The Wiccan Sabbats
Days of Celebration
religion honors special days of
the year set aside for celebrations of various events that are
to the specific religion's theology, and Wicca is certainly no
The Wiccans annually celebrate eight special holidays, or Sabbats,
from the French word meaning "to frolic and revel." The purpose of this
section is to provide information on each Sabbat, the day it is usually
celebrated on (minor disagreements are evident among different
and practitioners), various other names of each Sabbat, and what the
is actually celebrating. Most of these Sabbats will be familiar to the
non-Wiccan, as the Christians have adapted most Pagan celebrations into
its own holidays, making a few cosmetic changes in the process, and I
endeavored to specify the Christian equivalent of each holiday wherever
possible. The Roman Catholic Church undoubtedly did this in order to
it easier for the Pagans to be converted to the new religion. Hence,
Pagan holidays have been "Christianized" by the clergy of the Church.
of these holidays encompass the Wheel of the Year (sometimes called the
"Wheel of Life" for obvious reasons), a circular symbol used to
the holidays and their effect on the Wiccan consciousness throughout
year. You will notice that each of the Sabbats taken together is
of human existence, as well as every living thing in nature, utilizing
the Goddess and God to personify the travel from birth to death to
rebirth in an unending, oscillating cycle.
then, are each of the Sabbats:
Stones: Obsidian, onyx,
Names: All Hallow's Eve, Ancestor
Night, Feast of the Dead, Halloween
Equivalent: All Saint's Day
(Halloween itself is celebrated commercially, but is not considered a
day by Christianity), and All Soul's Day
Samhain (which is supposed
to be pronounced sow-en, though some modern Pagans pronounce it as
is the most important holy night of the year. In fact, it is considered
the Celtic New Year. It is believed to be the evening in which the veil
between the realm of the living and the dead is thinnest, allowing
of the spirit realm to walk the earth in great numbers. It is thereby
the evening where our loved ones who have gone over to the other side
the veil are honored with a special feast. This is certainly the reason
All Saint's Day was created by the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate
individuals who have passed on, as well as the similar All Souls Day,
honors the memories of our individual loved one's who have passed on.
association with spirits of the dead walking the earth, as well as
and other etheric beings roaming the material plane in large numbers
evening, is probably the basis for the modern Halloween's emphasis on
and goblins, and the popular stereotypical image of the witch as a
old crone with green skin was derived from negative images of real
as being corrupt harbingers of evil or mischief. The jack o' lantern, a
still popular decoration, is derived from the image used by ancient
to keep unwelcome spirits from the hearth during the celebration. Calls
to your ancestors and loved ones for assistance is appropriate for
practicing spell work on this day, as is spell work for endings and
upon the Crone aspect of the Goddess.
God symbolically dies of old age
at this point, though the Mother Goddess is now pregnant with the
Sun God in her womb.
Stones: Bloodstone, garnet,
Names: Yule, Winter Finding,
Winter Solstice celebrates
the rebirth of the Sun God into infancy. All the major pantheons of
have their version of the Sun God: The Greco-Roman Dionysus/Bacchus,
Egyptian Osiris, and the Norse Balder, just to name a few. Many myths
to describe a kind and beloved being who dies and is subsequently
The Christians adapted this day as the "official" birthday of Jesus
the great prophet that Christian theology revolves around, and who has
been deified as the Christian equivalent of the Sun God (the death and
resurrection story of Jesus was by no means original, but has its
in Pagan religions far older than Christianity). This day also
the return of the sun, as the days begin to grow longer.
Christian practice of putting up
a Christmas Tree derives from the ancient Pagan tradition of bringing a
yule tree in the home in order to welcome the nature spirits into the
of the day. The burning of the yule log derives from an ancient
custom in honor of the god Thor, to whom yule wood was considered
concept of Santa Claus is also distinctly
Pagan. The image of this portly, joyous being derives from three main
each described below.
for the first source, Santa Claus
is partly an updated version of the Pagan Holly King, a benign and
devalued god-form who rules the year from the Summer Solstice to the
Solstice. On this day, he engages his rival, the Oak King, who rules
just after Winter Solstice to the beginning of the Summer Solstice, in
a symbolic "combat," ending with the Holly King's "death" (he will be
and retake rulership of the Wheel of the Year from the Oak King in the
summer). The modern image of Santa Claus in many ways resembles the
King, since the latter's colors were green and red (today considered
official "Christmas colors," as well as colors being popular for the
of many types of elves and nature spirits), reindeers were a sacred
to him (note the mostly Germanic names of Santa's reindeer), and who
said to be accompanied by elves who worshipped nature alongside him.
are a staple of Pagan belief, but are absent in modern Christian
which further underscores the Pagan origins of the Santa Claus image.
of course, is the origin of the idea that elves were the "helpers" of
Claus in his toy-making duties.
second source for the modern image
of Santa Claus is the king of the Norse deities, Odin, who, according
Germanic tradition, walked the earth this night and granted "gifts"
as wisdom and prosperity to the virtuous; this is the original origin
the act of gift giving on Christmas. Though Odin was far from a joyous
being, and his sometimes severe sense of justice was often beyond the
of mortals to comprehend, he bore a superficial resemblance to the
image of Santa Claus in that he was often depicted in the Germanic
as resembling an elderly (albeit quite robust) man with a white beard,
though unlike the modern image of Santa Class (often referred to today
as "Sinter Klass" in some Northern nations), Odin wasn't corpulent, and
was missing one eye (he sacrificed it to the Well of Mimir in exchange
for the gift of omniscience), thus causing him to wear an eye patch.
third source of the modern version
of Santa Claus (which cemented the gift giving legend in the eyes of
Christians completely) are from historical records of a kindly 6th
bishop who made toys and distributed them to needy kids each year at a
certain time of the year, which more or less established the popular
that Christmas is primarily for kids. This bishop was thus canonized by
the Catholic Church as Saint Nick. It should be noted that the imagery
associated with the modern Santa Claus in the Dark Ages and Middle Ages
often depicted a violent hairy man of the wild, also emblematic of
Pagan species of solitary fay (or "faerie"), before the modern, jolly
based on more benign imagery and archetypes took its place.
evolution of these various images
finally reached their apex by the 19th century, and it was then that
familiar image of Santa Claus was born.
due to the fact that Santa Claus
is in many ways a 'modernized' version of the classical Holly King, it
can be said that he actually exists as a part of astral reality, and
Wiccans pay homage to him in this manner, rather than contriving a
story to children that Santa Claus is actually a seemingly immortal
and blood elderly man of material reality who literally physically
to every home in the world on Christmas night, enters via the chimney,
and leaves physical gifts behind for the children [which puts many
in the position of explaining the popular company logos adorning the
of many of those gifts; this conundrum was actually dealt with in an
Christmas commercial in the early 1980's, where Santa Claus was
as actually shopping in contemporary toy stores, such as K-Mart and
'R' Us, for all of these gifts, rather than building them from scratch,
as many of the popular stories describe his elves as doing! Both
or shopping for that number of toys every year would end up costing
many millions of dollars per year if he was truly a being of material
and astute children will often pick up on this discrepancy!].
stated above, the God is a newborn
at this time, being dutifully nursed by the Goddess.
Stones: Amethyst, turquoise
Names: Sometimes spelled Imbolg.
Imbolc celebrates the eventual
return of spring. Fertility rites are important and appropriate now.
ancient Celts honored the fertility goddess Brigid at this time, who
adopted into Catholic theology as Saint Bridget. The God is now being
by the Goddess as a young boy.
Stones: Aquamarine, moonstone,
Names: Ostara, Eostre's Day
Ostara is a celebration of
the thriving fertility of the land. The holiday is named after the
fertility goddess Eostre, also called Ostara, to which this day was
sacred by the Germanic tribes. Spellwork for abundance is appropriate,
as are continued fertility spells. The word 'Easter' derives from the
of the goddess Eostre, who was honored on this day. The rabbit and eggs
are ancient Pagan symbols of fertility for obvious reasons, and were
by Christianity into the whimsical image of the Easter Bunny delivering
colored eggs, as the decoration of eggs was also an old Pagan custom of
celebrating the holiday. The origin of the concept of the Easter Bunny
and his famous practice of delivering Easter eggs can be traced back to
the following story from Germanic legend.
ago, according to legend, many
animals attempted to win the favor of the goddess Eostre, but as she is
so difficult to impress, all of them failed utterly. However, one day
March 21, a rabbit decided to attempt to impress her by taking an egg
a local hen's nest and decorating it beautifully with paint. Much to
surprise of the other animals, Eostre was extremely enamored by the
gift, and as a result, she gave the rabbit the task of creating and
such beautifully decorated eggs, which he carried in a basket, to
in the local villages on this same day every year in the future.
God is now grown into adolescence,
and he feels the first yearnings for the Goddess, who is no longer
as his mother.
Stones: Bloodstone, sapphire
Names: May Day, Walpurgisnacht,
sometimes spelled Bealtaine
Equivalent: May Day
Beltane celebrates the successful
beginning of the growing season, as well as honoring human sexuality
the Christians disdained, and still do in matters of religion, though
a lesser extent, today). Many May Day traditions culled from the
Pagans are still carried on in various forms at the present time. The
hunt that goes on today is a variation of ancient symbolism: the nuts
the human testicles to the ancient Pagans (and is probably where the
slang for testes being referred to as "nuts" comes from...honest!). The
ancient Greeks honored the promiscuous nature god Pan and the nymphs at
this time, and spell work for love and sex would be especially powerful
modern practices carried over
from ancient times for this holiday include dancing around the maypole,
which was symbolic of the male phallus to the Pagan cultures in the
and of jumping over the fire, something women used to do for blessings
and fertility (as a masculine element, the fire was also seen as a
phallus). Of course, modern people in societies with a Judeo-Christian
ideology have obviously long since forgotten the original basis of
this time, the God and the Goddess
have now become young lovers.
Stones: Emerald, jade, lapis,
Names: Midsummer, Litha
The Summer Solstice is the
celebration of the full growth of the harvest. The growing season is in
full bloom and nature is most bountiful. Spellwork for childbirth and
health are very appropriate, as is spelling for abundance and money.
Christians, curiously, have not adapted this holiday into a
summer celebration, though they probably have a day for saints
for the occasion.
Holly King retakes the rulership
of the seasons from the Oak King at this time.
this time of the Wheel of the
Year, the God is now middle aged, and the Goddess remains his consort.
Stones: Citrine, peridot
Names: Lughnasadh, Lunasa
Equivalent: None, except
for any celebration honoring St. Michael
Lammas is the celebration
of the darkening of the year, as winter comes ever closer, and it
the thanking of the Goddess and God for the past harvest and bounty of
the land earlier in the year. Spellwork for the arts is very
as this holiday honored the Celtic god Lugh, which is why it is often
Lughnasadh (though I refer to it by its alternate name Lammas here to
responsive to those readers who are not Celtic Wiccan). Lugh was later
adopted by the Roman Catholics as Saint Michael.
this time, the God is elderly, and
his time with the Goddess is near its end.
Stones: Amethyst, topaz
(though it occurs much later on the Christian calendar in America)
This day celebrates the second
harvest. The Greek god Dionysus, the patron god of wine and revelry,
his Roman equivalent, Bacchus, was honored here. Thus, spell work for
and revelry (i.e., partying!), along with invocations of gratitude to
Goddess and God (or any deity who embodies the harvest and abundance)
having sufficient food on the table this year and the company of many
one's with whom to share it with, is very appropriate at this time.
is a common opinion in the Wiccan
community (which I wholeheartedly share) that the Christian celebration
of Thanksgiving, which ostensibly celebrates the ill-fated peace
the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, though not truly religious in a
strict sense (but nevertheless celebrated by modern Christians,
since the Pilgrims themselves were Christian), is the modern equivalent
of the Mabon celebration of abundance. Hence, due to the similarity of
celebration and the aforementioned thanks for abundance, which is what
the Pilgrims were celebrating, I can state my belief that this holiday
is a takeoff of the Autumn Equinox without stretching the imagination
day is named for the Celtic god
Mabon, the divine child of the Celtic war goddess Morrigan, who was
"Christianized" by the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Andrew (which is
also an amalgamation with the well known friend and disciple of Jesus
this point in the Wheel of the Year,
the God has died of old age, but the Goddess is pregnant with the
Sun God, who will be reborn on the Winter Solstice.
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