The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Circle, Ring or Round Dance
Perhaps the most ancient dances of all, round dances are reminiscent of fairy rings and magic circles. Although some ring dances are complex with specific turns, steps, and sequences, at their most primal these are exceedingly simple dances: people join hands and dance around in a circle. No artistic skill is needed, nor is there need for special preparation: the simplest round dances are egalitarian. With the exception of the exceedingly frail or those whose mobility is challenged, virtually anyone can join in.
A Paleolithic drawing depicts women wearing peaked hoods dancing around a central phallic symbol: it’s very tempting to see in this the ancestral roots of witches dancing around a Maypole, or perhaps around a costumed, horned figure.
Ring dances are frequently danced around something that serves as a central focus: that something might be a stone, an altar, a statue or an animal.
Some shamanic bear dances actually circled around a real living bear, although other dances circle around bear skulls or other ritual paraphernalia.
Ring dances may circle around a person, who may be costumed and/or masked, or sometimes enthroned.
Modern witches do the circle dance to raise the cone of power. (See DICTIONARY:Cone of Power.)
Witches dance to demarcate the sacred circle.
Dancers may encircle a high priestess, initiate or priest.
Dancers may encircle living trees, as did the Italian witches of Benevento. They may also dance around cut trees, carved phallic poles, pillars or Maypoles.
Some ritual groups include a single man together with many women; the women may dance around the man, who may or may not be costumed. This may be what witch-hunters understood as a diabolical sabbat: witches circling a man costumed to resemble a goat or a horned, hoofed deity.
Ring dances, perhaps because they are so basic and primal, have the highest survival rate of what may have once been a huge magical repertoire of dances.