The use of a magick circle also turns up frequently in the folk practices of Ireland, often in association with the fairy or other spirits. In 1849 Dublin University Magazine described the case of a woman by the name of Betty Sullivan, who died in childbirth. She was laid out for a wake and mourners cried over her body for two days and nights. At this point her husband dreamed that Betty wasn't dead at all, but that she had in fact been carried off by some of the ‘good people’ to nurse the child of the fairy king, Donn Firinne. In the dream Betty’s husband was told that if he still had feelings for her he could rescue her if he adhered to the following instructions at the cross-roads of Ballinatray at midnight:
"and there performing certain incantations, as precisely at that hour she was to pass by with a grand cavalcade of fairy ladies and gentlemen. He was to know her by seeing her mounted on a white horse at the rear of the whole party. First of all he was to provide himself with some holy water and a prayer-book, as well as some sprigs of yarrow, which should be cut by moonlight with a black-handled knife, certain mystic words having been first pronounced on the herb..."
Once he arrived at the appointed place he was to sprinkle it with the holy water, using the yarrow and then draw a circle round him on the road, large enough for the fairy procession to pass through. Then using a hazel wand he had to draw a cross in the circle, starting at the eastern point and ending at the Western. Having repeated certain prayers facing the Moon he had to fix his eye on the white horse his wife was on and pull her off, if possible, once she was near enough without leaving the circle himself. If he failed, Betty would be lost to him forever; luckily for the couple he succeeded and rescued her.
There are several elements of note in this story when exploring the origins of Wiccan magickal practices. Not only the midnight magick circle, but also the use of the black-handled knife and the hazel wand. The hazel wand is a significant tool in the Key of Solomon, with a description given on how to make it:
“and the Wand of hazel or nut tree, in all cases the wood being virgin, that is of one year's growth only. They should each be cut from the tree at a single stroke, on the day of Mercury, at sunrise. The characters shown should be written or engraved thereon in the day and hour of Mercury.”
A curious novel written in 1838 entitled The Jew’s Daughter or The Witch of the Water-side contains a description of the creation of a magick circle and also the use of a steel wand (which would be as effective as a sword for use in controlling spirits), together with the use of chanting and salutations to the East, which is the traditional place for the casting of the circle to start from in the Wiccan tradition. The witch Myrza uses herbs, her wand and the power of the elements to great effect through the story:
"She took her long steel wand into her hand, and, after pointing it to the east three times, and bowing herself to the ground, drew from a recess a number of living snakes, which she placed just within the edge of the circle that she had drawn around her. She then waved her branch of mistletoe, and again stretching out her wand to the east, bowed herself thrice, chanting all the time a monotonous measure, the import of which was to remind certain unseen beings of her past necromantic adventures."
We have included these examples to illustrate the widespread knowledge of the use of the magick circle, both in folklore and literature as well as in the magickal texts of previous centuries.