What is Magical About a Mandala?

Julie's Mandala

Copyright Julie Marsh 2013

The Mandala or “Magic Circle” is a great way to begin working abstractly because it is so simple.

The magic circle represents the universe and is usually enclosed in a square with deities in each corner although these are not necessary.

Mandalas are believed to have healing powers because they are a way of bringing consciousness to the surface in a concrete form.  They can be read just like a dream.  Mandalas bring forth our hidden shadow side because we draw on the great store of visual imagery held in our collective consciousness.

Mandalas create a safe place to depict anger, pain, show violent tendencies or even express grief or regret.  They are very powerful.

Mandalas never lie; they show us how special we are and prove that we know a lot more than we think.   Being mindful in the process is an important part of the power of the mandala.

This mandala is that I call a “Free Association Mandala” after Sigmund Freud.  As I am sure you know Freud had his patients lie on his couch and babble whatever they felt inclined.  This mandala is the same process only you are babbling with crayon!

There are many online tutorials using templates to create a mandala, however, I prefer to draw from my heart to give a mandala that shows a true reflection of me at this time.  Here goes….


  • Set aside 20 minutes and find a quiet place to work.  Give thanks to your materials before you start and spend a few minutes in quiet time.


  • On a piece of good quality paper (you might want to frame it you know!) and using your non-dominant hand, draw any shapes that feel right to you.  They can be circles, squares, ovals or a triangles.  Ideally, the shapes are not something identifiable.  Do not try to create anything, focus purely on the pleasure of drawing and relaxing in a safe space.  Try not to become distracted from your artwork.


  • You may use your dominant hand to colour in the shapes and continue from here on. Use markers, oil crayons, pastels or coloured pencils to fill in the shapes however you want using abstract form only.  That means no people, characters, houses, animals etc. The lovely mandala above was done with oil crayons and a watercolour wash was put over it at the end.  This allowed random marks that revealed the artist’s love of the ocean.


  •  Allow your mark-making to flow freely over the page with careless abandon.  There are no rules or restrictions to colours or shapes but leave some white of the paper to allow the watercolour wash to do its magic.


  • When you have finished, mix up a watery wash of your favourite watercolour.  Float the colour all over the mandala with a large square brush in horizontal strokes from the top.  Put the strokes down and leave them, the watercolour will do the rest.  Do not be too precious about this, it all comes out in the wash so to speak.


  • The work is now finished, accept it for what it is then leave it.


  • Show gratitude and appreciation for your workspace and your materials when you have finished.

This is rather like Sigmund Freud with his method of free association.  Freud would have his patients lie on the couch where he allowed them to babble and waffle on about anything and everything.  Freud was able to tell a lot about the unconscious mind of his patients this way.  In essence, this is what you will be doing when you create a magic circle, you are babbling and waffling in a visual way with a crayon or whatever.  Just like Freud you will be able to tell a lot about what is hidden from your consciousness.

The mandala can then be read according to the 6 principles of visual harmony – story, focus, composition, tonal values, colour and texture.

Here is a picture of my mandala….

My Mandala

Find out how to read your mandala in my earlier post.


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