How To Open & Close Your Magic Circle With The Elements
Casting a circle is a ritual many witches do before performing magic, practicing divination, or really any occasion when you need to work with energy. There are many ways to cast a circle, and a very powerful way to do this is by “calling in the quarters”. This is a term used by witches that describes the process of calling on the help of each element, one-by-one at the beginning of a ritual or any sacred occasion. There are several reasons witches choose to invoke the energy of the elements. It’s done as a form of protection while doing witchcraft, a way to add more power to whatever magic you’re practicing, or simply a way to feel connected to nature during a meditation.
If you’ve never called on the elements when casting a circle, or you’ve done it before but are curious to go deeper into this magical process, here’s everything you need to know when opening and closing your circle with the elements.
The Four Classical Elements & Their Directions
Earth, air, fire, and water are the four classical elements used to call in the quarters. Some witches also include a fifth element—spirit. You are welcome to do that as well if that resonates with you. Each element is associated with a specific direction, certain colors, and a list of energetic qualities.
These are the directions you’ll face as you call the corresponding element. You can figure out the directions by using the stars, referencing geographical landmarks, noting the placement of the sun, consulting a compass, or by using a handy app on your phone.
Traditional Qualities Of Each Element
When you call on each element, you’ll ask it to bring guidance or power in the form of certain energetic qualities. You can use the traditional elemental associations, or create your own based on your personal experiences with each element.
Earth is known for abundance, discipline, prosperity grounding energy, stability, balance, fertility, growth, calmness, patience, endurance, and permanence.
Air is known for rapid movement, mental clarity, thought, open-mindedness, creativity, communication, imagination, intellect, and learning.
Fire is known for passion, power, motion, transformation, sun energy, willpower, motivation, enthusiasm, courage, sex, and initiative.
Water is known for emotions, fluidity, empathy, relationships, divination, sensitivity, intuition, and love.
Although those are the traditional associations, you can also make a list of qualities you personally connect with each element. For example: if whenever you think about fire, you think about your family because of all the campfires and camping trips you’ve taken together, the element of fire may represent family and love for you. If you were a competitive swimmer, you might associate water with adrenaline, excitement, and ambition. If you’d like to explore this way of using the elements in your witchcraft, spend some time journaling. Write the name of the element at the top of each page, and jot down all the words, memories, people, or images that come to mind. Try calling on those associations when opening your circle.
Representing The Elements In Your Circle
When you cast a circle using the elements, you’ll need to represent them in some way. You can do this with magical tools, colors, or with any object that you associate with that element.
Magical Card Decks
Tarot cards are one of my favorite ways to represent each element. The four suits of the cards line up perfectly with the four elements. Pentacles for earth, swords for air, wands for fire, and cups for water. You can go through your deck and pull out four cards that you intuitively feel will properly represent each element. If you go this route, think about the characteristics of each element, and pick a card that supports those characteristics. The Empress is a fertile, sensual, earthy woman, and I use that card to represent the element of earth very frequently. The Hierophant and High Priestess are wise, spiritual leaders. I often chose one of those cards to represent air.
Oracle cards can absolutely be used as well. Animal-themed decks are perfect for this because different animals have inherent elemental associations. Fish for water, deer for earth, phoenix for fire, birds for air, etc. Some oracle decks are angel-themed or simply have one word or phrase on each card. It’s quite illuminating to go through your cards and decide what element is most closely associated with each angel, word or phrase. Not only does this give you a better understanding of your deck, but it will also get you familiar with the qualities of each element very quickly. If you have other witchy friends, this is a fun activity to do together.
Candles, though typically representing the element of fire, can be used to represent any of the elements if you use color. Pick colors that you intuitively feel represent each element or go by the traditional associations.
Earth—brown, green, or gold
Air—light blue, white, or yellow
Fire—red, orange, or gold
Water—blue, silver, or light green
Crystals, like candles, are a highly versatile magical tool. Most commonly, crystals represent the element of earth, but they can do so much more! Choose crystals by color associations, or the energetic qualities they hold.
Rose quartz is a stone used to support positive relationships, love, friendships, and familial bonds. For those reasons, you can use rose quartz to represent water.
Carnelian is sometimes referred to as the artist’s stone. It carries the energetic qualities of passion and enthusiasm which would make this stone a good representation of fire. It could also be used for the element of air because of its incredibly potent creative energy.
In a pinch, you can use one item to represent all four of the elements. A cup of hot tea is perfect for this purpose. The herbs that you use to brew the tea represent earth. The liquid in the cup represents water. The heat radiating from the cup of tea represents fire. The steam rising up from the liquid represents air.
Incense is often used to represent air because of the smoke and smell the incense emits, or earth because of the herbs used in the incense.
Other Magical Objects
Earth can be represented with a bowl of salt, dirt, rocks, sticks, tree bark, leaves, coins, bread, cake, seeds, or fruit.
Air can be represented with a wand, a bell, a feather, incense, or steam from a cauldron or essential oil diffuser.
Fire can be represented with a candle, an athame, or some smoldering incense.
Water can be represented with a cauldron, bowl, or a chalice filled with liquid. The liquid doesn’t necessarily have to be water. You can use honey, wine, tea, or any kind of liquid you feel is appropriate. You can also use an object that reminds you of water like glass, a mirror, or a shiny piece of metal.
This one is a bit unconventional, but if music makes you feel powerful, a song (or series of songs) can be a great way to represent the elements in your circle. For this, go through each element and brainstorm a list of songs you associate with that element.
How To Open The Circle
You can arrange your four elemental objects on your altar in the center of your circle, or you can place them around you in the direction of each element to form the boundaries of your circle.
Make sure you cleanse your space before you begin casting the circle. A simple way to do this is to close your eyes and visualize a white light moving down from the sky and filling your space. This doesn’t need to take very long, maybe you only need a few minutes. You’ll know your space is cleansed because you’ll feel a subtle shift in the energy around you.
Casting The Circle
Once you have everything set up and you’ve cleansed your space, you’re ready to cast your circle. You can stand in the center of the circle to begin, or start by your object representing earth to the north.
If you chose to stand in the center, turn to face the direction of north and point your finger or wand at a place on the floor you wish to cast your circle. Turn in place, holding your finger or wand out to draw an energetic circle all the way around you. If you’ve placed elemental objects to set the boundaries of the circle, make sure you cast your line of energy, so it runs through each of your objects like you’re “connecting the dots”.
If you choose to walk the boundary of your circle, pausing at each direction to verbally call on the element, start in the north and move around your circle until you make a full circle, ending up back at the north.
Some witches will move counterclockwise when they cast their circle with the elements because that is the direction of the earth’s rotation. Other witches go clockwise. It’s totally up to you which method you bring into your practice. If you’re not sure, try both and see which one feels better to you.
Calling In The Elements Or “Calling The Quarters”
As you face different directions or walk around the boundary of your circle, you’ll need to call each element by name and ask it to bring along its energetic qualities to your circle.
I personally use the most straightforward language possible when calling in my elements, but other witches enjoy using beautiful, flowery language to elevate the occasion. Do what works for your personality—but also, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If you stumble over words, say “um”, or have to stop to think of the right words, that’s totally fine. It’s all part of the learning process. Plus, calling in the elements is generally a very “safe” kind of magic. Whatever you do to celebrate the elements is just fine.
As you pause in each of the four positions, verbally call on the associated element. Here’s what I usually say:
“I call on the element of earth. Bring your stability and resilience to my magic today.”
Then I walk to the left for water and say, “I call on the element of water. Bring your fluidity and compassion to my magic today.”
Next, I walk around to the south and say, “I call on the element of fire. Bring the light and heat of your transformative energy to my magic today.”
Then around to the east. “I call on the element of air. Bring me mental clarity as I perform my magic today.”
Then I arrive back at the north to complete the circle.
Once you’ve cast your circle and called in the elements, you’re ready to perform whatever magic, meditation, or ritual you have planned.
How To Close The Circle
After you’ve completed your magical practice and no longer need the circle, you are free to close it by thanking the elements and telling them they can leave if they choose to.
Again, use whatever language you’d like, and try exploring saying different phases until you find a way that feels right to you.
The one thing to keep consistent is that you thank and say goodbye to the elements in the opposite order that you called them in. If you went counterclockwise to call them to your circle, move clockwise to dismiss them (and vice-versa). Also, start at the north, just as before.
Because I keep it simple, I usually dismiss each element the same way.
I say, “Thank you, Earth for co-creating with me. You are free to go, but are welcome to stay.” I say that for each element as I move back around the circle.
You can also thank the element for what the specific energy its brought to the circle. For example, “Thank you, Earth for bringing your stability and grounding energy to my magic today. You are free to go, but welcome to stay.”
Your Circle, Your Practice
Once you learn the basic principles of calling in the quarters, you can add whatever variations fit your individual practice. It might be helpful to talk to other witches to see how they call in the elements or watch some videos on YouTube for ideas. Don’t feel like you need to copy anyone else’s process down to every last detail. And by all means, if you come up with a unique way to represent the elements in your practice, go for it! This is your circle and your practice.
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by Julie Hopkins
Julie Hopkins is a writer, yoga teacher, and founder of Power Within, a whimsical online space created to help others improve their lives with magic. She’s from Chicago, but spends most of her time traveling to cool places.
Julie discovered the world of magic after she got tired of reading personal development books and hearing the same ideas over and over. Looking for a new way to grow, Julie started experimenting with tarot cards and felt an immediate connection to her intuition in a way she’d never experienced before. After that, she began studying magic in all its forms, never looking back. When she’s not writing about witchy things, you can find Julie making candles, daydreaming, and playing with other people’s dogs and babies.