Sabbats & Esbats
Witches follow an agrarian calendar. That means they pay attention to natural cycles in just the same way that Farmers do. In this way they know when to plant, harvest, or leave fallow. These cycles are indications of the way the Earth works and what she is doing seasonally.
There are eight standard days of power during the year. They relate to seasonal, mythical, and cultural beliefs. Generally, they are concerned with agricultures and astronomical events. On the Wheel of the Year, the Sabbats are the spokes of the wheel while the Esbats are the cross spokes. These are days of celebration and honor. The Sabbats are considered to be days of celebrations, while the Esbats are reserved for Workings as well as celebrations. Sabbats change dates from year to year because they solstices and equinoxes change according the the moon phase. Esbats remain the same because they are fixed, cross quarter days.
Sabbats relate to the sun and, thus, are called Solar Festivals or Holidays. They usually are connected to whatever god-form has been chosen as far as tradition, beliefs, mythic information, and sacred stories having to do with life, death, and rebirth. They start at Yule, or Winter Solstice. This is the first holiday after the Witch's New year which is Samhain.
Winter Solstice: Yule, Dec 20/21, Yule is like Christmas. It represents the waxing sun overtaking the waning sun. In other words, it's the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It often recognizes the birth, death, and rebirth of the god. (sound familiar?) It is a Lessor Sabbat Quarter Day. It's colors are red and green. Decorations are holly wreaths, ivy, mistletoe, which all symbolize fertility and life. The Yule log, usually Ash, is lit and burns for 12 hours. A Yule tree is decorated and gifts are exchanged. Candles are often Bayberry, to ensure wealth and happiness through the year. This holiday has to do with rebirth as the Wheel of the Year begins to turn anew and chanting encourages the Wheel to turn and continue to turn. A time to celebrate renewal and rebirth. Sometimes an effigy of a stag is used to represent the Horned One.
Imbolc/Candlemas: February 1, 2, or 7th. Here the Goddess is seen as having given birth and the workings have to do with banishing the Winter Season. A cross quarter day welcoming the change from the old to the new and celebrating fertility and things yet to come. This is the harbinger of Spring that begins stirring under the frozen Earth and this often involves a Festival of Lights. Lavender and white candles are burned. This is an especially good time for any woman about to be married as the day also relates to Valentine's Day. Like Groundhog Day, the rime goes: "If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there will be two winters within the year." A High or Great Holiday. One custom is to light candles in all the windows at sundown and let them burn till sunrise.
Ostara/Spring Vernal Equinox: Mid March. AFire festival and quarter day celebrating the coming of Spring. The lengths of day and night are now matched and the theme is balance and, of course, fertility. Colors are light and cheery. New brooms are purchased. The day when masculine and feminine energies are equal. There is much focus here on the conception, as seen in the stories which relate how the Virgin Goddess mates with the Solar God. Legends often point up the descent of the goddess into the underworld for three days during this time, probably related to the three days of the Dark Moon.
Beltane: Around May 5, or on May Day. Celebrates Spring and is a quarter day. Often celebrates the marriage of the god and goddess. The workings here relate to spring, love, union, joinings, conception, birth, and plant magic. Celebrations often involve spring colors, strewing about flower petals, and burning white candles. A Lunar Sabbat. Great Bonfires and leaping the flames happens here, gaining protection. This is the time of year when everyone is making the repairs from winter ravages. Some tie green branches over their doors to honor the Fey. Many activities are representations of the year being cleanly divided in two.
Summer Solstice: June 21, A fire festival and quarter day. Celebrating the coming Summer. It's the longest day and shortest night of the year. The Sun King rules during this time so masculine energies are the best to work with. Gold, maize, and red are popular candle colors here, standing for prosperity and sexuality. More bonfires at sundown, called Setting the Watch, to guide partying folks and to keep evil away. Some spend the night, awake, in a circle of standing stones hopefully to be blessed with Bardic wit or to see the Fey. Houses are decorated with St. John's Wort, trefoil, fennel and birch. This is the traditional time for marriages or handfastings and for gathering herbs.
Lamas/Lughnassadh: August 2 or 7, A cross quarter day celebrating the beginning of harvests, in particular the first harvest of the year. Stocking herbs, baking bread from the first grains gathered, and canning are often done on this day. A good time to give thanks and to name goals. The days are growing shorter. Tailltean marriages are dissolved or made official. Crafting is big during this time.
Autumnal Equinox/Mabon: September 21, A fire festival and cross quarter day. Celebrates the second harvest of the year. Corn picking, cider making, and the coming fall colors are used. From this day forward night hours will gain over day hours. The God of the Sun is overcome and the God of Darkness holds sway. The crops are gathered in and corn dollies are made. This is the witch's Thanksgiving.
Samhain: October 31st, though some celebrate it around November 7, All Hallows Eve, the night when the veils between the worlds are thinnest. A night of divination, remembering and honoring the dead. The last harvest festival kof the year. Pentacles, wind socks, jack-o-lanterns, initiations, all celebrate the New Year and the triumph of life over death. A good time to do reincarnation work and give thanks. Many dress up in costume in honor of Halloween, which was originally used to confuse returning spirits. The end of Autumn. When the the two-faced god, straddles the world like Janus, with one eye on the past and the other on the future. Feast of the Dead. Saying farewell to the God, till next time.
Esbats are the days for doing workings which are set according to tables of correspondences and phases of the moon. These are any days other than the Sabbats. Specific energies are used during these times and, during the Full Moon, the ceremonial Drawing Down the Moon is often done. This is to strengthen the bond between the Solitary and the Goddess.
Generally, the period from Full to New moon is used to banish, decrease, and remove while the period from new to Full moon is for increase, cause growth, and gain.
Full Moon: Banishings, protect, divine, plan, release, raise energy, perform healings, cast spells., Drawing down the Moon for empowerment. The high tide of psychic powers. Typically manifests in one one moon cycle.
New Moon: Personal growth, healing, blessing new projects or ventures. Usually manifests by the Full Moon.
Waxing Moon: This is the period between the Full and New moons. It's used to attract or draw things to you, to bring things into being, to invoke things you want.
Waning Moon: The period between the Full and New moons. Also called the first quarter. Used to banish and reject things that are no longer wanted or needed.
Dark Moon: This is the three days prior to the Full Moon. Usually no magic is performed during this time. Instead it is used for meditations, rest, and vision quests, or to invoke the justice of Hecate.
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