I’ve often heard people saying that you should always work inside a magic circle, and other people saying they never bother with one. Here are some of the pros and cons of using a magic circle when doing ritual or magical work.
In my experiences, there are three main reasons to use a circle.
1) To take you ‘between the worlds’. The casting of the circle is seen as creating a ‘sacred space’ that exists halfway between, or simultaneously in, both the material and the spiritual worlds (astral/ethereal). This can help your magic because it has less ‘resistance’ to break through by having to work across realms, your circle can serve as a conduit between the realms through which your magic can flow more smoothly.
2) To keep energy (or things) in. By casting a circle you are creating a barrier with which to contain the energy you are raising within. Sort of like a pressure cooker is used to contain the heat and pressure to more effectively concentrate it for whatever use you are working towards. The energy can then be either focused within the circle, such as when charging an amulet, or released by breaking the circle, at which time the energy the explodes outward in various ways depending on the skill and intent of the person(s) focusing it. It can also be used as a ‘cage’ to keep anything you summon/stir/call/rouse/etc. within your area and keep it from freely roaming about the material realm.
3) To keep energy (or things) out. The other common usage of magic circles is to keep energy or things out of where you are working. If you start raising energy, things that like energy will be attracted to it. You most likely don’t want these things strolling through your working area, as they can be distracting, disruptive or worse. In this case the circle serves as a shield to keep these unwanted influences away while you are doing your work.
You may find that one, two or all three of these methods may be used simultaneously depending on the kind of work you are doing.
Some considerations against using a magic circle include:
1) Shields block energy. If you are trying to raise energy from the natural world around you, having something shielding you from it can be counter-productive. It is like having a ritual to celebrate the sun and starting it by closing all the drapes. Yes, some light might still get in, but you’re blocking the very thing you’re trying to connect with. Some people create magic circles designed to let certain types of energy in or out, but that may also require additional concentration and energy to maintain the special shielding.
2) Shields take energy. It takes energy to construct and maintain a circle, and you might prefer to use that energy in your ritual or work itself.
3) You just don’t need one. Sometimes you just intuitively know you don’t need one. Sometimes you are doing pure ritual without raising energy, and there really isn’t any point to erect a barrier.
4) It’s ‘fast magic’. Sometimes the magic working is a simple casting off of energy with intent to focus it. There isn’t any formal ritual, just a simple ‘casting’. In this case there is no need to create a circle because by the time you’ve started working, you’re already done. The circle wouldn’t add anything to the work.
As a final note, people confuse a magic circle with their body’s natural aura. A circle and an aura are two different things. Your aura is always with you, and is the spiritual projection of your physical body (or vice-versa). A magic circle is a something that you construct, not an intrinsic part of you.
Depending on how you use your circles, a person’s natural ‘shielding’ may or may not be a magic circle. Some people maintain a simple shield, while others may maintain a constant magic circle that they walk within. This varies according to the person.