The Sabbats celebrate the eternal circle of life – birth, death, and rebirth. These seasonal holidays have been followed for many thousands of years by ancient cultures such as Nordic, Celtic, and Greek. The Sabbats are attuned to the natural rhythms and cycles of nature and the passing seasons. Sabbat is a French word taken from the Hebrew Sabbath, meaning “to rest.” The Sabbats take place eight times in the year, they have spiritual significance. Most witches celebrate the Sabbats.
The Major Sabbats include the four major agricultural festivals, Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. The minor Sabbats include the solar festivals of the equinoxes and solstices, Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon.
The midpoint of the four seasons is when the major Sabbats occur. The beginning of each season is when the minor Sabbats occur.
Each spring the day, when the hours between sunrise and sunset are exactly equal to the hours between sunset and sunrise, is called “vernal equinox. “There is also a day each fall when the hours of darkness and the hours of daylight are exactly in harmony, this is the “autumnal equinox.”
Halfway between each equinox, there are two points on the earth’s path which mark the Solstices. Daylight hours are at their longest during the Summer Solstice, the hours of darkness are at their shortest. During the Winter Solstice, we have the shortest day and longest night.
All Sabbat ceremonies begin at sundown on the eve of the dates given and continue to sundown. Each Sabbat is spaced at approximately even intervals throughout the year.
By celebrating the festivals, you attune yourself to the cycles of nature creating an inner calm and oneness with all things.
The Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is of Pagan heritage and is the calendar for the cycle of the seasons. The year is viewed as a wheel that keeps turning, and once it has completed a rotation, the wheel keeps going and turns again and again. Each of the spokes on this wheel represents one of the eight Sabbats.
The Wheel of the Year begins at Samhain, which is better known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows Eve, which is the Celtic New Year, this is when the veil between the worlds of life and death are the finest.
The Four Seasons are known as Solar Festivals because they mark a seasonal change caused by the Sun. The cross-quarter days are marked by Fire Festivals and are usually celebrated as significant agricultural festivals. The Solar Festivals and the Fire Festivals make up the Wheel Of The Year.
Wiccans look at the year as the continuing and repeating story of the life, death, and rebirth of the God and the fertility of the Goddess.
Wheel of the Year Cycle
- At Yule, which occurs at the time of the winter solstice in December, the Lady gives birth to the Lord and then rests.
- At Imbolc, in February, the Lord is seen as a young boy, and the Lady recovers from giving birth.
- Ostara marks the first day of spring and the awakening of the Earth. The Lord is seen as a growing youth at this time.
- At Beltane, the Lord has grown to manhood and he falls in love with the Lady, the two unite, producing the bounty of Nature. The Lady becomes pregnant by the Lord.
- The Summer Solstice is the point in midsummer when everything in Nature is at its peak, there is abundance. During this time the Lord and the Lady are at the height of their powers.
- Lughnasadh is the day in August of the first harvest. The first grains are cut, and the Lord begins to weaken.
- At Mabon, the second harvest, the Lord is dying. The days grow shorter, and Earth readies for the slumber of winter.
- At Samhain, in October, the Lord dies only to be reborn of the Lady again at Yule.