Wiccans have eight festivals during the year which are referred to as Sabbats. They are solar rituals that mark the movement of the sun as it travels the wheel of the year and of life and nature itself. They are divided into two groups; one of these being the lesser Sabbats which mark the equinoxes and solstices and the others are major Sabbats that mark agriculture and fertility.
The four Greater Sabbats are:
Imbolc – Celebrated on January 31, February 1st or 2nd and is also known as Candlemas Beltane - Celebrated on May 1st and is also known as May Day Lughnasadh - Celebrated on August 1st and is also known as Lammas Samhain - Celebrated on October 31st and also known as Halloween
The Four Lesser Sabbats are:
Ostara - Celebrated around March 21st and is also known as the Spring Equinox Litha - Celebrated around June 21st and is also known as the Summer Solstice Mabon - Celebrated around September 21st and is also known as the Autumn Equinox Yule - Celebrated around December 21st and is also known as the Winter Solstice
- October 31st -Also known as Halloween, November Eve, Feast of the Dead, Feast of Apples or All Hallows Eve
This is the most holy day in Wicca. Samhain is a farewell celebration to the God in his role as the “Lord of the Harvest”. He is in the role of a sacrificial god that gives up his life so that humanity may survive the cold winter months. This is the final harvest when food is stored and animals are slaughtered for food. Even though the Goddess morns for the God, she is aware of the life that stirs within her womb and that soon he shall be reborn.
It is also the “Feast of the dead” for it is also the time when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is at its thinnest. This is a time when those who died are honored and remembered and it is customary to set an extra place at the dinner table for those spirits of dead loved ones may come and sit with those who loved them.
Since it is a time when the veil is the thinnest it is the best time for divination or communication with the spirit world.
– December 21st -Also know as the Winter Solstice
Yule celebrates the rebirth of the Sun God who is born of the Goddess. Yule is the time of the longest night and the shortest days of the year. It is the time when the darkness has reached its apex on the Wheel of the Year. We light fires and candles to welcome the return of the God of Light. While we celebrate the Goddess rests after giving birth to the God. It is also the time that the Oak King defeats the Holly King and begins to rule.
spring is soon to return. spring is soon to return.
It is also a time in which we look into ourselves to discover what things about us we wish to work on so that it grows in the new year.
– around February 1 -Also known as Candlemas or Brighid’s Day
The Goddess has recovered from the birth of the God but still slumber. She begins to stir but still sleeps. We honor the Sun God as he grows in strength. His bright light warms the earth and causes seeds to germinate and spout, the sap to begin to run through the trees, wildlife begins to stir as a sign of the approach of spring. Traditionally this is a time of cleansing and purification both physically and spiritually. It is a time to clean out our homes of clutter and negative/old energy. It is a time of renewal and new beginnings and blessings. It is also a great time to make and/or bless candles to be used in ritual or sacred work.
- approximately March 21st -Also known as the Spring Equinox
We mark the Goddess awakening from her rest and the first day of Spring. The God has warmed the Earth and the Goddess blankets the earth in life. The animals begin to awaken from their winter slumber. The days now equal the night and light will soon overtake the darkness as the days lengthen. The God continues to grow in maturity.
Ostara is a fertility celebration and the goddess honored during this Sabbat is Eostre. We call it to us and we celebrate it. Traditionally it is a time where we color eggs with colors or symbols meant to magically evoke those things into our lives. We use eggs because they are an ancient symbol of fertility to the goddess Eostre. This was also a time when bonfires were lit and cattle were driven between them to purify them and to promote fertility. Mean and women would leap over the flames for fertility and good luck.
- May 1 (beginning at sunrise) -Also known as May Day.
It is the last of the spring Sabbats and celebrates the marriage and union of the Goddess and God. This union is seen in symbolic in the May Pole Dance. The May Pole is a phallic symbol with a wreath placed on top which represents the Goddess. As the dances weaves the ribbons on the pole the wreath descends in a symbolic mating the God and Goddess. This is a popular time for handfastings.
- June 21st -Also known as the Summer Solstice or Midsummer
At this time the God has reached his prime in power. It is the opposite of Yule on the Wheel of the Year. Litha being the longest day and Yule being the shortest. It is the first day of summer. After this day the nights will again become longer. This is the time that the Holly King defeats the Oak King and begins to rule.
- July 31st (beginning at sundown) -Also known as August Eve
It is the celebration of the first harvesting of crops and the bounty that was brought to the earth by the God and Goddess. This is a holiday sacred to the Irish God Lugh. It is a time for us to reflect and recognize our talents and abilities and to honor them as well as those talents of others around us.
This is also the time in which the God begins to die. The Goddess watches in sorrow as she realizes he will soon die, yet rejoices for she knows he will live on inside her.
- approximately Sept. 21 Also known as the Autumnal Equinox
At this time the day and night become equal and darkness overtakes the light. It is the first day of autumn and the harvest is at its fullest. It is a time to celebrate the bounty that the earth has provided for us and to share it with others. Especially those less fortunate.
This is the time that the God willingly sacrifices himself as the “Lord of the Harvest” so that we can have food during the cold winter months. He descends into the underworld to await his rebirth at Yule. This is a time in which we take stock of our lives and give thanks for our experiences and we look inward in quiet contemplation of future goals.