Opening, Closing, and Cloaking: How to Begin and End A Spell
Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the east, powers of air and invention, hear us!
Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the south, powers of fire and feeling, hear us!
Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the west, powers of water and intuition, hear us!
Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the north, by the powers of mother and earth, hear us! *
Even if you haven’t played and replayed this iconic “calling the corners” scene from The Craft, you may have heard that phrase from other witches and magic-makers as an example of the proper way to begin your spellwork. Others call it “casting a circle”, “opening the door”, "setting sacred space" etc etc... but what the heck does it all mean and why should I do it?!
Intentionally beginning a spell (or ritual, or prayer, or whatever!) is a way to announce your intention to whichever spirits are listening. It’s a way to create a sacred space inside your physical space where you can’t be bothered, a container where your magic can gather and build up rather than escape into the great wide world before it’s fully formed.
And it’s a practical way to separate regular time from spellcasting time: sometimes I need to be extremely clear with myself about when it’s time to do magic, and when it’s time to wonder if the hardware store on Lafayette street has the right size bathtub plug for my drain (they don’t, btw).
Having an “official” start to your spell can help you get in a witchy frame of mind before you get down to business, and having an official "end" can help you transition back into the mundane world. There are countless ways to do that, but here are some simple suggestions!
Cloaking is a little different than casting a circle or calling the corners, because instead of announcing your presence to Spirit, you’re hiding your presence from entities or humans who you don’t want involved in your magic. This could be for any number of reasons (everyone deserves privacy without question!) but it’s particularly helpful for witches in the broom closet or living with intolerant housemates. In the above scene from the Pen15 episode "Vendy Wiccany", Maya and Anna do NOT cloak themselves from the prying eyes of their classmate and it... doesn't go great.
Eliza Swann of The Golden Dome School taught me this method, which we open every Secret Circle meetup with: tune yourself into the textures and patterns of the room you’re in, and imagine pulling them over you like a cloak. You’re a chameleon blending in with the floor, the walls, the furniture. You move, your cloak moves with you. When it’s time to drop your cloak, just imagine it sliding off of you like any other garment of clothing.
CASTING A CIRCLE
This is probably the simplest way to begin a spell: envision a circle around yourself (and your coven, if you’re working with friends). You can bring in color magic and cast a blue circle for communication spells, a red circle for motivational spells, etc. You can also create a physical circle with salt (yes, like in Hocus Pocus), ribbon, crystals, troll dolls, whatever you feel is the right boundary-setter for your space.
The circle is a magical shape, symbolizing the Moon and the cyclical nature of life; drawing your own circle in the air or with ritual items is like a signal to the forces of the universe that you’re intentionally creating sacred space. Those forces will protect you inside your circle from any spirits who wish to fuck up your work.
CALLING THE CORNERS
Calling the four directions is a little more elaborate, and can help orient you at the midpoint of global energies, like the center of a compass, drawing energy in and radiating energy out.
Essentially, you focus your energy on one direction at a time and announce your presence, just like the coven from The Craft. However, I prefer to word my corner-calling as a “thank you” rather than a demand for attention. So rather than “Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the South, powers of fire and feeling, hear us!” I might say “Hail to the guardians of the watchtowers of the South, powers of fire and feeling, we honor you” or “we thank you for your protection” or something like that. But that’s just me ;)
I love calling the corners, it gives me a chill every time and really makes me feel like a witch. But in my witchly research, I kept finding conflicting information about which direction represents what and why (and not everyone assigns a direction to an element). The “why” was the most elusive, as I tried my best to discern which source was the most “correct”.
Some of the books I consulted followed the same system as The Craft; websites had more variation. Some blogs and websites placed fire in the East to align with the sunrise, and that was kind of my first “aha!” moment that there was intention behind these placements. So I got to thinking.
Salem, MA is an east-coastal city. When I’m in my home in front of my hearth, the ocean is to the east. The rest of the continental US is to the west. Winds come down here from up North (sometimes really fucking our day up), and the equator is to my south. So my corners are:
So logic! Much sense! And also helpful for arriving in my physical body where it exists right then. You can’t access your astral self unless you’re in tune with your physical self.
I also like to invite the unseen folk to participate in my spells, so I might also add:
East- Mermaids, Sirens, Selkies, etc
West- Gnomes, Animal Guides
North- Faeries, Sylphs, Angels, Star Beings
South- Salamanders, Phoenix
But again, that’s just me! You can invite deities, ancestors, beloved cartoon characters, whatever makes you feel connected and witchy.
CLOSING A SPELL
Closing a spell is like taking a snapshot of the moment you felt the most powerful + connected, and placing it on the energetic timeline of the space you're physically occupying. Spirits and other entities who move through and around time infinitely can still encounter your circle and add their positive energy, even though you've left the physical space and your mind has moved on.
It’s also a way to avoid that awkward, open-one-eye “did it work? Is it over?” moment. If you’re working with a coven, closing the circle lets everyone know that the ritual has ended and it’s time to get to feasting (a very important post-spell activity, imo).
Remember too that all sorts of complicated thoughts and feelings can come up during spellwork; giving yourself a definite end time can help bring your energy back to its resting frequency so you aren’t walking around leaking energy everywhere. An easy way to close your spell is by grounding yourself, taking a few deep breaths, and making a statement like “so it is” “so mote it be” or “later gator, thanks for the magic!” I also like to borrow a little trick for managing regular anxiety: look around the room and list 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, and if you want something you can smell and/or something you can taste. Take another deep breath. Welcome back!
So there you go! Hopefully your wheels are turning with tons of ideas for customizing your opening and closing ceremonies. Let us know if you have any revolutionary revelations, and make sure to send Q’s for our next Ask A Witch on Instagram Live!
by Paige Curtin/@junk_witch
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