The Magic Circle: Embraced
A magic circle is embraced when it is drawn around an existing reality that is too overwhelming to engage without the supportive structure of a designed experience. The magic circle helps participants embrace a reality they otherwise avoid or are estranged from.
In instances where the circumstances are so overwhelming that they automatically create some sort of magic circle, effort needs to be put into preparing participants for what that space of the experience will be like. Funerals and wilderness trips require that the magic circle be embraced.
For most funerals, the magic circle is somewhat automatically created by the overwhelming reality of the death, especially if the corpse is present. The designer needs to create mechanisms to allow the participants to embrace the magic circle created around the new reality of the loss. Funeral director Amy Cunningham says, “This space [of the funeral and mourning] is a space that, believe it or not, as sad as you are, you’re gonna miss it. It’s rare. You’ll look back. It’s luminous. It’s got a glow. And you may feel like you’re hating it, but it’s something to marinate in. It’s not everyday.”
Similarly to funerals, the context of the wilderness can be overpowering compared to the human-centered, built environments that the majority of us spend all of our time in. The designer needs to create conditions for the participants to embrace the magic circle of the wilderness because we have largely become estranged from it.
In both the case of funerals and wilderness trips, explicit communication about what to expect and how to prepare are all part of helping people embrace the magic circle.