You are approaching the Circle before it is cast, attending a Witch’s rites, maybe an Esbat, maybe a Sabbat, maybe some other formal working, but it is dark, and it is a little intimidating. There are robed figures standing around, stoking a fire, lighting incense, looking over notes, whatever needs to be done just before a rite starts. It all seems so, calm and normal. Then everyone lines up to enter the space where the work will take place, and suddenly there is something you did not expect. Next thing you know there is a blade pointed at your throat and a voice is asking, “How do you enter this Circle?” What the Hell! What do you say? How do you answer to ensure the blade doesn’t pierce your throat? If you have been properly prepared, then you have been told that the correct response is, “In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.” You have no idea what that means, and or how to say it correctly, or if it is even enough, but you say the words. The blade bites a bit deeper, and eyes seem to penetrate to your very soul as the Challenger takes your words into account. This lasts for what seems an eternity, but at last you are told you may enter the Circle. Everyone is challenged in the same manner, even the High Priest and the High Priestess. No one is turned away. And they all say, “In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.” Congratulations, you just passed your first test! You were told it would happen, you just didn’t realize exactly how important it was to the Circle and its members. You also still haven’t got a clue what those words mean, but you said them and you were allowed to pass. So maybe it’s time to start your journey of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
I have uttered these simple, sacred words so many times in the past four decades. I also have been the challenger to whom others have said them. Every time I say or hear these words, I peel away yet another layer of their power. I will not even try to go into deep explanations of those words at this point, I will only relate a little of why they are said, and what happens when they are said. The challenge to enter the Circle is as old as Modern Wicca, and the response is pretty classic. Who does the challenge changes, depending on the Circle, but it usually the High Priest, the High Priestess, a Guardian, or a Quarter Holder who does it. When it takes place can vary a bit, but I promise, it is always done before the Circle is cast. Originally the Challenge was meant to protect everyone who was attending the Rite. Persecution was a real thing, and secrecy was necessary, so attendees were challenged to make sure they could keep their mouths shut and could be trusted with the secrets of the Coven. To a certain degree, that is still true today, but even more than that, it is the moment to make sure everyone is ready for the Magick to take place. What are you supposed to do when you are challenged? Well, say the words, but more than that, the Challenge is meant to stop you, even if you are a long-term practitioner, and make you take a minute to get your energy and focus together.
It is the Challenger’s responsibility to read the energy of the people being challenged. It is a much bigger responsibility than it might seem. You read the energy and then decide if that person can be allowed to enter the Sacred Space. If they are in any way a threat to the Circle and its members, then the Challenger must stop them and take some sort of action. What action? Well, there are really three things that can happen. First, most people just need a second to get themselves clear, and then they go on into the Space. Sometimes the Challenger assists with that. That I have seen happen a lot. Secondly, if someone is truly a threat, or they cannot get their energy straightened out, then the Challenger must deny them entrance. I have seen that rarely, and in the most cases, the person actually made the decision without being told they could not enter. The final option is to allow that person to enter, but make sure that they are in some sort of bubble that does not allow their negativity to touch anyone else. I have seen that one a few times, and it usually has some consequences, but only to the person who meant to do harm. The worst I ever saw was someone we allowed to enter, knowing she meant harm, but we knew she would be contained. Sure enough, during the Rite, she decided to hack up a lugie and spit it out on the Sacred Ground. She was also standing near the Northern Quarter. The members looked around in discomfort. The High Priest and I looked at each other and decided that the Guardians of the North would take care of that one. And they did. What happened to that woman over the next year was not pleasant, but she brought it on herself, so there you go.
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust does not mean you like everyone in that Circle, but it does mean that you trust them and know that they will lend their power and Magick to the work to the best of their ability. It also means that you love them for the truth of what they are. You may not want to hang out and have dinner and drinks, but you know that they can be trusted to do workings with a clean and clear energy.
So, when the blade hits your throat, remember, this is not a game, and those words mean something to the person asking the question of you. When you answer, make sure that you mean them, to the best of your ability.
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust