Wiccans worship eight Sabbats that make up the Wheel of the Year. These Sabbats correspond with seasonal changes. Each Sabbat has a different meaning in the context of Wiccan beliefs. In the words of Anand Sajaha, “As we see the seasons and the world change, we can see how we have the potential to change and grow ourselves.”
The Goddess has three forms, the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. It is important to note that the term “Maiden” does not mean that She is a virgin by modern standards. In fact, a virgin once referred simply to an unmarried woman: a woman who was “whole unto herself,” without the need for a man. A maiden or virgin at that time could have taken many lovers; she was still a virgin so long as she was not married.
*Note: This guide is only accurate to the Northern Hemisphere.
Many traditions begin the year with Yule. This is the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the season of rebirth. It marks the birth of the God from the Maiden Goddess.
The God is also represented by the sun, which begins returns beginning the next day. Celebrations often involve burning fires or candles to bring back the sun, recognizing its life-giving energy.
Imbolc honors the Goddess in her next form: Mother. It is also called Candlemas, and candles are often blessed or dedicated on this day. This also marks the return of warmth and the coming of spring.
Ostara or the Vernal Equinox celebrates the return of the Mother after winter. It is a time of birth and rebirth, the new and the changed. We use this time to grow and change. Eggs are decorated to symbolize life and fertility.
Though the image above says that Beltane is celebrated on the eve of May, it is often celebrated the first of May.
“On this day the Goddess and God join in sexual union. The God that is born at Yule is conceived. The Maypole appears as a phallic symbol, interwoven with ribbons, red for the male and white for the female. The process of weaving and dance are symbols of the masculine and feminine intertwining in fertility.”
This holiday celebrates the pure sexuality with which Spring is charged. It is a time of joy and livelihood.
Bonfires have long been a tradition on May Day. Superstition says that we should bring a coal to our own hearths. Smoke from fires on Beltane is used for purification.
Litha, or midsummer, celebrates fertility.The Goddess is pregnant as the harvest ripens.
“The sun plays an important part in Midsummer rites. Fires are lit to thank the male energy for bestowing its seed and abundance upon the earth. Ashes from any fire you light on Midsummer may be spread over your garden or potted plants to encourage growth. It is considered to be the appropriate time to gather herbs and medicinal plants for storage through the winter and Midsummer is also a holiday where pets and livestock are blessed”
This holiday celebrates the God in the form of any Sun King. It’s the first harvest Sabbat, and is a form of Thanksgiving. In the same spirit as Thanksgiving, you can have a large meal with friends and family to share the first of the season’s harvest.
Mabon or the Autumnal Equinox is the second harvest Sabbat, and symbolizes the balance between day and night, or light and dark. This is the day when the nights begin to lengthen. We reflect on the successes of the year. “Wines made from berries or heather may be drunk on this night in honor of an aging Goddess.
This day is sometimes considered the end of the year. The veil between worlds is at its thinnest. It is a day to contact and remember the spirits of the deceased.
“This holiday is about the veil between life and death and it marks the transition or death of the elderly Great Horned God. Here the Goddess is also aging and is symbolized as a wise old woman (later falsely portrayed as the devil and an evil old witch).
“Wearing a mask or costume can serve a ritual purpose on this holiday. The mask allows the wearer to identify with a goal or dream desired. Its original purpose was to attract the positive entities that might visit and thus align with them. Ritual drumming may also be used to help concentration and beckon friendly spirits to visit.
“As this festival is also associated with the harvest, an offering on the altar would be appropriate. Apples are deemed especially symbolic at this time, because the apple dies (is plucked off the tree and cut apart or falls to the ground and decays) in order to release its life (its flesh and seeds) and ultimately be born again (replanted into a new tree). It is a fitting representation of the eternal process of life, death and rebirth.”
These are only suggestions on how to celebrate these holidays. All quotes are from Good Wiccan and reflect my views and the views of the site’s author.
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