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The Tradition of sitting in Circle

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Image from TarnEllisArt

"The Circle is calling. It is calling from the potency of the collectives yearning for connection, community and ritual...."

The tradition of sitting in circle, coming together to share our stories, cooking, herbal remedies, to mediate, sing, dance and chant is an Ancient practice that is and has been seeing a major revival for those of us disconnected with our ancestry, roots & traditions.

It's difficult to say with whom and where this tradition 'originated' because the symbol of the circle permeates every culture throughout the whole word. The circle is a representation for 'spirit', sometimes we see the symbol in astrology; of a circle with a dot in the centre which is the glyph for the Sun. The circle of Spirit and the dot representing a 'point of being' or 'soul wrapped in spirit.

The most commonly recognised symbolic meaning of the circle is as a representative of the Divine Feminine, the circle being the womb of The Divine Mother, a container for safety, growth and healing.

The circle is also a symbol of protection as it forms a barrier between two differing states; a threshold to a holding space. I think of all the various tribes across the world who perform their rituals, rites of passage, celebration and ceremony in a circle. Practitioners of the craft often cast a circle in a variety of ways in order to form a barrier of protection around themselves or a space, while also marking the space as sacred.

"Gathering together around a fire or flame in Circle is an Ancient Practice that has been preserved by Native & Indigenous Cultures all throughout the world, from Native American Indians, through to the Massai tribe in Kenya to Ancient Celtic traditions'.

Fire played an extremely important role in bringing our ancestors together. It is said that as we gained control over this wild element, so too did the growth of circle begin. It defined a physical space with the creation of a rim and a centre point which provided light, warmth and defence.

Evidence for gathering in circle exist up to 30,000 years ago, although there is no written history of it, evidence has been gathered from art, paint and ceremonial relics that also depict reference and reverence to the divine feminine[1]. "This means that human beings have been gathering in purposeful circle for a very long time, and that the central representation of divinity was feminine." (Sharon Mijares). This makes perfect sense when we remember that in Ancient times, many of our Ancestors lived within a Matriarchal system.

This evidence shows that both men and women gathered in circles opting for communal living, yet with the rise of patriarchal ideology and religious belief, more emphasis began to placed on cognitive thinking in replacement of intuitive. This resulted in more linear thinking and behaviours, with people now meeting in lines with their attention directed towards one Leader.

"In this way, both men and women became passive receivers of information and instruction from persons in leadership positions. Thus community and egalitarianism were replaced with patriarchy and resulting divisiveness (Sharon Mijares)

Our ancestors did not live in isolation like many of us in the Western world do, only really gather together for significant dates like Christmas, birthdays, weddings and funerals. For our Ancestors circle existed for many reasons, from the sharing of folk tales to important decisions being made in council. The potential for circle to form was always there, because the village, tribe, community, would have often had a central fire burning for warmth or cooking for example. Women cooking on giant pots gathering around smouldering flames from burning wood or coal, as they prepared meals for the family together. One whole community and little pockets of circular communities formed within the safety of the whole!

It seems now that for many, we only gather around a table of food for that sometimes the woman (or man) has taken hours to prepare with minimal support. Even though the advent of social media, and video calling has allowed for us to connect on a wider scale, and to re-connect in real time loved ones in far places, still many feel a lack of intimacy and sense of connection as we have become lazy to gather outside of special or occasions or events. In the Western world we place high value on independence and we have less of a community based way of life in many places. People are congratulated on how well they struggled all by themselves, and often find it hard to reach out for help and support.

"In promoting independence we have inadvertently cultivated isolation for so many of us in our community"

I believe that this has to change!

I have felt this call for many reasons and from many places and for this is why I am joining the many beloved souls who are actively seeking to bring circle back to modern times NOW!

This is not a brand new concept, it began to see a major turning point in the 80s & 90s with the resurgence of women's circles . The work of Jean Shinoda Bolen[2] and her book The Millionth Circle was a powerful inspiration on this movement. Her belief is that once the millionth circle has formed we will have created a 'metamorphic shift into a post-patriarchal ideology leading to a positive change in humanity and collective consciousness'.

The work presented in the book The Circle Way[3] by Christina Baldwin & Ann Linnea reminds us that in circle process 'there is a leader in every chair'; shifting us back into a collaborative practice as opposed to an authoritative one. The Circle Way demonstrates exactly how the practice of sitting in circle, in a collaborative process can be used in a variety of settings, from women's circles to corporate business and religious meetings.

I truly believe that the collective is crying out for places where we can gather, connect, share our stories, and be witnessed.

There is need to cultivate a sense of community that allows for us to feel held enough and nourished enough to be able to then go and be leaders in our own homes, families, business, work, communities and most importantly our own lives!

Having mixed experienced of gathering with women, some which left me with more wounds (and I am already healing from past 'sisterhood' wounds, so it really wasn't supportive for my own healing journey in many ways; yet allowed me to see how important it is that these spaces are safe, compassionate, tender, without judgement and trauma-informed.

I am honoured to have trained with Sister Stories in Circle Facilitation and fully align with and support their mission...

"To create a world where going to circle is as common as going to yoga"

(Gemma Brady;

Mentor/Founder of Sister Stories [4])

I have experienced and witnessed what is affectionately called 'The Magic of Circle', there is something very potent, healing and transformational from sharing our stories. Stories, myths and folklore played and still play a vital role in humanity and also to our collective unconscious as termed by Psychologist Carl Jung for thousands of years. They were not simple told as a form of entertainment or to pass time, but contained within them morals, lessons, principle and more! Stories hold patterns, themes and archetypes that are familiar to us all across the word and intrinsic to our understanding of the world around us.

We learnt about the world, ourselves and community on so many levels through the art of Story-Telling and sharing as they bridge the inner & outer worlds and the visible & invisible threads that connect us all.

The Future is Ancient...

Sankofa is an African principle, concept and word (from the AkanTwi language) from the Akan tribe in Ghana & and refers also to the Adrinka symbol; of a bird with its head turned backwards or a stylised heart shape. The Akan tribe of Ghana is part of the larger Ashanti (or Asante) group of people from West Africa. Sankofa is part of a larger Akan proverb: “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi” which translate to,“it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”. Sankofa means "to retrieve" to "go back and get it" and speaks to us of the wisdom that we gain from looking to our past and retrieving or reviving elements that would support us in the presence and guide us toward a better future.

I feel deeply that the Art of Gathering in Circle is one of the practices and traditions that would assist us as a collective on so many levels. Just as with an arrow, you must pull it back to propel it forward, so to will reaching back into our past, connecting with our Ancestors whom gathered in circle to show us the way will propel us into a more collective and collaborate community, where everyone can explore and operate in their unique genius flow.

And we all have them, no matter our race, culture, circumstances, somewhere way back in our bloodline

we will find them, those that sat around the flame!

Circle is one of the elements of our collective consciousness that connects us all.

So...let's go back and get it!!!!

"Together, we are creating a world in which the healing power of storytelling can

create deep shifts at an individual, community & collective level."

Gemma Brady

Lianne Crawford




What is your experience of Women's Circles?

  • Positive - I love it

  • Negative - awful, never again

  • A bit of both

  • I like to be on my one a lot


1) A Brief History of Circle (2014) Sharon G. Mijares -

2) The Millionth Circle: How To Change Ourselves and the World (1999) Jean Shinoda Bolen: Conari Press

3) The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair (2001) Christina Baldwin & Anne Linnea: Berrett Koehler

4) Sister Stories Circle Facilitation Academy - Founded by Gemma Brady

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