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A Quick Reference & Guide to the Witch's Sabbats
What is a Sabbat?
A Sabbat is a major holiday based on ancient pagan traditions. These holidays are celebrated by various branches of Paganism, including Wicca and Witchcraft. There are eight major Sabbats. Witches believe these eight holy days to make up the Wheel of the Year.
Sabbats are based on ancient pagan holy days marking the changing of the seasons, specifically the earth's changing rotation around the sun. There are cross quarter days and quarter days. The cross quarter days are also known as the major fire festivals and include: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. The quarter days are the equinoxes (Spring and Autumn Equinoxes) and the Solstices (Summer and Winter Solstices). Some pagans celebrate only the equinoxes and solstices, while others celebrate all eight of the sabbats. Inevitably, the choice is yours what days you celebrate and what days you don't.
When I first began my journey into the natural world of Paganism, it was a daunting task to look up even the mere basics of each Sabbat, so I hope that this hub can be used as a quick guide to refer to in order to determine the foods, colors, magical workings, and the reasons why we celebrate each special Sabbat.
Yule (Winter Solstice)
Yule / Winter Solstice / Jul
Date(s): Between December 20th and 22nd
What we celebrate: Winter solstice which is the longest night of the year; death of the Holly King and rebirth of the Oak King (giver of light); family and friends. Return of the sun's reign over the sky, as far here on out the days will once again become longer than the nights.
Gods/Goddesses: Oak and Holly Kings, Odin, Jesus, Cailleach, Mother Mary, Santa Claus
Foods: nuts, fruits, cider, wine, turkey, goose, ham, soups/stews, wassail, gingerbread, hot cocoa, spiced tea, cakes.
Decorations: holly, mistletoe, spruce, christmas trees, ivy, yule logs, pine cones, snowflakes, snowmen, oranges, suns, candles, Christmas lights, reindeer, elves
Colors: green, gold, red, white, silver, orange, and yellow.
Scents and incense: cinnamon, fireside, pine, bayberry, spruce, fir, peppermint
Magical Workings: fertility, rebirth, family, healing, reflection
Animals: Reindeer, Moose, Mice, Snowy owls, Snowy foxes, White animals
Imbolc (St. Brigid's Day)
Imbolc / Oimelc / St. Brigid's Day
Date(s): February 2nd
What we celebrate: initial breaking of winter ground into spring (early stages); milking of the ewes; Saint Brigid and Goddess Brigid; warmer days to come.
Symbol of Season: snowflake, white flower, snow, crocuses, lambs, milk
Lore: light every lamp in the house or light candles in each room to represent the sun's rebirth. If snow is on the ground, or falling, walk around in it and draw a sun with your projective hand. Make Saint Brigid's crosses or dolls to celebrate Saint Brigid. A bonfire is appropriate.
Gods/Goddesses: Goddess and Saint Brigid
Foods: milk, sour cream dishes, dairy in general, spicy and full-bodied foods, peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, chives, wines & dishes containing raisins (all symbolic of the sun).
Decorations: candles, flowers (snowdrops, crocus, and daffodils), oil lamps, besoms, corn dollies, Brigid's crosses, wreaths, woolen yarn and stuffed sheep.
Colors: yellow, green, pink, white, and brown.
Scents: amber, bay, bayberry, pine, frankincense and myrrh.
Magical Workings: new life, success, new love, opportunity
Animals: lambs and birds
Ostara (Spring Equinox)
Ostara / Eostre / Spring Equinox / Vernal Equinox
Date(s): approx. March 21st
What we celebrate: The changing of the season and the arrival of Spring. The earth's rebirth and awakening from a long, harsh winter. Fertility and motherhood.
Traditions / rituals: collect wildflowers from a field or at the very least a florist shop. Plan to walk in gardens, parks, forests, to celebrate nature. Plant seeds, do gardening and yard work. Do herb work. Make an Ostara wreath. Paint or dye eggs. Easter bunny and easter baskets. Feed birds with bird seed. Write your intentions for the Spring on an egg and bury it near your front doorstep.
Gods/Goddesses: Eostre, Persephone, Demeter, Jesus, Cybele, Zeus, Osiris, Horus, Freya, Mithras, Saraswati
Foods: seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, pine nuts), sprouts, leafy green vegetables. Flower dishes - stuffed nasturtiums or carnation cupcakes. Rose water used in baking.
Decorations: flowers, bunnies, buds and blossoms (can be worn too), spring water & flowers in cup/cauldron, bird nests, birds, robin's eggs, eggs of all kinds.
Colors: pink, purple, yellow, light blue, purple, green.
Scents: sunflower, rose, daffodil, daisies, heather, etc.
Magical Workings: success, blossoming love, passion, budding friendship, rebirth.
Animals: birds, baby chicks, rabbits, lambs, baby animals of all kinds.
Beltane (May Day)
Beltane / Beltuinn / May Day
Date(s): May 1st
What we celebrate: fertility; abundant life; the union of the God and the Goddess to procreate.
Lore: celebrate in a forest or near a living tree; create a small token in honor of the wedding of the God and Goddess to hang on a tree. Weaving and planting are traditional. Erect a traditional maypole and dance around with ribbons. Light a bonfire.
Gods/Goddesses: Druantia, Horned God, Fertility Deities, Flora, Cybele
Foods: dairy, marigold custard, vanilla ice cream, eggs, avocado, banana, fruit.
Decorations: maypole, ribbons in trees, candles, fire, bags of flowers, strings of beads, garland, carvings, phallic symbols, cups, cauldrons, wicker man, symbols of love and fertility.
Colors: yellow, pink, blue, green, red.
Scents: floral, sandalwood, lavender.
Magical Workings: fertility, success, abundance, love, passion, education, healing.
Animals: deer, goat, ram
Midsummer (Summer Solstice)
Midsummer / Summer Solstice / Litha
Date(s): June 21st
What we celebrate: Summer solstice is the longest day of the year; wedding of heaven and earth; the sun in all its powerful glory.
Lore: leap fire for purification and renewed energy. Make cloth pouch of herbs such as lavender, chamomile, St. John's Wort, Vervain, or others. Mentally pour all troubles into this petition as constructing it. Burn in balefire and visualize troubles burning and blowing away for good. Put out offerings of cake and milk or mead for the faeries.
Gods/Goddesses: Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, Fertility Gods, the Fay
Foods: berries, fresh fruits, vegetables.
Decorations: candles, fairies, strawberries, suns, plant life, trees, ribbons.
Colors: yellow, gold, orange, red, blue.
Scents: floral scents, jasmine, lavender, chamomile, bonfire.
Magical Workings: healing, love, weddings, energy, and protection magic
Lughnasadh / Lammas / Loaf-Mass
Date(s): August 1st
What we celebrate: the first of three harvest festivals. Height of Summer. Focuses on the story of Lugh, a Celtic god. Fruitfulness, abundance are key themes. Plants are yielding bounty. Sun's high in the sky.
Lore: plant the seed of a fruit. Wheat weaving - making of corn dollies, etc. Visit lakes, orchards, fields, and wells. Picking blackberries and raspberries. Baking of breads from wheat or other bountiful crops.
Gods/Goddesses: Lugh, Tuatha de Danann, Mother Goddesses
Foods: fruit and breads (bread shaped like the sun or a man to represent the God); corn dollies may be present to represent the harvest Goddess. Blackberries, all berries, acorns, crab apples, all grains, locally ripe produce.
Decorations: sheaves of wheat on altar, barley, oats, fruits, berries, the sun, the god.
Colors: brown, gold, autumnal reds, dark oranges, dark purple.
Scents: berries, apple, harvest and summer scents.
Magical Workings: fruitfulness, endurance, enduring love, strength and skill, handfastings.
Animals: woodland animals, birds, deer
Mabon (Autumn Equinox)
Mabon / Autumn Equinox
Date(s): September 21st
What we celebrate: second of three harvest festivals; autumnal equinox. Season changes from Summer to Fall. Divides day and night equally; to give respects to impending night. Druids celebrate Green Man; Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess who is turning from Mother into the Crone and the God preparing for death and rebirth.
Gods/Goddesses: Mabon, Green Man, Demeter, Mother Goddesses
Foods: ciders, wines, herbs, grains, fruits and vegetables, especially corn, beans, and baked squash.
Decorations: acorns, oak sprigs, pine or cypress cones, wheat stalks, fruits and nuts, basket of dried leaves.
Colors: autumnal colors - maroon, gold, yellow, orange, brown.
Scents: pumpkin, spices especially cinnamon.
Magical Workings: reaping success, abundance, protection, hearth and home
Samhain (All Hallows' Eve)
Samhain / All Hallows' Eve / Hallowe'en / All Souls Night
Date(s): October 31st
What we celebrate: pagan new year; night of the dead when the spiritual world has its thinnest veil; third of three harvest festivals. Last festival of the Holly King. Last harvest - anything harvested after Samhain belongs to the fay and is not to be eaten by humans.
Gods/Goddesses: Hades, Hel, Demeter, Hecate, Lilith, Baba Yaga, The Morrigan, Maeve, Kali, Crone Goddesses
Foods: squash, apple cider, candied apples, spiced rum, candy, breads, fall fruits.
Decorations: jack o' lanterns, witches, werewolves, moons, gourds, costumes, brooms, pumpkins, squash, bails of hay, dried leaves, bats, lanterns, cobwebs, apples, corn husks, candles.
Colors: black, orange, purple, dark blue, gold.
Scents: pumpkin, cinnamon, apples, spices.
Magical Workings: spiritual awakening, communion with the dead, psychic abilities, success and bounty, pregnancy.
Old Spell for fun (For All Hallows Eve)
When the white dog is out and trots all about
Under the clouds that are over the moon,
and the hag with her broom rides high on the wind,
And the cat on the fence spits even at friends,
Then it is right to conjure light against
every spirit that shadows the night.
Let the pumpkin's candle glare
into darkness everywhere,
Burn all evil from the air!
When it is dark and the black trees roar; set Jack O' Lantern to watch by the door.
What's your favorite Sabbat?
© 2011 Nicole Canfield