Pagan Holidays - The Wiccan Sabbats
The Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is symbolic of never ending momentum, One turn of it equals one year. Wiccans and Pagans celebrate the eternal circle of life - Birth, Death and Rebirth. Each of the spokes on this wheel represents one of our eight pagan holidays - the Sabbats.
The Eight Sabbats
The Sabbats divide into two categories:
Greater/Lesser, and Fertility/Harvest Sabbats.
1. Samhain: October 31st
2. Yule: Circa December 19-22nd (Winter Solstice)
3. Imbolc: February 1st
4. Ostara: Circa March 19-22nd (Spring Equinox)
5. Beltane: May 1st
6. Lith: Circa June 19-22nd (Summer Solstice)
7. Lughnasadh: August 1st
8. Mabon: September 19-22nd (Autumn Equinox)
The dates vary because traditions vary. Also, some practitioners have celebrations on weekends before or after the Sabbat holiday. Whether you want to hold a proper pagan ritual, solitary or with friends, or whether you want to carry out a simple acknowledgment through prayer or a quiet activity in your home, is up to you - so as long as you honor the Sabbats in some way;
this helps to follow the flow of life and the changing of seasons.
Samhain, one of the Greater Sabbats, and is the Witches' New Year - the Last Harvest. This holiday is known by many names. In the Western World it is commonly known as Halloween. It is also known as The Feast of All Saints Day, All Hallows, Day of the Dead, Third Harvest, Harvest Home and many more. On this holiday we honor those who are no longer with us, those who have passed over to the other side. On this night, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. It is a good time to contemplate death as part of life, and many Wiccans and Pagans take to the cemeteries to visit their passed loved ones, or to perform a cemetery ritual. Samhain marks the end of summer. Our God has once again "died" - to be reborn at Yule - while the Goddess carries his fire from the sun within her womb. We celebrate the last harvest before winter comes to clean the slate once more. Some Wiccans like to work with divination tools such as reading tarot cards for the coming year.
Yule, one of the Lesser Sabbats, marks the Winter Solstice and the return of light and life. This is a joyous pagan holiday indeed, where the Goddess once again gives birth to the God. Many divine babies were born on this day - Jesus, Mithra, Oedipus, Hercules, Dionysus and many other holy deities. It is a day to contemplate reincarnation, fertility and the cycle of life. The Yule tree, can be decorated with all sorts of decorations. Pagans of ancient times decorated with candles and food, Also the wreath, the mistletoe, the Yule-log (with a sun etched onto it symbolizing the Baby Sun God's return) burning in the fire-place, After breathing new life into the God and the world, the Goddess now sleeps until Imbolc, when she will awaken again as a young maiden.
Imbolc, another Greater Sabbat, is the Wiccan and Pagan holiday which we are reminded that Spring is on it's way. The Earth still sleeps under a blanket of snow, and the Young Maiden Goddess is beginning to awaken from her long winter's nap. It is the Goddess Brigid's day - the Goddess of smithcraft, arts and crafts, poetry and medicine. She is the Triple Goddess - the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone - and we celebrate her in all her glorious aspects. This is a time for initiations, with plotting and planning for the year ahead now that spring is finally awakening with warmth and light returning. Light candles to celebrate the coming of light.
Another Lesser Sabbat, Ostara marks the Spring Equinox. Fertility is now beginning to rise up slowly from the earth. The two symbols of this holiday and fertility, originate in this pagan holiday - the rabbit and the egg. We celebrate fertility by decorating the eggs; a basket full of eggs symbolizes the womb bursting with fertility. Another turn on Wheel of the Year which Wiccans and Pagans celebrate the courtship of the Goddess and God. Celebrate this Sabbat by going into nature, taking a walk or spending time in your garden, and recognize the changes in the Earth as she awakens further each day.
Beltane, another Greater Sabbat - May Day. Beltane is a highly charged fertility holiday - dancing around the phallic may-pole is a tradition still carried on today. This Sabbat represents the sacred union of the Goddess and God. Fertility bursts forth from the shell that once contained it and the greenery of the Earth is fast returning. Beltane is a fire festival, where many people often jump over the fires to represent contact with the sun God. Rituals are carried out to promote fertility and to bless the crops for the coming summer. This is a time for lovers to celebrate their union,
and many mark this sacred day by making love.
Litha is another of the Lesser Sabbats - the Summer Solstice; Midsummer. This is a time of high magick, faery magick, balefires (bonfires), promises of a bountiful harvest, and visions of pregnant Goddesses. This is the when the power and energies of magick are at their greatest. Draw down the sun as you would draw down the moon, but use a wand or athame instead of a chalice, and feel the power of manhood at its peak. Go into nature and immerse yourself in the fruits of the God and the Goddess. Fairies and other mystical creatures are out in the woods and dancing in the fields - go out and see if you can see, feel or hear them.
Sit in peace with Mother Earth and bathe in her gratitude of abundance.
Lughnasadh / Lammas
Lughnasadh also known as Lammas is another Greater Sabbat and first of the three major pagan harvest holidays. Summer and spring is finally paying off in the first harvest. Offerings of bread can be offered to faery folk, and left out for wild animals. During this time you may wish to honor our pregnant Goddess, and the waning energy of our Sun God, as the sun begins to fade. You can honor them by leaving libations (offerings) of bread and cider.
Mabon, also known as the Autumn Equinox, marks the middle of the harvest. We celebrate nature, and the balance of the God and Goddess and day and night. It is a time to reap what we have sown, and we give thanks to the harvest and the fruits of our labor. This is the second of the three Harvest Sabbats. The Goddess is now heavily pregnant with the God, and the God's warmth is still slowly fading away. As his power fades, the Goddess begins to mourn his warmth, but she knows his power will return at Yule. We honor the Goddess and God by leaving another offering of the second harvest - leave offerings of wine. And thank the Goddess and God for the bountiful harvests, and wonderful year of teaching and lesson-giving.
Esbats are traditionally held on Full or New Moons, where we honor the Deities. When held on a Full Moon you may use milk as the drink, and crescent-shaped cookies, or cakes for the simple feast. It is time to honor them; especially if something in particular has occurred recently where you felt they had some positive influence. They appreciate the gratitude!