Tag Archives: circles

We Are A Circle- A Pagan Chant

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Houston, TX
Date of Performance/Collection: April 25, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: My informant (M) shared with me her experience with a song we learned growing up. We attended a daycare, which was run by our grandmother, from infancy to 5 years old, and would frequently stay there during summer breaks. She shared with me her perspective on a ritual we performed daily. Neither of us had ever thought too much about this ritual until we got older, but talking about it now we could tell there was probably more to this chant than we realized as kids. Our grandmother always talked about the importance of being kind to the Earth and thanking it whenever we took something from it, like food. As kids, this was just part of growing up, and the chant was part of our daily routine, we agreed that we never thought about the words or meaning until we got older.

M’s Perspective on The Ritual: 

M: “I guess it was a way for all of the daycare kids to come together and bond and be calm. We would sit in a circle with a candle in the middle and we would sing childhood songs and tell nursery rhymes. At the end of the “circle time,” as our grandmother called it, we would have a closing ceremony of sorts where we would stand up and join hands and we would sing this one song. She played it on a CD, but we all knew all the words and we would look at each other and sing. There were a couple of verses to the song that I don’t remember very well, but during the chorus, we would all sing loud and join hands and walk in a circle. Then it would be another verse and we would stop walking. The verses all had to do with the elements, you know fire and wind and stuff. And with each new chorus, we would walk faster and faster until it got a little crazy and we were screaming this song (laughs). I don’t think she does it anymore because it started getting a little aggressive. But anyway the closing line had something to do with coming “FACE TO FACE” and we would all get really close to each other- you know face to face- and we would throw our hands up and someone would blow out the candle and that was it (laughs and pauses).

And we did this for probably ten years or more. It was a little strange now that I’m thinking about it, like what was that even about? We never really anything else that I can look back on as being out of the ordinary.         

Main Text:

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

You hear us sing, you hear us cry

Now hear us all you, spirits of air and sky

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Inside our hearts there grows a spark

Love and desire, a burning fire

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Within our blood, within our tears

There lies the altar of living waiter

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Take our fear, take our pain

Take the darkness into the Earth again

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

The circle closes between two worlds

To mark this sacred space where we come face to face

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Analysis: I looked up this song to find the lyrics we remember from our grandmother’s. I also wanted to see if I could find an explanation for it. What I found was the song has strong ties to paganism and Wicca, relating to a spiritual bond with the Earth and magic. The song is written by Rick Hamouris in the 80s so I’m not sure when or where our grandmother learned it. It seems like it’s been adopted by Wicca and other pagan religions and some say it is a song for festivals or a full moon chant. The book Casting Circles and Ceremonies by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart explains how circle chants like this one are effective for “casting circles” and “calling quarters.” These terms refer to creating the circle, which is the safe and sacred space and utilizing the Earth’s quarters-the four elements and the four directions. 

You can read more about this here: http://www.egreenway.com/wands8/envoke1.htm

Walking in Circles

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani/Indian/American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Francisco, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Walking in Circles

Superstition

 

When I was pacing and talking, my informant told me to stop walking in a circle and warned me of a superstition his parents follow: “never walk in circles.” He explained that both of his parents believe in this superstition, and they told him it comes from an ancient tale. Although my informant couldn’t remember exactly, he said, “if you walk around in a circle multiple times, you die because apparently this happened a long time ago in which a devil cursed someone by walking around them, and that person suffered a slow painful death.”

My informant went on to explain that if someone walks in a circle, the same fate will befall them. When asked for further detail, he claimed he remembered that clockwise direction was considered worse than counterclockwise direction. He then provided a preventative measure, informing me that his parents said if someone walked in the opposite direction they could undo the effect.

 

Though my informant does not believe in this superstition, when he sees people walking in circles, it reminds him of his parents and the story, connecting him to his heritage. Since both of his parents are Muslim, but one is from Pakistan, the other is from India, my informant believes that the superstition comes from Islam, and is not related to their nationalities.

 

The superstition could have real-world implications: preventing people from running around in circles may decrease the risk of twisting an ankle, or would discourage children from running wild and causing a ruckus.  Symbolically, the superstition also relates to the passage of time, which reinforces the theme of death:  clockwise circles are associated with time moving forward (because of the direction of sundials and clocks). Thus, walking around in a circle clockwise is an act of symbolically speeding up your own life, bringing death quickly.  This is an example of homeopathic magic and preventative magic.