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The Witches Festivals-Sabbats, Esbats and Celebrations

October 27th 2007 16:55
Wheel Of The Year

Wiccan and Neo Pagan festivals aren't as steeped in mystery as one might think, but their origins are centuries old and rooted in the natural ebb and flow of nature.

There are primairily 8 festivals, coinciding with the sesonal changes of the earth. Four of these festivals fall on the equinoxes and solstices and are called lesser sabbats, the other 4 festivals are called "cross quarter days" as they fall between the other sabbats, they are considered to be the "fire festivals" or greater sabbats. Esbats are generally celebrated once a month qnd on the full moon/ Usually covens or groups will gather to celebrate the esbats.

The Eight Sabbats:

Samhain: (pronounced sowen) Oct 31/Nov. 1 Greater Sabbat/Fire Festival
Honoring our ancestors, aka day of the dead, the last harvest, witches new year. The festival celebrates the cycle of decline, dying, and rebirth. It is also said that at midnight on October 31st, you can communicate with your departed ancestors. Christian equivalent is All Souls/Saints Day.

Yule: Dec19- 23. Usually celebrated on Dec. 21st. Lesser Sabbat/Winter Solstice. In ancient times Yule was celebrated for 12 consecutive days...Do the "12 Days of Christmas" ring any bells? Celebration of the Holly King retiring to the frozen North, and welcoming back the Oak King. Signifying that the longest night of the year has passed and now commences the lengthening of the days, moving toward spring. Christian equivalent: You guessed it, Christmas.

Imbolc: Feb. 1-2. Greater Sabbat/Fire Festival. AKA Brigid's Day, Brides' Day, Brigantia. This festival is one that welcomes back the warmth and the light. The beginning of spring is just around the corner and the new lambs are being born. Christian equivalent is:

Ostara: March 20 - 23, Lesser Sabbat/Vernal Equinox. Also known as Lady's day or Festival of Trees. The word ostara comes from the latin word Eostre (from which we get the word "estrogen") This is a celebration of the beginning of spring, the earth coming back to life. The symbols for this sabbat are eggs and bunnies. Christian eqivalent is Easter. Bet you couldn't guess that one huh?

Beltane: May 1. Greater Sabbat/Fire Festival. Also known as May day. This is a celebration of fertility and this festival marked the beginning of the summer season. In certain pagan traditions it was said that on Beltne, for that one night, married couples could partner with anyone they wished. Other traditions included dancing around the may pole.

Litha: June 19-23. Lesser Sabbat/Summer Solstice. Usually celebrated on June 21st. Also known as Midsummer's night. This is a celebration of the longest night of the year and when summer is at it's height. We celebrate the beauty of the earth. Christian equivalent is: Saint Johns Day, or John the Baptist's day.

Lughnasadh: (pronounced Loo Na Sah) August 1-2 Greater Sabbat/Fire Festival.
Also known as Llamas. This is the celebration of the first harvest, the bread harvest or the first fruits harvest. This was a time for market festivals and community gatherings. In certain European cultures, Handfastings were performed. (a trial "marriage" or union that would last a year and a day). Christian equivalent: There is no name for this particular day, but this is the date on which the fields would be consecrated and blessed by the christian priests.

Mabon: September 19 - 23. Lesser Sabbat/Fall Equinox. Also known as wine harvest, second harvest or fruit harvest. This was a festival of thanksgiving for all the bounty of the harvest. Usually at this time corn dollies and the Corn Queen ( a larger version of a corn dollie) were constructed from the corn sheaves and paraded through the village. She (the queen) would then be doused with water to ensure that there would be plenty of rain for the next seasons crops. The Corn Queen was then stored away till the following spring and then plowed into the ground for good luck. In some instances, the corn queen was given to the villager with the smalles harvest as a good luck charm.

So now you know a bit more about what Wiccan celebrations are all about, but here's an interesting question for you. Have you wondered why so many of the Christian holidays or festivals co-incide with the pagan celebrations? Centuries ago, when christianity was in the process of taking over the world. The church tried to convince the Pagans their ways were better...They build their new churches over the sites of pagan places of worship so that the pagans would feel more "at home" with their new religion. It was also thought that if they had a holy day or holiday on or near the dates of pagan sabbats, it would aid in the transitioning of the pagans and in their conversion. That my friends is just the beginning...

Blessed Be


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3 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Harry

October 29th 2007 00:01
Fantastic explanatory post. I find paganism to be quite a beautiful religion -- so much more like some eastern religions than christianity.

Comment by Anonymous

May 26th 2008 09:43
I have found more ethics and culture in Pagan than Christian ways.

Comment by Anonymous

March 9th 2009 17:39

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