come ye, come ye that may!
Around and around, throughout and about
The good come in, and the ill keep out!

— Doreen Valiente

In the Craft, there are two ways in which we prepare a space for working. The most common is to create “sacred space”. If the working is formal and ritualized in nature, we will also “build the temple” — cast a formal circle and call on representatives of each direction to assist us in the working.

For most purposes outside of initiate Craft (the Wicca), sacred space is the perfect choice. As with many esoteric skills, the primary “work” is done with visualization. The person creating the space must envision the area being washed clean in some way. Most traditions use the image of white or blue light.

The invocation calls on the four elements to come if they like. Most modern pagans are familiar with elemental color associations. I teach my students three sets of color associations:

Popular “Gardnerian” Native American “Medicine Wheel” British Traditional Craft (New Forest)
North Green White Black
East Yellow Yellow Red
South Red Red White
West Blue Black Grey

As you can see, the Valiente invocation uses the New Forest colors for the Airts (spirits of the directions). Thus, in using it, one calls on north, south, east and west, and ask those spirits to 1) show up, 2) go throughout the sacred space and 3) go outside the space to protect it.

Unlike most formal circle casting procedures, this invocation does not necessitate the actual drawing of a circle, nor does it bind the area into a restrictive space. However, with a minor modification, it can be used to cast circle.

Black spirits and white, Red spirits and grey,
Come ye, come ye, come ye that may.
Throughout and about, around and around,
The circle be drawn, the circle be bound.

— Doreen Valiente, The Rebirth of Witchcraft

The actual casting of a circle requires actively directing energy to form a modified sphere around a working space. This energy should, ideally, form a nearly impenetrable wall. Should one unwittingly walk “through” the wall of a properly cast circle, he will FEEL it, and probably have a throbbing headache in short order! Therefore, circle casting is best reserved for times when people are not likely to be leaving and reentering the space frequently.

The following is a more elaborate circle casting rune by Doreen Valiente for this purpose.

Black spirits and white, red spirits and grey
hearken to the rune I say.

Four points of the circle, weave the spell
East, South, West, North, your tale to tell

East is red, for the break of day
South is white for the noontide hour
In the West, is twilight grey
And North is black for the place of power.

Three times’ round, the circle is cast
Great ones, spirits from the past
Witness it and guard it fast.

— Doreen Valiente

Circle casting is a fine art that anyone can learn, but one can only become proficient at through careful practice. As for the invocations, there are hundreds in print which can be used, and it is perfectly possible to create one for a given situation or ritual. Some witches even cast with no words, using only the force of their developed visualization techniques. I have used Valiente’s words here because they are simple to learn and reasonably traditional.

Suggested Reading on sacred space and circle casting:

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