Additionally, though no machines or equipment is needed to produce the energy necessary for transmutation, merely understanding the sequence of transmutation and the limitations of Equivalent Exchange is not enough. Just as the processes of "Comprehension, Deconstruction, Reconstruction" and "In order to gain, something of equal value must be lost in return" are cyclical concepts, the circle itself is the foundation of alchemy.
In order to begin an alchemical transmutation, a symbol called a Transmutation Circle is necessary. A Transmutation Circle can either be drawn on the spot when a transmutation is necessary (in chalk, pencil, ink, paint, blood or even traced in dirt) or permanently etched or inscribed beforehand, but without it, transmutation is generally impossible and all Transmutation Circles are made up of two parts:
The circle itself is a conduit which focuses and dictates the flow of power, tapping into the energies that already exist within the earth and matter. It represents the cyclical flow of the world's energies and phenomena and turns that power to manipulable ends.
Inside the circle are specific alchemical runes. These runes vary widely based on ancient alchemical studies, texts and experimentation, but correspond to a different form of energy, allowing the energy that is focused within the circle to be released in the way most conducive to the alchemist's desired effect. In basic alchemy, these runes will often take the form of triangles (which, when positioned differently, can represent the elements of either water, earth, fire or air), but will often be composed of varying polygons built from different triangles. For example: the hexagram is a commonly used base rune in Transmutation Circles because it creates eight multi-directional triangles when inscribed and can therefore represent all four classical elements at once. Other, more esoteric runes (including astrological symbols, symbolic images and varying lines of text) are prevalent and represent a multitude of other, specific functions for the alchemical energy that is released.