Circle Sanctuary
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
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 (See also
Circle Sanctuary. March 8,
Fox, Selena. Circle Guide to Pagan Groups. Mt. Horeb, WI
Circle, n.d