The Eight Sabbats
The Eight Sabbats are crucial to many modern Pagan traditions. Read on to find out when and how these are celebrated and discover their fascinating history.
Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
Now that the fields are bare, the leaves have fallen from the trees, and the skies grey and cold. The festival we call Samhain, gives us with the opportunity to again celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth. For many Pagan and Wiccan traditions, Samhain is a time to reconnect with our ancestors, and honour 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.
Yule, The Winter Solstice
Yule, was and is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht
For followers of so many religions and spiritual beliefs, the time of the winter solstice is a time when we gather with family and loved ones. For Pagans and Wiccans, it is often celebrated as Yule, but there are so many different ways you can enjoy the season. Celebrate with family and friends, welcome light and warmth into your home, and embrace the fallow season of the earth. The Yule season is full of magic, much of it focusing on rebirth and renewal, as the sun makes its way back to the earth. Focus on this time of new beginnings with your magical workings.
By the end of the winter, most of us are tired of the cold and wet, but Imbolc reminds us that spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. Imbolc brings a slightly brighter sun and a warmer earth and we know that life is accelerating within the soil. Depending on your tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Some people focus on the Healing Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility. Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the season.
Ostara, the Spring Equinox
After what seems like a long wait, spring has finally arrived and we have Ostara to celebrate. It's the time of the vernal equinox if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and it's a sure sign that Spring has come. Depending on your tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Ostara, but typically it is observed as a time to mark the coming of Spring and the fertility of the land.
Rich and Fertile lands are left after Aprils revitalising showers. Festivities typically begin the evening before May the 1st, on the last night of April and it's a great time to welcome the gift of plentiful fertile earth. Depending on your tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It's the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.
Litha, The Summer Solstice
By this time, we are in mid summer, enjoying the long days and spening our time soaking up the sun outdoors. Also called Litha, this summer solstice Sabbat honours the longest day of the year. There are many different ways you can celebrate Litha, but the focus is nearly always on celebrating the power of the sun. It's the time of year when the crops are growing heartily and the earth has warmed up.
Within the last days of summer, our gardens are full of ripened fruits and the fields are full of grain with the harvest approaching. This is the time to relax, as Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, is the time to begin reaping what we have sown throughout the past few months, and recognise that the bright summer days will soon come to an end. Typically the focus is on either the early harvest aspect, or the celebration of the Celtic god Lugh. It's the season when the first grains are ready to be harvested and threshed, when the apples and grapes are ripe for the plucking, and we're grateful for the food we have on our tables.
Towards the end of the years harvests, we reach the Autumn Equinox. The Fields are empty, and crop has been stored safe away from the nearing winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honour the changing seasons. On or around September 21, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. This is the time when there is an equal amount of day and night. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have had our warmth, and are preparing for the could seasons ahead.