Why circles? I am drawn to art pieces featuring them, we sit in circle for our women’s groups…..what is it about circles?………..As I prepare to write this piece, I pull favorite books off my shelves for guidance and familiar support. John O’Donohue is a regular companion of mine; I flip open Anam Ċara and the page revealed to me is about time as circle. Thanks, John, for seeing me………
Circles are sacred. Intuitively, we all know this in some way, but the intuitive is imaginal and poetic, so words may fail us if we are asked to explain. It is no accident that the women’s groups often meet in circle to share, reflect, and Work, and because I facilitate circles locally, this topic is particularly relevant to me and the community service I do.
To sit in circle is to be in belonging. “Belonging is a circle that embraces everything” (John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes). You are within a space shared by others, safe and contained. It is a shape of equality, collaboration, and shared representation and responsibility. Voice is given equivalent space and value from all participants. There are no leaders - no one is set apart, above, or outside; a space of power-with as opposed to power-over.
“If we were all to sit in a circle and confess our sins, we would laugh at each other for lack of originality” (Kahlil Gibran)
Circles are a symbol of rhythm and continuity and a way to mark time, such as the sun’s daily rise and fall, the earth’s seasonality and shifts from winter into spring, and Moon’s march from new to full to new again. Human life, individually and generationally mirrors this ebb and flow of time and energy as circle - the flow of breath, the beating of the heart, a woman’s menstrual cycle, and the cycle of creativity, artistically and generatively - birth to life to death, followed by rebirth, repeated indefinitely. The recognition of parallel cycles confers a sense of belonging between human and earth, our pulse of life insinuating greater, continuous patterns.
The sanctity of circle is reflected in many spiritual, religious, ethnic, and language traditions, such as the medicine wheel of Native Americans, the wedding ring of Judeo-Christians, the enso or Buddhist sacred circle, the yin/yang symbology of the Chinese, a representation of the feminine for ancient humanity, the casting of circle by Wiccans, and the ancestral, serpentine ouroboros. The word circle comes from the Greek word kirkos (circle), referring to the pattern birds of prey make when flying, and the Latin word circus, an enclosure for funerary games1. The goddess , Circe, is represented by a “death-bird”1 or falcon, alluding to the relationship of circle to life, death, rebirth. The Celtic tradition, my own ancestral lineage, had a prayer technique called Caim, where an invisible circle was drawn around an individual while a protective prayer was said, containing that individual in their own receptacle of protection and love, a space of spiritual holding and belonging.
“Everywhere you stand, you are in circle” (John O’Donohue, Longing and Belonging)
Reflections for the reader:
- Do you have a spiritual practice or ancestry that involves circles?
- Have you sat in circle with others? If so, how does that space FEEL compared to a more linear, instructional group space?
- How do the rhythms and cycles of your life reflect greater patterns?
- Do you have a favorite art piece representative of circle? (A personal favorite is Christopher Colville’s gunpoweder generated circle from the series Ouroboros https://www.artsy.net/artwork/christopher-colville-ouroboros-10#! )
“A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal, and strengthen” (John O’Donohue) It is my hope that the reader has a new understanding and appreciation of the symbol of circle, what it means to sit in circle, and a sense of belonging, individual and communal, that circle can confer. * Thank you for reading *
- Walker, BG. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, please reference this work appropriately. For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by David Besh from Pexels - I chose this picture because moon is another favorite artistic and visual representation of circle, in part, because the women's and family circles I facilitate are moon-based.