I saw Saturn this morning, a bright jab of light in the pre-dawn, south-western sky, and a nice bonus while rolling the recycle bin out to the curb. For eons, this slow-moving planet marked the edge of the universe, and only the steady backdrop of the stars was farther away. Until 1781, when Herschel discovered Uranus, Saturn symbolized the boundary, the end, finality, limits.
My inner hippy rankles at “limits.” It took years to wrap my head around the idea that boundaries can be good. Saturn’s broader themes? Shape, edges, form, definition, limits (established, challenged, questioned, exceeded, discarded). Limits as “good boundaries” and personal identity in general. These aren’t bad things.
When I cast a circle, I’m defining space. The line is drawn. The magical circle is a vessel, a container formed to hold energy for a particular use. We’re embraced here, outside of time, for the duration of a ritual, shamanic journey group, or healing ceremony. Without the will and the ability to create sacred space as a purposeful energetic container, this work couldn’t take place.
In spiritual workings, we know with certainty that our well-defined circle, as a magical boundary, is not only acceptable but necessary. Why, then, is it so hard to carry some of this action into our personal lives, creating reasonable, healthy boundaries for ourselves? If a circle can be cast magically for group use — even among relative strangers — why doesn’t this ability transpose more readily to setting personal boundaries?
Some people who would never violate the conventions of sacred ritual space (where group mores are powerful) may be disrespectful or oblivious about personal boundaries among individuals, one-on-one. And some people — lots of us — can readily cast a formal group circle but aren’t as clear about casting a circle-of-self. If my personal autonomy is ill-defined by me, it’s easily ignored by others.
Aren’t we, individually, distinct energetic containers as well? This isn’t about whether we can have empathy with others, be open and friendly, or be emotional accessible. It’s about knowing we have the right to choose to be open, or not, and to what degree. Having healthy boundaries isn’t just a right, it’s a communal agreement toward personal sanctity and public civility. It’s an opportunity to see myself — and each of us — as unique expressions of sacred space.
The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886