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Sabbats

Sabbat {Greek - Sabatu - to rest}
The Pagan holidays, called Sabbats, are seasonal celebrations representing birth, death and rebirth. These celebrations are a means to attune the physical human mind, body and spirit with the flow of natures' energy and the essence of the God/Goddess. It is a bonding, a time to recognize the aspects of the season within yourself. "To become one with nature" is a common metaphor for the overall purpose and intent of these holidays.

Most Pagans believe that by joining forces with the natural forces around us, we bring harmony, balance and order to our physical existence. These are necessary aspects of life for positive change and to create an atmosphere for spiritual learning and growth.

There are eight Sabbats observed during the Pagan calendar. All Sabbat ceremonies begin at sundown on the eve of the dates given and continue to sundown. You might want to start carrying a special calendar around with you to mark the moon phases and holidays for the year. Give yourself enough time to go shopping for any supplies you might want to use during your festival rituals.

 
The Festival Dates & Times
If the original intent of the Sabbats is to create a union for a harmonious flow of energy, then the dates we've become accustomed to here in the North would be at odds with practicing practioners in the Southern Hemisphere.
 
Let's take Bealtaine as an example. Bealtaine is the last of the spring fertility Sabbats, and is commonly celebrated on May 5th. But if you're practicing in Australia, May is not the season for spring. Conducting rituals and ceremonies to create a flow of harmonious energy at a time when your ritual is at odds with the season you're in, can create discord rather than a natural flow.
Rather than rely on the common calendar dates for celebrating your Sabbats, you should adjust the following dates to coincide with your hemispheres seasonal changes. For those of you in the south check out the High Holy Days Calendar for the Southern Hemisphere.
 
Festivals or ceremonies for the High Holy days are begun at sunset on the eve of the Sabbat. October 31st is often seen as the day of Samhain, however, Samhain is held on November 1st. So where does the confusion set in for the dates of the festivals? Mainly because celebrations for the festivals begin at sunset on the night before the Sabbat.
 
Why are the holidays begun on the night before? The early calendars were based on lunar cycles, not solar cycles. A day did not begin at midnight or with the sunrise, but rather with the night and moon rise. To the ancient pagans, night fall was the beginning of the new day. Many other religions continue the practice of evening festivities to this day as well. Judaism comes to mind. So this isn't just a pagan thing.
 
The Pagan High Festivals
The following is a brief explanation of each of the solar holidays. The are the eight standard holidays which are usually linked to the sun deity or the God force. That doesn't mean you can't honor the Goddess on a solar holiday. Rituals for the standard Sabbats have been designed to honor both aspects of the God/Goddess to represent the balance and harmonious union of the "whole".

The Esbat festivals on the other hand, honor the Goddess and the moon deity. But as with the Sabbats, both God and Goddess essences can be celebrated during either set of festivals.

This is a high level generic description of the Sabbats. For further detailed information you will need to return to the Witchcraft & Shamanism menu and chose the tradition we have listed from the menu and review those postings. Each Sabbat is celebrated slightly different from tradition to tradition. Because of this, I have tried to give information for the rituals based on Celtic, Wiccan and Norse practices.

 
The Sabbats
1. Yule - {The Winter solstice}         Dec. 20th to Jan. 1st.
  • American and Celtic traditions ~ Yuletide
  • Caledonii tradition ~ Alban Arthan
  • Pecti-Wita traditions ~ Feill Fionnain
 
The real "12 Days of Christmas", Yule begins on "Mothers Night" and ends 12 days later on "Yule Night". Typically starting on the 20th or 21st of December to December 31st.Yule is a time when the waxing sun overcomes the waning sun. The Holly King which represents the death aspect of God, is overcome by the Oak King who represents the rebirth of the God. It is the time when an individual concludes the chapter of their life for the year and prepares for the rebirth of the New Year's lessons and opportunities.
 
Celebrations vary from tradition to tradition, but there are some similarities that most people will probably recognize. Dark red or Bayberry candles are used to decorate the home and ensure wealth and happiness for the coming year. Many practioners will place the candles as a centerpiece on their dining table and allow it to burn until it extinguishes by itself. A set of candles can also be placed on the mantle and lit at the beginning of the Yule ceremony.
The festival is associated with fire, and the Yule log. The fire is the tool that returns all to it's beginnings, "ashes to ashes". And prepares the soul for rebirth, the "rise of the Phoenix from the ashes".
 
The season is also represented by the colors red (for the fire) and green (for the rebirth) process. The season includes the cutting of the Yule tree, decorating the home with a holy wreath (natures red and green bush) and decorating special cookies for celebrating the sweet joys of the year past and the sweetness for the year to come.
 
Finally the season includes the reindeer stag to represent the horned God, the Pagan God of death and the final chapter of the year.

 

2. Imbolg         February 1st or 2nd
  • American tradition ~ Candlemas
  • Caledoni traditions ~ Imbolgc Brigantia
  • Celtic traditions ~ Imbolg
  • Mexican Craft ~ Candelaria
  • Strega traditions ~ Lupercus
  • Teutonic traditions ~ Disting
 
Imbolg is the first of the Spring holidays that ring in the festivals for fertility. Imbolg is the celebration of things yet to be born for the new year. Those things that are hidden under winters last snows. It is a time for preparation. Look over your supplies for the coming year and make a list of what you might need. It is a time to take stock.
 
For this festival, lavender and white candles are burned to represent the divine (white) rebirth and preparation for ones spirituality (the lavender).

 

3. Ostara - {Vernal Equinox}         Around March 20th
  • American and Celtic traditions ~ Ostara
  • Caledonii traditions ~ Alban Eiler
 
This festival celebrates the warrior aspect of the God and the Goddess as the Maiden. It occurs in the middle of March when the length of day is equal to the length of night. It is a time of balance, the official end of winter and beginning of winter. The second of the fertility festivals, Ostara represents the seeding and preparation for the remainder of the year.
 
The season is celebrated by blessing seeds for future plantings. Eggs are colored and placed on an alter as magical talismans. The "Easter Bunny" and "Easter Baskets" are both variations of this Pagan festival. The Bunny represents abundance of planting yet to come and the baskets are used to gather the new spring flowers, another representation of fertility. After all, blossoms are a culmination of combining masculine pollen with feminine pollen. What a better representation of fertility.
 
The season is also represented by light green, lemon yellow and pale pink. The beginning colors of maturing plants and flowers. Twisted bread and sweet cakes are prepared and served at dusk to represent the abundance of planting for the new harvest.

 

4. Bealtaine         May 1st or 5th
  • American traditions ~ Beltane or Beltaine
  • Celtic traditions ~ Bealtaine
  • Caledonii traditions ~ Bealtinne
  • Mexican Craft traditions ~ Rudemas
  • Strega traditions ~ Festival of Tana
  • Teutonic traditions ~ Walburga
 
Also known as Mayday, Bealtaine is the last of the 3 spring fertility holidays. While Mayday is traditionally celebrated on May 1st, where Bealtaine is celebrated any where between May 1st and May 5th. Symbolized in the May pole.
 
This holiday represents the time when people, plants and animals prepare for the summer months. The time of love, and union. Specifically the union of the Lord and Lady, or the God/Goddess. It is a time of joining two halves to make a single whole, the 3rd entity. Could this be a sign of the spiritual trinity?
 
The season is represented by bright blue, lavender, pink, yellow and white. Ribbons around a favorite tree in your yard, or a wreath for your door using flowers for the seasons colors and ribbons to show off their natural beauty is a great addition.
 
The ceremony for the day can begin at sunrise with freshly picked flowers. Drop a few in a large white bowl to float around a couple white floating candles. Decorate your mantle with greens and pedals. At the end of the day, take the pedals from the ceremonial decorations and place them around the house for protection.

 

5. Midsummer - {Summer Solstice}         Around June 20th
  • American and Celtic traditions ~ Midsummer festival
  • Caledonii traditions ~ Alban Hefin
  • Pecti-Wita traditions ~ Feill-Sheathain
 
Also known as 'Midsummer Night's Eve', it is the longest day of the year. The Midsummer festival celebrates the kingly aspect of the God. It is a festival of passion and glory, a time to merge and commune with nature, sprites and fairies. In the Celtic traditions it is also a celebration of the Mother Goddess who is seen heavy with child, ready to deliver the fruits of the season so to speak.
 
Colors of red and maize yellow and gold are excellent decorations representing the Sun God, the masculine aspects of the season. Sunflowers and sunflower seeds are also excellent examples (provided you've planted them in early spring). Or replace the early spring wreath on your door with a new summer decoration of red feathers for for sexuality and yellow feathers for prosperity, intertwined or braided with ivy. Alter candles should be of gold and red.
 
Money tree plans can be added to your mantle decorations for monetary wealth, (providing you once again have had an early planting season).

 

6. Lughnasadh         August 1 to 2
  • American traditions ~ Lammas
  • Celtic tradition ~ Lughnasadh
  • Strega traditions ~ Corucopia
  • Teutonic traditions ~ Thingtide
 
The first of the harvest festivals, Lammas is recognized on August 2nd. The Celtic festival, Lughnasadh, is celebrated on August 7th in honor of the Sun God. It is the beginning of the harvest season and begins when the early plantings are ready to be picked. The spring grains, early fruits and vegetables are picked as part of this ritual.
 
Bread is baked for this holiday, as well as, a bounty of fruits and garden vegetables, set in an organization of color from white, yellow, red, green, blue and finally black. Set your alter accordingly with your favorite harvest, in a circle on a platter of your choice. We've found silver to be one of the better metals to use for these festivals, not just because of it's own beauty, but also because it reflects the color of the bounties' natural beauty. Where as the reflection of gold or brass can alter the natural color.
White potatoes, sweet corn, orange carrots, strawberries, deep red radishes, celery, broccoli, blue berries and black berries, surrounded by leaves of parsley or lettuce.
 
Canning should be a big part of this festival, preparing your home for fall. Use this wonderful energy to harvest your magikal herbs and empower them as part of your ritual.

 

7. Mabon - {Autumn Equinox}         Around September 23rd
  • American tradition ~ Autumn Equinox
  • Caledonii tradition ~ Alban Elfed
  • Celtic tradition ~ Mabon
  • Teutonic tradition ~ Winter Finding
 
Winter Finding spans from the Equinox until Winter Night on October 15, which is the Norse New Year. And the Caledonii recognizes this time as the festival for the Lord of Mysteries.
 
The 2nd of the harvest festivals, this is the second time of the year to specifically commune with nature. The earlier festival in the Summer Solstice looks toward the summer or warm portions of nature. Where the autumn equinox focuses on the cooler aspects.
 
The festival is represented by the harvest of corn, along with the other products in your garden that are ready to be harvested. To celebrate Mabon, corn and corn bread are served, along with cider and sweet potatoes (yams). Don't forget to harvest the last of your herbs and other plants that will need to dry for winter use.
 
This festival is represented by brown, orange, gold and red. The wonderful colors for those turning leaves. You can paraffin those leaves and add them to your decorations. Just dip the leaves in melted paraffin and put them on wax paper to dry. Place them around your alter, or in a jar decorated with your special sigil for protection.
 
Candles in the festival colors can be placed around your table, and alter to ring in the season and celebrate the bounty of the harvest. River and stream stones can also be included into your festival and energized for a variety of magikal purposes.
 
 
8. Samhain - The Pagan New Year
  • American traditions ~ Samhain - November 1st
  • Celtic traditions ~ Samhain - November 7th
  • Scottish/Celts traditions ~ Martinmas or Old Hallowmas - November 11th
  • Strega traditions ~ Shadowfest
 
The Pagan New Year represents the complete circle of the seasons and is the last of the three harvest Sabbats. Although the traditions celebrate Samhain on different days, they are the same festival with the same celebration and intent.
 
It is a festival of thanks and gratitude for the year past. A time to look back at the lessons you learned, the spiritual evolution you traversed and the special unions you made. A time to thank the God/Goddess for the bounty you received and shared.
 
Represented by black candles to ward off negativity, gold to recognize the Sun God essence and orange to represent the joining of the higher and lower forces within and without.
 
On the night of Samhain the veil between the spiritual world and the physical world is at it's thinnest. Therefore many will conduct rituals to honor the dead or those they lost during the past year. Many practioners believe this is the best time to communicate with those they lost or wish to converse with on the other side. Divination is especially heightened on this night, but extra caution for positive forces should also be heeded.
 
Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider and other "Halloween"esque items can be used to decorate your home. Along with large golden-yellow mums in and about the house.
 
It is also a good time to buy a new broom, change the wardrobe, the curtains and colors in your home.
 
Quarters & Cross Quarters
Each Sabbat is divided into the Quarters and Cross-quarter ceremonies.
 
Quarter ceremonies, these are also called the Fire Festivals.
Yule
Ostara
Summer Solstice
Mabon
 
Cross Quarter ceremonies.
Imbolic
Bealtaine
Lughnasadh
Samhain
 
Not all practioners chose to practice their craft on these special holidays. But rather chose to honor the festival and rest during the day. Conducting special rituals as part of their gratitude and preparation. Other practioners chose to use the energy of these holidays to include some special magikal needs for family or friends. Neither way is right or wrong, but rather a simple matter of choice and tradition.
 
Additional Reading
 The Sabbats 
 Sabbats - Southern Hemisphere Calendar
 Esbats: Working By The Moon
 The Celtic High Holy Days
 Wiccan Sabbat Rituals


Source: 1, m1, m4, m5, m7, m8, m9, m10, m13, m14, m16, m18, m19, m23, m24, m25, m36
Created:  10.02.1996        Updated: 01.05.2010