Wiccan Holidays and Ritual Days Explained!
As each season comes and goes, the wheel of the year turns. A wheel is a wheel, there is no true end or beginning, it simply is and revolves upon it's axis endlessly. So it is with the festivals in the Wiccan faith, that each year Wiccans celebrate the seasons as they change, the coming of light and the height of the harvest, the dark days when the veil is thin. These days are steeped in ritual, deeply magical, and each holds it's own meaning to those of the Pagan religions.
Each holiday has it's own celebratory events, many of which occur after the customary sanctuary of the circle is called forth. The cardinal directions and their elements are summoned, the Watchtowers are invoked in ritual magic, and from there the seasonal celebrations commence. Once the celebrations wind down, the quarters are thanked and released, the Watchtowers acknowledged and everyone is free to go in perfect love and perfect peace.
Celebrated on August 1, Lammas is the time of waning. The Sun God's power is fading in preparation for his rebirth at Yule. Lammas is the first harvest festival, and it is at this festival that corn is enjoyed as the first of the harvest's fruits.
Summer has passed, and Lammas is a recognition of the coming winter, and is celebrated with bonfires merriment. Lammas is a time for reflection, as the slumber of winter approaches when the earth rests in wait for the rebirth of the Sun God.
Some plants and items associated with Lammas are:
- corn dolls
- elderberry wine
The Summer Solstice is celebrated on or around June 21st. It is a celebration of the longest period of light, and in most circles is devoted to worship of the God in his strength, and the Goddess in her glow as She is pregnant, having transitioned into the Mother.
The central focus of the Litha ritual is the continuation of Beltane's focus on fertility, strength and love. Litha is also the time of dedication and rededication, so for those new to Wicca this is the time to arrange pledging yourself to service and worship of the Lord and Lady.
Some plants and items associated with Midsummer are:
- Yellow and gold ribbons
- summer flowers
- emerald or jade
October 31st is the day of Samhain, when the veil between the between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest. At Samhain, Wiccans lay down their grief at the loss of loved ones and send their respects.
Samhain is the Last Harvest, the Feast of the Dead. While the rest of the world celebrates Halloween, Wiccans focus on the lessons learned in the year to this point. Samhain is regarded as the Wiccan 'New Year,' as both real and spiritual harvests are complete with the coming of this holiday.
Some plants and items associated with Samhain are:
- oak leaves
Mabon is celebrated on or around September 21st, and is a holiday devoted to the giving of thanks. Mabon is the second harvest festival, and it is here that the revelry of the harvest grows. Mabon is the time of balance, and is sometimes called the Feast of Avalon.
The Last Harvest approaches, the Goddess is heavy with child and thusly Mabon holds a great deal of celebration and reverence to the God and Goddess for the prosperity and challenges of the year.
Some plants and items associated with Mabon are:
Yule is celebrated on or around December 21st. Yule is the time of the dead of winter, when the Sun God is reborn to the Mother Goddess, who then becomes the Crone and retreats into her slumber. It is said that this slumber is the reason for the darkest and coldest days of Winter.
Yule is a celebration of the longest night, each night from here will grow shorter until Midsummer. A Yule log is burned during this festival, typically a log of ash wood, to bring warmth to our hearts and remind us of the blessed fires of summer.
Some plants and items associated with Yule are:
- evergreen boughs
- blessed thistle
Celebrated on February 1st, Imbolc is the time of returning light, a day dedicated to fire and renewal. The Goddess wakes from her long slumber at Imbolc, rising and shaking off the dry leaves and snow of the winter season to emerge young and revitalized as the Maiden.
During Imbolc, or Brigid's Day as it is also called, is a time of purification. This holiday's rituals focus on rebirth, reaffirmation and renewal. Corn dollies are common in this festival also, as are bonfires.
Some plants and items associated with Imbolc are:
Beltaine is celebrated on May 1st, and is the festival of love and fertility. The God and Goddess lay with one another, and the Goddess, budding with pregnancy, blesses the land with her fertility.
During Beltaine, a dance is held around the may pole, in which revelers dance and draw in the love and energy of their intricate dance to decorate the pole with twists of brightly colored ribbon.
Some plants and items associated with Beltaine are:
Celebrated on or around March 21st, Ostara is a time of balance between day and night. It is on this night that the Sun God and Maiden Goddess marry, and this union conceives to them a child who will be born at Yule.
Festivities during Ostara focus on new growth, planting and planning. The thrill of life lightens our hearts during Ostara. This holiday is the beginning of the fertile time, for our bodies, hearts, spirits and the land around us.
Some plants and items associated with Ostara are:
While the above covers the Sabbats, sometimes called High Days, these are by no means the only days of importance in Wiccan practice. Many varieties of Wiccans exist, and so there may be specialized holidays for a particular flavor of Wicca that is not listed here. It is safe to say, however, that in terms of ritual practice and/or timing related celebration, the phase of the moon plays a vital part in Wiccan religion.
Full - On the full moon, rites and magic involving protection, abundance, or sexuality are more prevalent, and thought to be more powerful.
Waning - The waning moon (when the silver of the moon is on the left) is the time for release, cleansing, and reversal of bindings.
New - When the moon is barely seen in the sky, this is the time for magic involving new beginnings and new focus.
Waxing - During the waxing moon (when the dark part of the moon is on the left) the focus is on growth and goals.
Rituals and magic done with a focus on these phases is often referred to as an Esbat, and considered minor holidays in the Wiccan community. It is far more common to see a full moon celebration and circle than other phases, as the full moon brings a broader common purpose to the ritual whereas the other moon phases incite more personal requirements.