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The Wiccan Year

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Brief summary of the eight sabbats.

Modern witches see the year as a wheel that constantly turns from birth to death to rebirth and the believe that just as a plant grows and dies, leaving behind its seeds that give life again, so do they. They believe that they are constantly being reborn, growing spiritually in each life until, as in Buddhism, the spirit reaches enlightenment and becomes one with what they call "The Great All" - the unified Lord and Lady.

They celebrate more or less the same festivals, or sabbats, and esbats as their Druid forebears. These sabbats coincide with the natural events associated with the changes of the seasons and witches believe that by celebrating them, they keep in tune with the natural energies of the Earth. The esbats coincide with the phases of the Moon and the characters ascribed to the Moon in each of the twelve months of the year.

Each sabbat has its own rites and rituals, its own special colours and its own symbols. And each one is the best time to cast certain spells. For example, when witches celebrate the Spring Equinox, tradition demands that they decorate their alters with spring flowers, eggs painted green, catkins and seed cakes, and that at this time they should channel their energies into cleansing and healing.

The spiritual year begins on October 31st with Samhain, enjoyed by non-Wiccans as Halloween. For witches, Samhain marks the death of The Lord and the start of the New Year. This is the day when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, growing thinner and thinner as day turns to night, which makes it the perfect time for divination espeially via the crystal ball. Some Wiccans enjoy a special Samhain meal, setting a place for loved ones that have died during the previous year and remembering them in their thoughts as the meal progresses.

A few weeks later, on the longest night of the year, December 21st, the Winter Solstice is marked as Yule. This is the day when The Lord is reborn, restoring light to the world. Gifts are exchanged symbolic of the gift The Lady has bestowed by giving birth to The Lord, who shines in the sky as the Sun. The Lord's rebirth and the Sun's return is symbolized by burning the Yule log, some of which is saved each year to be used the following Yule, celebrating rebirth.

Imbolc is celebrated as Candlemas, February 2nd. This is the time when witches celebrate the renewed fertility of the Earth and is when some covens like to initiate new members.

A few weeks later, on March 21st, the Spring Equinox is marked as Ostara, many symbols of which, including eggs, are common to Easter. This is the time when witches bless seeds for future planting.

By Beltane, April 30th, The Lord has reached manhood and he and The Lady unite in handfasting by which they help the Earth bloom with life and new growth. The Maypole symbolizes The Lord's maturity.

The Summer Solstice, which marks the longest day of the year, June 21st, is sometimes called Litha. When The Lord and The Lady are at their peak, the Earth is at its most abundant. Some witches celebrate by burning bonfires to represent the Sun and to encourage fertility, purification, and love. The eve of the Solstice is believed to be an excellent time to cast love and healing spells. But the joy of knowing that the Sun is at the peak of its power is tinged with sadness that from now on Summer's lease is shortening.

Lughnassad, August 2nd, which is called Lamas in some places, marks the beginning of the harvest. The days are now noticeably shortening, signifying that The Lord is losing his strength, but any melancholy is short-lived for The Lady is already pregnant and The Lord will be reborn come the following Yule.

September 21st marks Mabon, the witches' harvest festival and the time when the last fruits are celebrated. With the approach of Winter, The Lord is readying himself for his death at Samhain, and The Lady, conscious of this, is starting to mourn her loss. It is a time to let go of the past and concentrate on marriage.

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