There are eight major festival rites that make up the wheel of the year. All the Sabbats are solar in nature, marking the passing of the year with natural milestones. These Greater Sabbats or Solar Holy days occur at roughly six and a half weeks intervals. They reflect the growing cycle in both agrarian and hunting societies. Mythologicaly, they represent the yearly cycle of the Goddess, and the birth, marriage, maturation, and death of the God.
The wheel of the year is not to be confused with the twelve or thirteen new and full moon rituals, which are termed Esbats, or Lunar Holy days. The Great Circle of the Year is celebrated by many Pagan groups, such as the Druids and Witches and other Earth based religions.
Pagans’ celebrate eight festivals, called “Sabbats,” as a means of attunement to the seasonal rhythms of Nature.
The word Sabbat by the way, comes from the root word “sabbatu” and is derived from ancient Assyrian rites observing the New Moon, the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first days of the cycle, corresponding to the Goddess’ menstrual cycle. Both the Christian and Jewish terms; sabbath and the pagan sabbat find their origins in sabbatu. Nowadays, the Sabbats represent the great fire festivals and Esbats are the moon’s.
These Sabbats are
February 2nd [Called Imbolg or Oimelc, Brigit, or Christian – Candlemas], Birth, A Fire Festival
March 21st [Eostre – Spring Equinox], A Solar Festival (Equal days & nights) (Air)
April 30th [Beltane – Walpurgis – May Eve], Sex & Fertility, A Fire Festival
June 21st [Litha or Summer Solstice], A Solar Festival (Fire)
August 1st [Lughnasadh – Lunasa – Lammas], Harvest , A Fire Festival
September 21st [Mabon, or Autumn Equinox], A Solar Festival (Equal days & nights) (Water)
October 31st [Samhain, or Hallowe’en], Death, A Fire Festival
December 21st [Yule – Winter Solstice], A Solar Festival – Birth of the Sun (Earth)
These holidays listed above are as used by witches in the Northern Hemisphere by the way. The witches in the Southern Hemisphere (consisting of all you Australian and New Zealand witches out there) reverse the Sabbats due to the opposite seasons.
Anyone interested can read lots more about the Southern Hemisphere Sabbats at The Pagan Wheel of the Year in the Southern Hemisphere. Complete with dates and explanations and how to worship.
The Solar Festivals are as mentioned above called the “Greater Sabbats” and the Fire Festivals are called the “Lesser Sabbats”.
The Full Moon rituals are called the Esbats. Some covens will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New, or Dark Moons too.
Meetings for study will usually be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and any extra rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need, such as the requirement for a healing, spell work or other cause, found worthy to the Coven.
Some groups find meetings within a few days of those dates to be acceptable, others require the precise date. In addition, most groups will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New Moon.
Below you will find a listing of the Greater Sabbats or Solar Holy days and their respective Herbs, Insence, Colour, Decorations and Food to help you plan for the festivals as they come around.
|Yule||Holly, Mistletoe, Rosemary, Oak, Pine cones||Bayberry, Pine, Cedar, Rosemary, Juniper||Red, Green, White, Silver, Gold||Yule log (oak or pine), Mistletoe, Wreaths, Strings of dried flowers and cinnamon sticks, Apples, Oranges, Yule tree||Nuts, Apples, Oranges, Caraway rolls, Mulled wine, Roast turkey|
|Imbolc||Snowdrop, Bay, Heather, First Flowers of the Year||Rosemary, Cinnamon, Westeria, Frankincense, Myrrh||White, Orange, Red||Lamps, Besom (witch's broom), Yellow flowers||All Dairy products, Curries, Onions, Chives, Garlic, Spiced wines, Seeds, Herbal teas|
|Ostara||Honeysuckle,Iris, Peony, Violet All spring flowers||Jasmine, Rose, Strawberry||Green, Yellow||Colored eggs, Green and yellow jellybeans, Rabbit Decorations, Spring Flowers||Seeds, Leafy Green Vegetables, Spiced or Flower Cupcakes, Fruits, Hard-boiled eggs|
|Beltane||Honeysuckle, St. John's wort, Hawthorn, All flowers||Frankincense, Lilac, Rose||Green, Soft pink, blue and yellow||Maypole, Strings of beads or flowers, Ribbons, Spring flowers||Dairy, Oatmeal cakes, Cherries, Strawberries, Wine punches, Green Salads|
|Litha||Lavender, Chamomile, Roses, Daisy, Lily||Frankincense, Lemon, Rose, Wisteria, Lavender||Blue, Green, Yellow||Dried herbs, Potpourri, Seashells, Summer Flowers, Fruits||Summer Fruits, Ale, Mead, Fresh Vegetables|
|Lughnasadh||All grains, Grapes, Heather, Blackberries, Sunflowers||Sandalwood, Rose, Aloes||Yellow, Orange, Green, Brown||Corn Dollies, Any Wheat weaving crafts, Shafts of Grain||Breads, Cider, Blackberry Pies and jellies, Rice, Meadowsweet tea, Berries|
|Mabon||Hazel, Corn, Acorns, Oak, Wheat Stalks, Cypress cones, Pine cones||Myrrh, Sage, Pine||Orange, Dark red, Yellow, Brown||Acorns, Pomegranates, Pine Cones, Baskets of fallen leaves||Breads, Corn, Cornbread, Beans, Squash, Apples, Roots (carrots, potatoes, onions), Cider|
|Samhain||Pumpkin, Apple, Nuts, Thistle, Chrysanthemum, Broom, Oak leaves, Sage||Apple, Nutmeg, Sage, Mint||Black, Orange||Jack-o-lantern, Photos of deceased loved ones, Apples, Fall leaves, Autumn flowers, Squashes||Apples, Corn, Nuts, Cider, Mulled wine, Pumpkin Dishes, Cranberry muffins, Herbal teas|
The names for these festivals might sometimes be different, dependent upon the path one has chosen. The dates, (except in the Southern Hemisphere) remain the same however. Below, you will find the same Greater Sabbats or Solar Holy days listed under their respective Druidic names.