The Wiccan Sabbats Explained

The Wiccan Sabbats Explained

Since Wicca is derived from ancient European agrarian societies, the Sabbats are closely tied to the seasons and the calendar.  

Sabbats have been followed for many thousands of years by ancient cultures such as Nordics, Celtics, Greeks, Egyptians.  

There are 8 primary Wiccan Sabbats and the 8 sabbats form the foundation of many modern Pagan traditions.

Let’s find out when the Sabbats fall, how they are celebrated, and the reason for celebrating them.

Prepare to be taken on a magickal journey through the eight different Sabbats.

Samhain

Condition:

Harvest is over. The fields are bare. The leaves have fallen from the trees. The weather is getting cold. The skies are going gray.

Samhain means "summer's end" and marks the beginning of winter.  It marks the end of the harvest season. It is the time of year when the earth has died and gone dormant.

Meaning:

Every year on October 31 (or May 1, if you're in the Southern Hemisphere) the Sabbat we call Samhain presents us with the opportunity to once more celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth, which means it’s the perfect time to start over.

For our ancestors, Samhain was the start of a new year. This gives you the opportunity to let go of the past and what isn’t working anymore and to start over and welcome everything new.

This is also the perfect time to reconnect and communicate with our ancestors or those who have died.

This is the time when the veil between our world and the spirit realm is thin, so it's the perfect time of year to make contact with the dead.

Associations:

  • The colors black and orange

  • Obsidian crystal

  • Onyx stone

  • Apples, catnip, corn, pears, squash, wormwood

Also known as:

Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Blood feast, Celtic New Year, Day of the Dead, Last Harvest, Winter's Eve

Yule

Condition:

The word “solstice” is derived from two Latin words:  “sol” (the sun) and “sistere” (to stand still), therefore, the winter solstice means “the sun stands still.”

Yule begins with the longest night and shortest day of the year when the Sun ceases its decline and for three days. At this point, the sun seems to stand still and lie dormant on the horizon before it once again begins its ascent into the northern skies and the days grow longer yet again.

Meaning:

The season of Yule is a time to spend with loved ones. It is a celebration for the Sun God is being reborn. And as the sun god makes His way back to the earth, you can focus on new beginnings. Magickal workings for the season focus on rebirth and renewal.

The way our ancestors celebrated Yule depending on how well they prepared the previous season. It’s sad because at this time, the old and the poor and sick were not expected to live throughout the winter.  You can say your survival depended on what they prepared in the previous months; what they set aside during harvest. Starvation was a constant threat for our ancestors throughout Yule, hence it was called “the famine months.”

Yule was their last great feast before the coldest and deepest of Yule set in. Any animals left were slaughtered to provide meat, and any left-over produce from the last harvest were fermented and made into wine and beer for drinking. They decorated using natural resources, like Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy.

Through the herbs, stones, colors, and other symbols gave comfort to our ancestors. It brought colour and warmth into their homes and served as conduits to remain in contact with the spirits of nature at such a trying but necessary time.

Associations:

Herbs:

  • Holly

  • Pine

  • Evergreen

  • Christmas Tree

Deities:

  • Odin

  • Pan

Colors:

  • Red and Green

  • Gold and White

  • Yellow and Gold

Stones:

  • Bloodstones

  • Rubies

  • Garnets

Drinks:

  • Wassail (a hot drink made from wine, beer or cider, spices, sugar and usually baked apples all served in a large punch bowl)

  • Lamb’s wool (ale mixed with sugar, nutmeg and the pulp of roasted apples)

  • hibiscus or ginger tea

  • apple cider.

Also known as:

The Day of Children, Midwinter, Mother's Night, Saturnalia, and Christmas.

Imbolc

The name Imbolc is derived from the Gaelic word “Oimelc,” which means “ewes milk.” and appropriately so for this is the lambing season a time when many of our herd animals have either given birth or their wombs are expectantly swollen.

Condition:

By February, our ancestors were tired of the cold, snowy season. Spring is coming soon, which means they only need to endure a few more weeks of the cold.

At this time, the sun is getting a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and the ground is slowly preparing for life to sprout from it.

This is a celebration to mark the return of the sun and the end of winter. At Imbolc, the Goddess nurses the Sun God who is growing in power and strength.  

Spells that have to do with improving on your abilities like healing, crafts, handiwork, creativity, and hope are best done during this season. It's also a good time for divination practice.

Dragon's blood and any symbol that shows a broom, hearth or fire is perfect for use at this time in your magickal workings.

Meaning:

Imbolc is a celebration of fertility in the middle of winter.  Our ancestors would poured milk upon the ground as a type of offering, for “Imbolc” actually translates to “in milk.”

Fire is the most important aspect of this celebration, for it was also a day dedicated to the pagan Goddess Bridget. Bridget is a triple aspect Goddess, who as a Maiden ruled over poetry, writing, inspiration and music. As a Mother she ruled over healing, midwifery and herbalism. As a Crone, she ruled over fire.

On the eve of Imbolc, our ancestors would put out all the home fires and re-light them as a symbol of the returning light of the Sun God.

Our ancestors would also make a broom from the three sacred woods: the handle from Ash, the brush from Birch twigs and the binding cord from Willow. They would place the broom by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new.

In the evening, a large candle would be lit and the family would gather around for their celebration. There would be a feast and everyone would talk about the plans and promises for the new season. This would go on until the candle burned out. They would light several candles at sunset in honor of the Sun God’s arrival.

A lot of people focus on the Celtic goddess Brigid at this time since she is the goddess of fire and fertility.  It is a time of magical energy related to the feminine aspect of the goddess, of new beginnings, and of fire and passion.

Associations:

Colors:

white, pink, and red

Stones:

Amethyst, turquoise

Herbs:

frankincense, rosemary, and wildflowers, dill

Also known as:

It is also known as Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Blessing of the Plow, Disting, Feast of the Virgin,  Festival of Milk.

Ostara

Condition:

Ostara is name of the Scandinavian Goddess of spring. It marks the start of Spring and celebrations are usually focused on the fertility of the land.

By this time, changes to the surroundings are very evident: the ground is becoming warmer, the plants are sprouting from the ground, and the animals are coming out of their hiding places. The day and night are of equal length.

Magick at this time focuses on rebirth, renewal, fertility, creativity, the power of the sun, gratitude, youthfulness, and energy.

Meaning:

On Ostara, our ancestors celebrate the beginning of the cycle of rebirth.  

The young Sun God now weds the young Maiden Goddess, who then conceives.

In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, abundance, new growth, and newborns!

Our ancestors would go and spend some time outdoors and revel in the beauty of the Earth coming to life.

It’s also a common practice to plant at this time since you are going to plant a seed and watch it come to life.

Our ancestors would exchange colored eggs and this is where the Easter egg hunt came to be.

Associations:

Colors:

rose, blue, pink, and red

Stones:

Moonstone, rose quartz

Herbs:

ginger, frankincense, Jasmine, nutmeg, sandalwood

Also known as:

Alban Eilir, Easter, Lady Day, and Waxing Equinox

Beltane

Condition:

Beltane is the first holiday of summer and the start of the death of winter. It is a season of fertility and starts on May 1st.

The animals start to come out and the grounds fields and trees start to green. It's a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, so magick focused on fertility and abundance.

Handfastings are traditionally held during this season. Fire is also a focal point of many celebrations all over.

Beltane magick focuses on union, harmony, fertility, and sowing what you reaped. This is a very fertile time and perfect for creative pursuits and romantic pursuits. Cast a spell for a more passionate life.

Meaning:

This is the time when the young God has blossomed into manhood and the Goddess takes him on as her lover. Their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around. It is a time of fertility and harvest, the time for reaping the wealth from the seeds that we have sown.

Our ancestors would begin celebrating the evening before to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth. The women would braid their hair and circle the Maypole and jump the Beltane fire for luck. Contact with the fire was symbolic of contact with the sun.

This is a holiday of union and sexuality. Rituals were held to promote fertility like letting the cattle walk between Belfires to protect them from diseases.

Associations:

Crystals:

Bloodstone, sapphire

Herbs:

frankincense, honeysuckle, Jasmine, St. John's Wort, rosemary

Colors:

green, yellow, and red.

Also known as:

Beltane, May Day, Roodmas, and Walpurgis

Litha

Condition:

Litha, also known as Midsummer, marks summer in full swing. This is a time of year of brightness and warmth.

It starts with the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent. There will be extra hours of daylight and the flowers, crops, and various greenery are blooming.

The earth has warmed up, making everyone want to go out and get back to Nature.

Spells and rituals are about inner power and inner fire. Meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Remember to always let the light win.

This is also the perfect time to do some love magic or hold a handfasting. June is also the month of marriages and family unions and get togethers.

Meaning:

Litha is a time of the battle between light and dark. The Oak King, the ruler beginning winter solstice, will lose out to the Holly King, the ruler from summer to winter.

At each solstice they battle for power. The Holly King takes over the reigns by Midsummer.

Our ancestors would spend as much time outdoors during this time and enjoy the extra hours of daylight.

The focal point is celebrating the power of the Sun God. We give thanks to His return and for making the Earth come alive again.

Associations:

Crystals:

emerald, Jade, Tiger's eye

Herbs/Fruits:

Apple, Daisy, frankincense, Lily, oak, orange, thyme

Colors:

green, yellow, and white

Also known as:

Litha, Vestalia, and Whitsuntide

Lammas

Condition:

This festival begins in the middle of summer and marks the beginning of the harvest season.

At Lammas, also called Lughnasadh, days are hot and much of the earth is dry and parched. Despite that, we know the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Apples are ripening, summer vegetables are ready to be picked, corn is growing tall and green.

This is the perfect time to celebrate and honor the Celtic craftsman god, Lugh. Decorate your altar table with reds, yellows, grains, wheat, oats, and more.

Lammas is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings. Magick during this time is focused on bettering yourself and reaping what you sow in terms of improving yourself.

Take a moment to relax in the heat, and reflect on the upcoming abundance of the fall months and recognize that the bright summer days will soon come to an end.

Meaning:

Now is the time to reap what you have sown, and gathering up the first harvests of grain.

Grain is the focal point of this Sabbat. During the time of our ancestors, it determined whether they were going to starve during before harvest.

It’s easy to forget what our ancestors had to endure to survive. Now, if we need bread, we simply drive over to the local grocery store and there would be bread there.

During the time of our ancestors, harvesting and processing of grain was crucial to their survival. Harvesting the crops too late, or not baking the bread in time, could spell disaster. The way they took care of their crops meant the difference between life and death.

During Lammas, we honor our ancestors and the hard work they had to do in order to survive. This is a good time to give thanks for the abundance and to be grateful for Nature’s bounty.

Associations:

Herbs/fruits:

Crabapple, ginseng, grapes, potato, berries

Colors:

green, orange, yellow, and red

Also known as:

Ceresalia, First Harvest, Lad Day, and Lammas

Mabon

Condition:

Mabon is the mid-harvest festival. This is the time to take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest.

This is also the time of winter solstice, when the night and day are of equal length. We accept that the soil is dying and warmth is behind us, and the cold lies ahead.

The fields are nearly empty because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter.

This Sabbat’s focal point is thanksgiving and balance and harmony. Magick should focus around gratitude, and harmony, and balance between light and dark.

Meaning:

Mabon marks the dissent of the Goddess into the underworld. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. The crops are brown and going dormant.

This is a time of balance, so you should stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of your harvests, whether they be from improving yourself, working at your jobs, raising your families.

Association:

Crystals:

amethyst, Topaz

herbs/crops:

acorns, corn, frankincense, great, oak, wheat

Colors:

brown, and orange

Also known as:

Mabon, Alban Elfer, Harvest, Second, Harvest, and Wine Harvest



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