Circle Sanctuary, one of the largest contemporary Wiccan/ neo-pagan fellowships, began in 1974 as an informal gathering of people interested in magic and mysticism. During meditation, founder Selena Fox received the name, concept, and logo of Circle, and, with her partner Jim Alan, called the first group of people together at their home in Madison, Wisconsin. In the summer of 1975 they established Circle Farm on land near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. There the first Circle Coven was formed, and other related groups emerged.
Fox and Alan quickly became well known in the growing neo-pagan community for their ecumenical spirit, vibrant music, and extensive networking activity. In 1977 they published their first tape of Wiccan music and an accompanying songbook and organized the Circle Network, an international fellowship of Wiccans. The expanding organization was incorporated as the Church of Circle Wicca in 1978; the following year it issued the first edition of the Circle Resource Guide (which now exists in several volumes). Circle became the largest active fellowship of neo-pagans in North America.
In 1979 Circle moved to a farm near Middleton, Wisconsin, and in 1983 a farm was purchased near Barneveld, Wisconsin. There the Circle Sanctuary was created as an all-weather nature preserve, ritual site, and gathering place for Wiccans and neopagans. Circle Sanctuary has the support of neo-pagans far beyond the membership of Circle. Meetings are held at the sanctuary year round. After a lengthy court battle, Circle Sanctuary won zoning status as a church.
Fox has led in the development of an ecumenical and eclectic paganism that draws on elements of indigenous land-based religions, especially the traditions and practices of Native Americans. The ever-evolving system is termed "Wiccan Shamanism" or "Nature Spirituality," a blend of Wiccan spirituality, nature mysticism, shamanistic practices from around the world, ecofeminism, and the insights of modern psychology, especially its humanistic and transpersonal branches. Fox emphasizes the divinity inherent in nature and acknowledgement of the Goddess and Mother Earth.
Through the 1980s, Circle became one of the more visible Wiccan groups, and in 1980 it launched its publishing concern with Circle Network News, one of the more substantive of Wiccan periodicals. That same year the Pagan Spirit Alliance, a neo-pagan fellowship and friendship network, was organized and in 1981 the Circle Sanctuary hosted the first annual International Pagan Spirit Gathering. In the late 1980s, Circle also emerged as a champion of religious freedom and in 1991 established a more permanent organization, the Lady Liberty League, to focus on this continuing concern.
Currently, Circle is headed by Fox and her husband, Dr. Dennis Carpenter, both professionally trained psychotherapists. Fox heads Circle's school for priestesses, its school for women in Goddess-oriented spirituality, and its school for ministers, which trains pagan and Wiccan leadership. Fox was appointed to the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 1999.
Circle publishes several periodicals, including the Sanctuary Circles Newsletter, the Circle Guide to Pagan Groups, and CIRCLE Magazine. It may be contacted at P.O. Box 219, Mt. Horeb, WI 53572. Website: http://www.circlesanctuary.org/.
(See also Wicca )
Circle Sanctuary. http://www.circlesanctuary.org/. March 8, 2000.
Fox, Selena. Circle Guide to Pagan Groups. Mt. Horeb, WI: Circle, n.d.