A magic circle is circle or sphere of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, which they generally believe will contain energy and form a sacred space, or will provide them a form of magical protection, or both. It may be marked physically, drawn in salt or chalk, for example, or merely visualised. Its spiritual significance is similar to that of mandala and yantra in some Eastern religions.
Common terms and practices
Traditionally, circles were believed by ritual magicians to form a protective barrier between themselves and what they summoned. In modern times, practitioners generally cast magic circles to contain and concentrate the energy they believe to raise during a ritual.
Creating a magic circle is known as casting a circle, circle casting, and various other names.
There are many published techniques for casting a circle, and many groups and individuals have their own unique methods. The common feature of these practices is that a boundary is traced around the working area. Some witchcraft traditions say that one must trace around the circle deosil three times. There is variation over which direction one should start in.
Circles may or may not be physically marked out on the ground, and a variety of elaborate patterns for circle markings can be found in grimoires and magical manuals, often involving angelic and divine names. Such markings, or a simple unadorned circle, may be drawn in chalk or salt, or indicated by other means such as with a cord.
The four cardinal directions are often prominently marked, such as with four candles. In ceremonial magic traditions the four directions are commonly related to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel (or Auriel), or the four classical elements, and also have four associated names of God. Other ceremonial traditions have candles between the quarters, i.e. in the north-east, north-west and so on. Often, an incantation will be recited stating the purpose and nature of the circle, often repeating an assortment of divine and angelic names.
Some varieties of Wicca use the common ceremonial colour attributions for their “quarter candles”: yellow for Air in the east, red for Fire in the south, blue for Water in the west and green for Earth in the north (though these attributions differ according to geographical location and individual philosophy).
The common technique for raising energy within the circle is by means of a cone of power.
The barrier is believed to be fragile, so that leaving or passing through the circle would weaken or dispel it. This is referred to as “breaking the circle”. It is generally advised that practitioners do not leave the circle unless absolutely necessary
In order to leave a circle and keep it intact, Wiccans believe a door must be cut in the energy of the circle, normally on the East side. Whatever was used to cast the circle is used to cut the doorway, such as a sword, staff or knife [athame], a doorway is “cut” in the circle, at which point anything may pass through without harming the circle. This opening must be closed afterwards by “reconnecting” the lines of the circle.
The circle is usually closed by the practitioner after they have finished by drawing in the energy with the athame or whatever was used to make the circle including their hand (usually in a widdershins, that is counter-clockwise, fashion). This is called closing the circle or releasing the circle. The term “opening” is often used, representing the idea the circle has been expanded and dissipated rather than closed in on itself.
Ash circles are used as a measure of defence against and imprisonment of the Man in Black. Together with the DHARMA Initiative’s sonar fence, this is one of the only known methods to keep the Monster at bay. Several ash circles have been seen on the Island.
3×20 – The Man Behind the Curtain
An ash circle surrounded the cabin that allegedly belonged to Jacob. When Ben encountered it, he was careful to step over it without disturbing it. Inside, Ben pretended the person he believed to be Jacob was there. (“The Man Behind the Curtain”) (“The Incident, Part 1”) Later, when Hurley encountered the cabin, he did not see the ash circle. When he looked inside, he saw Christian Shephard and a face similar to the man Ben said was Jacob, which suddenly appeared at the window. (“The Beginning of the End”) Shortly afterwards, Locke found the circle, but the cabin was missing. (“The Economist”) When Locke, Ben, and Hurley trekked to the cabin for new orders, they did not appear to find the ash circle. Inside, Locke met Christian, who said he would speak on Jacob’s behalf. (“Cabin Fever”)
5×16 – The Incident, Part 1
When Ilana, Bram, Frank, and the rest of their party found the cabin, Bram noticed the ash circle was broken in one spot. This alarmed both Bram and Ilana, who exercised caution as she entered the cabin and found no one inside. (“The Incident, Part 1”)
At the Temple, Hurley revealed to Dogen and Lennon that Jacob was dead. This alarmed them, and the Others began precautions, sounding alarms, launching a flare into the sky, and sprinkling ash circles around the courtyard. When asked why they were doing this, Lennon said it was to keep “him” out. (“LA X, Part 1”)
In the testing process of Sayid, Dogen blew ash across his chest. (“What Kate Does”)
6×06 – Sundown
It is implied that Dogen’s life force is somehow connected to the circle of ash surrounding the Temple. Upon Dogen’s death the Man in Black was able to cross the ash and enter the temple. (“Sundown”)
Inside the Statue
6×01 – LA X, Part 1
Ilana, Bram, Frank, and their group arrived at the remains of the statue of Tawaret with the body of John Locke, which they showed to Richard. After several delays, Bram became impatient and forcibly entered the statue with three men and Ben. Inside, the Man in Black (in the form of Locke) revealed Jacob was dead. This prompted Bram’s men to shoot at him; he then transformed into his smoke form and attacked. While his men were being killed, Bram produced a pouch of ash and sprinkled some in a circle around himself. The Monster was unable to touch him in this circle, but it instead brought a chunk of the ceiling down, knocking Bram outside of the circle where he could be be killed. (“LA X, Part 1”)
The high-frequency sonar fence was a continuous stream of high-intensity sound waves generated by a series of evenly-spaced pylons surrounding the Barracks. It was built by the DHARMA Initiative. (“LaFleur-Enhanced”) The range of the waves reached only as high as the top of the pylons. (“Par Avion”) With the potential to render someone walking through the fence unconcious, or even killing them, the waves could cause severe cerebral hemorrhaging to humans who passed through them. Although humans could physically breach the barrier before the sonic waves triggered side effects, the Man in Black could not pass between the pylons or overcome them while the fence was active. (“Left Behind”) (“The Package”)
On the Main Island
The sonar fence was first mentioned in the DHARMA Initiative Barracks video, seen by Ben Linus when he first arrived on the Island. The film described the fence as serving to protect the Barracks area from the Island’s abundant wildlife. Ben encountered the sonic barrier as a child, while running out of his home. He later obtained the code to deactivate the sonic barrier and, as a test, sent a rabbit through the barrier before crossing it himself. (“The Man Behind the Curtain”)
3×20 – The Man Behind the Curtain
Kate, Locke, Sayid, and Rousseau encountered the sonar fence on their mission to rescue Jack. According to Mikhail Bakunin, their prisoner, and the DHARMA cabling map discovered by Sayid in the Flame, the fence extended all the way around the area containing the Barracks. (“Par Avion”)
Locke appeared to kill Mikhail by shoving him through the barrier. (“Par Avion”). After passing through it, he began shaking violently, foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the ears. He collapsed on the ground and appeared to have died. However, Mikhail did actually survive, and later helped save Naomi after encountering Desmond and the others who were attempting to find her. (“D.O.C.”) After he returned to the Others’ camp, Ben commented, “I thought you were dead.” Mikhail responded, “I am fortunate the pylons were not set to a lethal level.” (“The Man Behind the Curtain”)
After seeing what happened to Mikhail, Locke, Kate, Sayid, and Rousseau made a ramp out of a tree trunk in order to scale the barrier and bypass it. In doing so, they did not break the connection between each barrier pylon, which Sayid guessed was the trigger for the sonic waves. (“Par Avion”)
3×15 – Left Behind
As shown by Ben in his flashback, the barrier could be deactivated. Kate and Juliet encountered the inactive fence while running from the Monster. After crossing to the other side, Juliet entered the code 1623 into a data pad, and after lifting a panel and turning a knob, the fence was reactivated. The Man in Black (whilst in Smoke form) then attempted to attack the pair but was repelled by the sonar fence – which appeared to act as a physical barrier against the smoke. After the Monster retreated, Juliet explained, “We don’t know what it is but we know it doesn’t like our fences.” (“Left Behind”)
When a young Ben deactivated the fence, he used the code 54439. This code was changed every day according to the orientation film he and Roger watched upon arrival to the island. The fence intensity seemed to be controllable at a continuous scale going from red to green to black, where green was presumably a repelling but less harmful effect. (“The Man Behind the Curtain”)
5×08 – LaFleur
The fence was seen in excellent condition after the final skip in time of the Island. Juliet shouted for Daniel to immediately stop as he almost walked through it. Amy faked disabling the fence by using earplugs. Sawyer, Jin, Miles, Daniel, and Juliet walked through the fence, which rendered them unconscious. Richard Alpert managed to get past the fence, and claimed that his people could do so with ease. (“LaFleur”)
On Hydra Island
After Widmore’s submarine arrived on Hydra Island, members of his crew set up equipment appearing to be a portable version of the sonar fence pylons, surrounding the dock area. (“Recon”
6×10 – The Package
After the retrieval of Jin by Widmore’s team, the Man in Black (in John Locke’s form) tried to get him back, but he was unable to pass across the pylons due to the activation of the fence. In addition to the dock area, additional pylons had been set up in the meantime on a beach to block passage to the Ajira plane. (“The Package”)
The latter were removed after the plane was rigged with C-4. The fence was temporarily deactivated by Sayid, in order to let Jack go to the cages and free his partners, while the Smoke Monster attacked Widmore’s men who were responsible for watching them. (“The Candidate”)