The Last Circle: Stories from a Catholic Witch. Part I. The End is the Beginning.

Last night, we held the most incredible Circle.

By Caryn MacGrandle

They’re all incredible really, but last night’s was very special to me as it may be the last one held here at my home in Illinois. I have hosted Circles for seven years, and there were seven of us in the Circle last night.

Over the years, so many women have come.  Of the seven last night, three of them have been there with me from the beginning.  I have hosted every two weeks on new and full moons because as one of them said, ‘it’s my thing’.

Of those three that have been here the whole time, they have not been here the ‘whole time’ holding the rim as I have.  They came and went: in waves, for periods, and were away for times. 

I have never charged for these Circles, but it has been an equal exchange. 

At first, I was often worried if enough women would show up, and I went through this period at the beginning where I wanted everyone to commit to every time. 

I would stress and worry if at least two others would attend with three being my magic minimum for Circle.  I remember one time I went through the usual pattern of many RSVP’ing, cancelling for this reason or that until there were two remaining.  And then they cancelled last minute. 

And I sulked.  ‘Don’t they know how much I’m putting into this?’  ‘Why can they not commit to this?’  ‘When it is so important, why do they not prioritize it like I do?’

All these angry thoughts, and I took off storming down my road and into the neighboring forest in the midst of an actual approaching storm, the static electricity in the air and the forming storm clouds.

I was scared, but I pushed on, and I listened to music and meditated and walked, and I felt Her.

And I finally breathed deep and let go and returned home.

Only to find that two women who had not RSVP’d had shown up for Circle.

That night I learned a lesson in ‘letting go’.  When I found out that two women had shown up while I was off walking, I chuckled and made a decision to stop that need to try and control attendance.

I have learned so much over the past seven years. I am not even a resemblance of the woman I was seven years ago.

It was not an immediate thing, but over time, the act of Circle became more important than who was coming.

Whenever I host a Circle, in the morning, I begin the preparations deciding where, often asking the members their preference:  the moon lodge, the large backyard or in the forest down by the river. 

This has become a Sacred act to me, and I do this with intention, with focus and with love while thinking of all who have come through the years. 

I believe in the Magic of Circle and when you follow this way of coming together, it does not matter whether you are Pagan, Christian, Atheist, Agnostic or whatever, if you are open to finding the divinity and guidance within, you will.

Just as important as finding that guidance is the connection and coming together.

Especially in these times of estrangement, quarantining and isolation, it is more important than ever for us to come together.  And not on a zoom call.

When COVID hit in March, I began hosting weekly Circles.  We were outside, six feet apart, not hugging and not passing around any talking sticks or cards. 

Less exposure than going to the grocery store.  Essential nourishment for your Soul. 

I titled this post ‘The Last Circle’ but I was just trying to get your attention.  There is no ‘Last Circle’ as in a Circle, the end is the beginning.  I do not know if I will host here again as we have a contingency contract on our house, but I do know that I will host again.  Where is irrelevant.

Last night was an absolutely gorgeous Indian Summer night in Illinois.  We sat around the bonfire.  An old burnt tree stump served as an altar with flowers and holding a candle. 

I had scavenged the wood from deep in my backyard, old and earthy and deep in the process of returning to the earth. 

The fire was smoky from the moisture of the rich earth on the crumbling logs.

I watched the smoke curl up and hover by the altar and the candle.  An image of a cauldron popped in my mind, and the alchemy of the change we were all asking for accompanied it.

Okay, who am I kidding.  We are all witches.  Even the woman in Chaplain School from the family of Christian ministers, I look at her, and my Catholic Soul knows a fellow witch. 

And that is okay.  That became the theme of last night:  settling into our opposites and staying strong with the fire of who we uniquely are. 

I try to throw out a theme before Circle.  It is simple, usually just a sentence.  Everyone comes together, and it morphs and changes, often into something else entirely.

I have learned how to host Circle and hold that rim and invite everyone to bring their gifts:  one is amazing at reading Tarot cards, another is adept with astrology, they bring poems and songs, perspectives and resources. 

And then we must do something with that energy.  And I sit on the Circle high after everyone has left, pondering, absorbing, letting go.

This is a slow move for my family from our home in Illinois to our new home, and I will be back to Illinois hosting Circles many times Goddess willing.

But meanwhile, I have started to find or host these types of Circles in Alabama.

Yes, Alabama.  I keep getting the ‘you moved where?’

Outside of Huntsville, and Huntsville is a lovely town, and where we moved is in a valley surrounded by mountains and nature preserves. 

The Land called me.  I listened.

But I am apprehensive.  I have been told that Alabama is the most religious state in the USA.  And I see that: so many Baptist churches and teachers at my childrens’ school who tell me ‘God Bless’.

I am all for ‘God Bless’.  But I am not for the close-mindedness and evangelism that might go with it. 

My first Circle in Huntsville, there was a man in it.  Seven years of hosting, and this was a first for me to have a man attend.  And a Christian man to boot!  We talked about Jesus vs. Christianity.  I am closer to Jesus now that I no longer call myself a Christian.

I appreciated that first Circle in Alabama just as I have appreciated every single Circle I have sat in, now into the 1000’s, over the years.

They told me that a local Witch store had a promotion and protestors showed up chanting about damnation and carrying signs. 

Oh my.  Perhaps I have stepped backwards in time a bit.

But no matter.  I will hold on to my belief that we are all made of opposites.  I will hold on to my belief in the goodness of the large silent majority of us,  even if they are more silent right now as the extremes make so much noise.

With these times, things are intense, but I will continue choosing to step towards love not fear.

My new home has a much smaller backyard.  I do not have the finished large shed that I have in Illinois nor the small private forest area by the river.  Instead it has that ‘fishbowl’ feeling, and I do not know my neighbors. 

The fear creeps in.  Do I dare?  Last night as we were waiting to begin Circle, we belted out a rendition of ‘Who Were the Witches’. 

How would that go in my new neighborhood?

If my new neighbors are wondering, Witches were (are) women and men who were more in alignment with nature, who had stepped into their personal power and sat comfortably with that, who listened closely to the World[s] around them and all the many things that the large majority of the population do not see.

Yes, there is a potential for harm, but at least in the recent history of the past couple of thousand of years, far more harm has been done in the name of ‘Christianity’.  So much blood has been shed, and violence and domination over cultures/peoples have occurred.

Yet Jesus remains to me a figure of the ultimate power of love, compassion and forgiveness.  I never seem to be able to find them, but my son reads Bible passages to me that are incredible. 

The man who attended that Circle agreed.  He reads the Bible yet attends Pagan Circles.

There is good and bad in everything.  It is all about our choices.  I choose love. 

There is such a thing as a Christian Witch. 

The Circle never ends.

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  1. So beautiful and so much my feelings about last night. Grateful for your presence in my life and journey all these years. I’ve learned so much and last night was such…perfection? Circle is always relaxing, or a release, or pure joy; however, I say with so much and listened and learned in pure stillness. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that. So many hugs and blessings for your new home and community. ❤️

    1. So grateful to you as well, Laura and our ‘travels’ together. What a beautiful Circle. I am so glad over the years to have your presence and wisdom with us. Love you my dear.

  2. Caryn, you are extraordinary! I did not want the writing to end. Your write with profound simplicity and I love you for your transparency and your vulnerability. Thank you, dear dear Sister. Alabama and your new neighborhood is fortunate to have you and your family because you will help them see diversity and possibilities in a whole new light.

  3. That was beautiful Karen. It belongs in a book.
    And you never counted me! And I nearly was always there in spirit!😂
    Best wishes in your new home. You will be a blessing to THEM.. I have NO doubt. Love sister.🙏

    1. Oh Merri, I always ‘count’ you!!! Okay I confess that the collage picture I made of you is at the moment in a box, but regardless, I hold your Spirit with me in Circle! <3 Love you and thank you for the kind words.

  4. Oh my precious Sister. I walk beside you in all ways and cherish our connections known and unknown. We are a deep part of each other reflecting the highest good for all…LOVE. Thank you for this share. I was there in Circle and know, will be again. No matter where you/I are/am. I love you!

    1. Just saw this Dawn. So glad we got to connect yesterday. I have missed you and love you deeply!! Yes, you definitely walk beside me, sometimes ahead of me, ha ha ha ha, my Queen of Bees, so much love!

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