The location of the magick circle was also another important consideration. Isolation was extremely important, to avoid being discovered and then subject to punishment. In his Discoverie of Witchcraft, Scot went into some detail on this subject:
“As for the places of Magickal Circles … either in Woods or Deserts, or in a place where three wayes meet, or amongst ruines of Castles, Abbies, Monasteries, &c or upon the Seashore when the Moon shines clear, or else in some large Parlour hung with black, and the floor covered with the same, with doors and windows closely shut, and Waxen Candles lighted.”
More than two centuries earlier, in 1323, French judicial records describe the actions of a band of monks and canons near Paris who wished to recover stolen money. They planned to stand in a circle made from the skin of a cat, and from within the magick circle to invoke the demon Berith to answer their inquiries. However the use of magick circles went beyond clerical nigromancy in the following centuries. The Directorium Inquisitorum of the Catalan Dominican Nicolàs Eymerich, printed in 1376 described three types of witchcraft, and the third of these has clear parallels to the practices regarding the ‘princes of the thumb’ referred to in the previous chapter, A Real Witch’s Weapon, and links witchcraft to the magick circle and the sword at a very early date. Eymerich refers to:
“The witchcraft of those who summon up devils by tracing magickal signs, by placing a child in the middle of a circle, by using a sword or mirror.”
A few decades later in 1452 a woman was charged with witchcraft in Provins in France, of conjuring the devil with her associated group of witches by tracing three concentric circles on the ground. This clearly parallels the magick circles found in grimoires such as the Key of Solomon.
The use of a triple circle in folk magick was also to be found in Russia in the Middle Ages. In his definitive volume The Bathhouse at Midnight, Ryan records a livestock protection ritual performed on January 6th:
“The owner was to bring home some water from the Blessing of the Water ceremony, put a sheaf of mixed cereal crops in the form of a cross in the farmyard, and then drive in the livestock. The owner’s wife was to put on her sheepskin coat inside out, draw a circle with an axe three times round the sheaves and livestock while holding in the other hand an icon and a candle. The owner followed her sprinkling the blessed water over the sheaves and animals with a bunch of head of rye. The wife then threw the axe over the animals.”
In referring to the witch trial of Mrs Samuel in 1593, Richard Boulton reproduced an interesting image in his 1715 work A Compleat History of Magick, Sorcery and Witchcraft. The picture shows a witch in a double magick circle, containing candles. She has a book (Liber Spirituum) at her feet and waves a wand at the devil she has conjured. This image is striking as it shows a witch in a double magick circle conjuring a demon, which she has clearly summoned using the book lying at her feet. To put this into perspective, this image shows a witch performing grimoire magick, giving a clear convergence of the two forms of magick in the early eighteenth century.
(Mrs Samuel, The Witch, in Richard Boulton’s
A Compleat History of Magick, Sorcery and Witchcraft, 1715)
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.