When I started out on the Wiccan path, I read a lot. I read Wicca 101 books, Pagan articles, and I searched the whole Internet for Pagan blogs. My friends and I did lots of rituals, that we had written ourselves because we thought that made them most powerful, and we took turns with things like calling quarters or casting spells- except for one thing. I always, and I mean always, cast the circle.
It took a while for me to gradually realize I was the sole circle caster. When I finally said something, my friends told me to just do the circle and they would take care of everything else. They split every thing else equally between them while I continued to be responsible for the circle- purifying, setting up the altar, casting, and then releasing. And I thought that was very one-sided. So I complained.
Finally the truth came out. I was good at it. One of my friends said when I cast the circle it was like a curtain was being drawn around the altar. The world receded. The focal point became us and the magick. Nothing else mattered. When I opened the circle, the room became normal again. Once more it had walls and furniture. A cast circle is a point of light in vast space.
I really hadn't noticed anything unusual other than the ritual space would get hot like not enough air circulating. For me the room didn't go away, but I did tend to forget about it. I would be very focused on the altar, but I didn't ever feel like we weren't anywhere but the living room. I didn't have the sensation of between worlds. I also noticed that no matter how much light we had the outside of the circle would be very shadowy.
Most Wicca 101 books will tell you to draw a circle on the ground. Either trace it with your finger or a sword. The circle is a boundary. Some will tell you to imagine blue flames. That doesn't get it for me. I don't cast circles. I cast spheres.
If the circle is a boundary, if it really and truly keeps unwanted energy out, then it should protect from every direction. It should be large enough to contain the ritual area. Witches should be comfortable in it and able to move about freely. Some people think cats are able to cross circle lines. Bullshit. I have never had an animal of any kind cross one of my circles. Air Witch had lots of cats. None of them ever came in the circle during ritual. If your pet can cross your boundary then you didn't cast a circle, you drew some lines on the floor. If the circle didn't stop a house cat then what else can go waltzing across your working?
I also don't think circles are broken by touch. If it takes a good bit of energy to put one in place then me bumping into it shouldn't cause the circle to collapse. Circles aren't soap bubbles. I have cast permanent circles (circles left up in gardens, the woods, or ritual rooms to either protect or to contain magick for extended workings) and those stay up indefinitely despite wind, rain, nosey people, and time. They don't last forever. Circles need attention just like a houseplant needs light and water. The energies need to move, be directed, or be released. The circle needs to be cleaned and re-established. Left alone they stand for a few days. Maintained they stand for months. A permanent sacred space, like Stonehenge, will stand as long as people view it as a place of magick.
I usually cast my circle by starting at the North point and moving clockwise. Sometimes I start at East if I wanted new beginnings. South would be good for passion and West would be good for emotions. I cast with my hand. I direct energy from myself to the ground. I walk around the entire circle, drawing the energy around me. When I get back to my starting point, I visualize the circle glowing brightly, then I imagine the energy surging up in a wave, covering the entire area then flowing beneath my feet so that I am encased in a perfect sphere. My circles are always bright. They are usually gold. Sometimes they are electric blue or sparkling purple. I think if something unwanted touched my circle it would get an electrical shock. What your circle looks like depends on what you think magick is. Does magick have shadows? Does it shine? Does it pulse or hum? Is it made of elements- earth, air, fire, and water? Or are the elements magick broken down into base components?
If you don't have some answers to a few of these questions you can't cast.
That goes for all spells, not just circles. Every single ingredient in a spell represents an energy. All those separate energies should unify into one. Not being able to meld energies, or not understanding what those energies should do and thus leaving them undirected, leads to misfired spells. If your spells don't go as planned, if none of them seem to work, or if they work at the wrong time, then you need to start paying attention to details. Before you cast a spell, you should know why you are casting, what you want to happen, and you should have an idea of how life will be if you do get what you want. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew.
Circles are easier to cast than spells. Circles are vessels. Spells are actions. Circles stay in one place. Spells go out into the world and the more things they encounter, the more they shift. Circles are easy to control. Spells need to move to work. Spells can easily get beyond your control quickly. I think Witches should learn circles before spells because circles are a great way to learn how to direct energy. You can cast circles around yourself or objects. When you learn to take up, open, or release a circle you learn how to redirect energy which is an ideal skill for dealing with difficult people. You can avoid a lot of stress of you just learn how to avoid it when you see it coming.
A circle is always taken down in the opposite manner is which it was constructed. That means the sphere retracts in the opposite direction and you walk or draw counterclockwise. It means if the energy came from you, it goes back into you. Think about this carefully- are you carrying it? Is it healing? If you were doing some banishing work, you might not want to drawn that in but rather place that energy into a poppet or some object that can be thrown away. Of course, if I were doing a banishing I would choose to keep as much of my own energy separate. I would cast my circle by drawing from Nature or from a higher power to protect myself and I would release that energy back into the source or into the spell that was the vehicle for change. In a banishing, strive to stay as separate as possible. Whereas in a love spell, a blending of energies is encouraged. Psychic spells need more opening and money spells needs to draw energy in.
Circles also are excellent for banishing. In this case, you are containing unwanted energies into a vessel that is obliterated. Do you have a stalker or a nasty person who makes your life hell? Mentally draw a circle around the person. Be firm in your belief that they are trapped. Now collapse the circle in on itself and let it wink out of existence. See it going into a black hole or see empty space where the person was. I did this to a person who repeatedly told lies about me in the workplace. I drew a circle around her every time I saw her, every time I thought of her, and every time her name was mentioned. One day, she came into work upset. She was annoyed with everybody. She got into several arguments. At lunch she left and never came back. It took about 6 weeks to remove her from my life. The more entrenched a person is, the longer it will take to remove them.
You can draw circles around your bed while you sleep. You can place them around objects to keep them from being stolen or lost. Circles around plants will help them grow. Circling money can help to draw more money, use the highest bill in you procession. A circle around your car will protect it while you drive.
A circle can be adapted for almost any use. All you have to do is get into the habit of casting them.