Column: The Inaugural Sacred Circle

Erick DuPree —  February 5, 2017 — 25 Comments


“You begin to realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle, and that’s your whole life….”

American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön writes. “Whatever you do for the rest of your life, the circle is always around you. Everyone who walks up to you has entered that sacred space and it’s not an accident. Whatever comes into the space is there to teach you.”[1]

The sacred circle is not unfamiliar to most spiritual seekers. Regardless of praxis of faith, the circle has been a place to hold collective, the celebrations and sorrows of many.  The circle is richly and innately Goddess in some cultures and yet we welcome that same circle as distinctly God. For many, the circle and the casting of it stands as a foundation upon which the work of magic. In popular culture the witch may be as famous for calling quarters and casting circles than any other ceremony, ritual, and celebration. It is no wonder that since prehistory the circle seems to have been the hub for community.

By McKay Savage from London, UK (Peru - Cusco 189 - Cusco's place in the Empire) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Diagram of a system of imaginary lines radiating from Cusco that connected cities, shrines, temples and sacred sites of the Incan empire. [Photo Credit: McKay Savage / Wikimedia Commons]

“When we meet in circle we join to hold everyone in sacred space and purpose. We are bringing forth an ancient way of connecting into modern times. We gather to share stories, to deepen our identities individually and in group—often with the intention to enable and shape a post-patriarchal way of being. We also gather to heal life.”[2]

Earth too, is a circle that is hosts to species long since departed.  They are called, Rock, River, and Tree.

On January 20, 1993, American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Dr. Maya Angelou stood atop Capitol Hill, a place that at the time of her birth in 1928 was not accessible to people of color, let alone a woman of color. She spoke plainly:

“A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed…”[3]

Dr. Angelou spoke of the past and called to the circle – the ROCK.

“But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny…
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness…
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.”

Swiftly moving around the circle from the rock to the river, Dr. Angelou sang out and invited the River:

“A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one…”

By this point, Dr. Angelou had invoked strong Rock and singing River. In a deft transcendence that is akin to transubstantiation, she called upon “creator.”  I and the tree and stone were one. This was more than poetry; this was liturgy. And, in true liturgical fashion, there was dogma. “Come clad in peace and study war no more.”

Not too dissimilar from Dr. Angelou’s statement is one from the Charge of the Goddess, written by Doreen Valiente. It reads: “Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.”

Dr. Maya Angelou [By Clinton Library (William J. Clinton Presidential Library) [Public domain]

Dr. Maya Angelou at the 1993 presidential inauguration ceremony [By Clinton Library / Public domain]

There on Capitol Hill, a circle was cast. In that space, there was Dr. Angelou and her guides and her allies: Rock, River, and Tree. And again, it was time to invoke the singing River and the wise Rock. Dr. Angelou said:

“So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.”

On that day and in that space, all were welcome there – even you, and I. But what’s more, Dr. Angelou’s circle was going to reach back in time. She said:

“Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation…
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot …
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream…”

See, the circle needed to remember the time when other’s blood, sweat, and tears paid for a dream. Dr. Angelou continued…

“I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again…”

Within that circle there was courage to face the past and look at the future – to acknowledge and empower. Dr. Angelou continued:

“The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country…”

Atop a hill, Dr. Angelou stood and called out to the hosts of species long since departed. She called them by name, and she rekindled their light as ally. Perhaps she was casting a circle that called into the hearts of citizens the United States of America. Ideals that might be similar to the language written on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”[4]

We are always are standing in the middle of a sacred circle, and whatever comes into the circle comes in to teach us, even the Rock, the River, and the Tree. They bear the lesson of the priceless gift of the inclusion when we stand within the sacred circle.


[1]Chödrön, Pema. The Wisdom of No Escape, p. 28.
[2]  GoettnerAbendroth, H. Societies of peace: Matriarchies past, present and future. p 184.
[3] Angelou, Maya. On The Pulse of Morning. William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
[4] Lazarus, Emma. The New Colossus.

* * *
The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Erick DuPree


Erick DuPree writes the Dharma Pagan column for The Wild Hunt. He is a feminist voice in modern Goddess centered spirituality. He also teaches on the intersection of sexuality, masculinity, and Goddess mysteries from a matrifocal lens. His most recent title is the anthology, Finding the Masculine In Goddess' Spiral: Men is Ritual, Service, and Community to the Goddess.
  • Beautiful – thank you!

  • peterdybing

    You are writing again, that’s Great!

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    There is a lot of ugliness in our American history that many people refuse to see or admit. Why? I have no problem admitting it and that my direct ancestors were often part of that ugliness.

    But until we are honest about the past, the future has no hope. We can not live rightly by the American myth, only by understanding the actual past and changing it by our actions today and tomorrow.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I have to agree in part and disagree in part. Yes, we need to not kid ourselves about America. But at this point in our history we need to embrace and invoke the American myths of a free and independent press, the rule of law, and the independence of the branches of government. IMHO our survival as a free society depends on it.

      • Tauri1

        “myths of a free and independent press”? There was a free and independent press until after Reagan when corporations (and people) believed “greed is good” (in complete contrast to Yeshua’s teachings) and began gobbling up the free and independent press. I do agree, however that your last two sentences are absolutely right on target.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Whatever the corporate setting of, for example, the Washington Post, their journalists are exposing lies, standing up to bullying and speaking truth to power every single day. (I get their headline email service.) They need to be supported as embodying the finest traditions of the American press, whatever the WP business model.

          • Tauri1

            I don’t doubt that there are a few newspapers (probably mostly small-town ones) that haven’t been bought up by big conglomerates, but I think those are few and far between. I certainly *hope* that newsites like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Washington Post and New York times are pushing for independence from their corporate masters. Yes, you are right that they need to be supported. As my friend’s 1980s bumper stick stated: “If the people will lead, the leaders will follow.” Unfortunately I’m starting to think that the Founding Fathers’ distrust of the “people” may have been right since the “people” seem to be more interested in gossip and lies than ferreting out the truth. Sigh…

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Depends on which “people” you look at, the Trump voters sitting in their fact-proof bubbles or the folks marching in the streets.

  • This post is pure politics The sacred circle has immense potential for true healing and reconciliation which is very much needed right now but here it is presented with a thick, sactimonious coating of leftist virtue signaling.
    I don’t understand why leftists use native European paganism as a platform for pushing the very flawed & very evil “White guilt” narrative. European countries are currently being invaded by millions of male migrants who bring a shockingly violent culture with them. Thousands of native European people are being raped & killed in their own homelands. I wish this was not true, but it is a sad fact of life in many European countries right now.
    Is it too much to ask that European based paganism offer an oasis of strength & RESPECT for OUR ancestors and OUR heritage? We cannot bring peace to all people with White guilt and antiWhite bigotry. We must be bigger than that.

    • Mary, you clearly don’t know much about European history, and have not checked your own DNA/genealogy. Your call for white nationalism, as you voice in your other posts on Disqus, is a violent culture all its own. Unfortunately, violence is the history of humanity. Families fleeing violence are not the problem – it’s the power-hungry who use sentiments like your nationalism to stir dissent.

      • Holly, I am going to assume you are a good person with good intentions. Are you aware that many thousands of of little girls are still being brutalized by Muslim rape gangs in England? (Google “Rotherham”) Are you aware that 80% of the migrants who enter Germany are young men? Are you aware that native European women in many countries are now experiencing rape epidemics?
        The refusal of “decent, kind” leftists to pay attention to the industrial scale rape of indigenous English girls by Muslim rape gangs is what radicalized me. I used to be liberal, like you.
        You condemn “White nationalism” for violence but you are not able to see the extreme violence being committed by leftist radicals.
        The point of the sacred circle is to bring healing & reconciliation. That will NEVER happen as long as leftists refuse to acknowledge the heinous violence being done to native European people in their own homelands.

        PS Holly, I HAVE had my DNA done. My genetics are 100% European.

        • No one’s genes are 100% European. No one.
          So can you give me a source for these Muslim rape girls in England?

          • Holli, just stop. I had my DNA tested. I assure you the results were 100% European. If you choose to call me a liar, go right ahead, but your understanding of genetics is based on an out-of-date, shallow leftist analysis. If you want to argue the science of race, study up on the recent HBD science. It is significant.

        • ChristopherBlackwell

          Gee since when has child rape become only a Muslim problem. It has always been a major problem in Europe and the United States. The larger part is in incest, being raped by family members.

          The child porn business is often a in family business. The United States produces more child porn than any other country in the world.

          The United State has the largest number of child rape tourists going to third world countries of any in the world.

          The vast majority of all these people are White. So drop this purity of the White race crap, to distract us from your racism and bigotry.

          • I speak about the ongoing brutalization of thousands of native English girls by Muslim rape gangs often and your response – minimize and deflect- is VERY common among leftists. I used to be a leftist, like you, until I found out about Rotherham and the plight of those raped children rocked me to my core.
            WHY do you refuse to offer even a tiny shred of compassion to those thousands of native English children who are STILL being brutalized by Muslim rape gangs?
            Your pagan ancestors would not allow their precious daughters & sisters to be attacked that way but for some reason. You fail your ancestors and you fail your racial kin. You fail.

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            Why do you not care about the millions of boys and girls around raped around the world by your precious White folk.

            As for your silly race concept, grow up, there is only one race the human race. Your ancient ancestors came out of Africa like everyone one else’s ancestors.

        • kenofken

          It’s a pity it took until Rotherham to get your blood up about child abuse. Everyone I’ve known has had a pretty solid consensus against it going back to the 1970s (which is as far as my memory in this incarnation goes). The many many tens of thousands of Innocent White Schoolboys of Boston and Chicago and every other Catholic diocese in the United States could surely have used your help in any of the 50 years before the Rotherham crimes even began.

          Of course you wouldn’t want to nail your colors to the mast of that rape scandal because it would raise all sorts of inconvenient contradictions for your race narrative, given that essentially all of the perpetrators were white as well and good pure European stock at that.

    • kenofken

      Starting a crisp February Monday morning with a cup of coffee and a White Power screed on my favorite Pagan news channel. Oh yeah, Trump’s America….

      • Nice way to dismiss the valid concerns I raised about the ongoing mass rape of thousands of native English schoolchildren by Muslim rape gangs.
        Seriously, Ken. Do better. Our pagan ancestors would not have permitted Muslim rape gangs to brutalize thousands of their daughters. It would have been unthinkable to them. But for some reason you think it is moral and good to mock the pain & suffering of native European people in their own homelands at the hands of a violent invader culture that is utterly antithetical to European paganism
        We are ALL better than that, Ken.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      So our ancestors never asked the goods and ancestors for help in politics or in war. Obviously you are very selective in your study of history. Our right even to practice our religionis matter of the political situation of the times. If you don’t wish to use your beliefs to protect your right to practice you religion,be my guest, but stop telling others what is allowed.

  • Tauri1

    Why did the Wild Hunt deny my post in response to Mary Whittier’s post? Because it had links to articles disputing her premise?

    • Heather Greene

      It has not been denied. All posts with links go into moderation status. It will be reviewed as soon as possible.

  • Julia Traver

    I agree and salute Maya Angelou. I did not listen to these words “live’; however, reading them now brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. Thank you, Maya.

  • Seriously, do native English children NOT deserve protection from Muslim rape gangs in their own country? DO you HATE those innocent native English schoolgirls THAT much, to not be able to spare one tiny shred of compassion for their suffering? You apperar to have endless compassion for Muslims, but ZERO for the native English children being raped by Muslims.

    Your pagan ancestors would not have permitted their precious daughters to be brutalized by Muslim rape gangs in their own country. Your moral compass is utterly broken.

    • kenofken

      I’m going to just do a little blue sky thought experiment here. I know there will be those who say it will never work, but what if we opposed rape of children irrespective of the skin color of offender or victim? I think a case can be made that the rape of children is, you know, effed up on first principles and evil even without aggravating factors.