The Wheel of the Year consists of eight Sabbats. All the Sabbats are solar in nature, marking the passing of the year with natural milestones.
Some break the Sabbats down into major and minor, the major Sabbats being Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh.
The minor Sabbats are Yule (Winter Solstice), Ostara (Spring Equinox), Litha (Summer Solstice) and Mabon (Autumn Equinox).
It is through these Sabbats that witches through out the world mark the passing of the year with celebration and reverence for the deities and events that each represents. These holidays are as used by witches in the Northern Hemisphere.
The witches in the Southern Hemisphere reverse the Sabbats due to the opposite seasons.
Samhain (pronounced sow-inn), also goes by the name All Souls Night. This is our time of endings and our time of beginnings, so at Samhain, we celebrate the New Year. This is a quieter time, a time when the veil between worlds is thin and the spirits may pass more easily. At Mabon, the God Lugh died in order for us to live through His abundance.
During the intervening time, He has gathered the spirits of those that have died over the year and waits for this night so that they may pass through the gate to the other side. This is the time to revere our ancestors and to say farewell to those that have passed this last year. It is also a time of divination. The abundance of the fields now gives way to the power and strength of the Horned God of the Hunt. This begins a time of darkness. From now until Yule, the days grow darker and colder. Winter storms begin to sweep down from the north.
This time is the barer of many destructive forces. Yet at Samhain, we celebrate the passed year and the year to come. We light bonfires and perform rituals to honor our deceased loved ones. Many Halloween traditions stem from Samhain. The wearing of scary costumes was originally used to scare away those souls that may mean harm. Yet in spite of the costume, the spirits that know you will still be able to find you and visit. The jack-o-lantern was another means of scaring away hostile spirits, the candle within a beckoning light to those that you wish to welcome.
Yule, also called Winter Solstice, celebrates the rebirth of the Sun, the Sun God and honors the Horned God. On Yule we experience the longest night of the year. Although much of the winter's harshest weather is still ahead of us, we celebrate the coming light, and thank the Gods for seeing us through the longest night. It is a time to look on the past year's achievements and to celebrate with family and friends. From this day until Midsummer, the days grow longer, everyday banishing the darkness a little more in a glow of the warm sunlight that brings the world to life again.
This day is the official first day of winter. This holiday will fall somewhere between the dates above and varies from year to year depending on when the Sun reaches the southern most point in its yearly trek.
Imbolc, also called the Feast of Brighid, celebrates the approach of spring. The term "Imbolc" means "in milk" and at this time, pregnant sheep, or ewes, begin to lactate, as opposed to the ground hog. This is one sure sign that spring is right around the corner. Although the days are getting longer, this is still the heart of winter and Brighid, the Celtic Goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft is honored. Her gift of smithcraft comes with an added bonus, fire. This may be the reason some celebrate this day as the day of the Celtic Fire Goddess.
This is a time of new beginnings and growth. At this time, think of your goals and dreams for this year that you will plant. At this time, greet the pregnant Maiden Goddess and give Her thanks for soon She will give birth to the spring.
Ostara, also called the Spring Equinox or Vernal Equinox, celebrates the arrival of spring. This holiday will fall between the above dates depending on which day the Sun, on its northern trek, crosses the equator. Ostara marks the day when night and day are equal and balanced. Ostara, her symbol the egg and her sacred animal the rabbit, is the Norse Goddess of fertility, and it is She that is honored this day. During this time, the snow begins to melt away, the days are getting warmer and new birth is found in the fields as the ewes drop their lambs and by the budding leaves and flowers.
This is a time to rejoice, dance, celebrate. Winter has passed and you have survived the harshness of the darker days. Life begins anew. This is a time to plant the seeds of our flower, herb, vegetable and spiritual gardens. What dreams will you plant to be fertilized by the earth?
Beltane, also called May Day, is a Sabbat celebrating fertility and the union of the young Horned God and the Goddess. At this time, life is renewing itself. Birds and animals are mating. In the fields, newly planted seeds are beginning to grow. Great fires are lit honoring the fertility God Belenos. Some leap the fires to show the exuberance of the season. Maypoles are erected and bright ribbons are entwined around it. The Maypole, a phallic symbol, represents the masculine. The soft, colorful ribbons represent the feminine. The union of the two symbolizes the union of the God and Goddess.
This is the time to fertilize your dreams with action. It is legend that children conceived at Beltane were gifted by the gods. These children are known as Merry-Be-Gots.
Litha, also called Midsummer and Summer Solstice, celebrates the abundance and beauty of the Earth. This is the longest day of the year, and will fall somewhere between the dates above depending on when the Sun is at its northern most point. From this day on, the days will wane, growing shorter and shorter until Yule. The trees and fields are full and prosperous. The young animals and birds are learning to live and frolic in the fields and trees.
This is a time of the Faery, when a festival called the Feast of the Faery is held. It is believed that at twilight on this day, the portals between worlds open and the faery folk my pass into our world. Welcome them on this day and they may bless you with their wisdom and joy. This is a time to look internally at the seeds you've planted that should be at full bloom.
Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, is the Celebration of Harvest and begins what is called "the chase of Lugh". Lugh is the Celtic Sun God and He rains down upon the crops, living within the golden fields.
This is the time of the first harvests. At this celebration we give thanks to the Earth for its bounty and beauty. It is from these harvests that we eat through the upcoming winter. Honoring the God Lugh, games and sports are played to celebrate strength and good health. The grain Goddesses Demeter and Ceres are also honored.
This is a time to harvest the dreams planted earlier in the year.
Mabon, or the Fall or Autumnal Equinox, celebrates the end of harvest. Again we find ourselves with a day and night equal. On this day, which will fall somewhere between the dates above, the Sun again passes the equator, this time on its trek south. At this time the "chase of Lugh" ends with the felling of the last shaft of grain. It is within this last shaft that Lugh has hidden, but with His death, His sacrifice, we live through His abundance. This is time for thanksgiving, evaluation and meditation. Take stock in what you've received and prepare for the dark days.
(History, Salem and the Malleus Maleficarum)
(Page 1) (Page 2) (Page 3)
(Getting Started in the Craft)
(Tips for finding a Coven)