Casting Instructions for 'Basic Sabbat Lore'
The Eight Sabbats form a never ending circle which is known as the 'Wheel of the Year'. These are the major festivals of the Witch's year. At these times, witches celebrate not only the changes in the Goddess: from maiden to mother then crone and finally back to maiden again, but also the many faces of the God. The sabbats are a very important part of a witches life and should always be observed.
The names of the Sabbats can vary slightly from coven to coven and city to city, as they come from a time when spelling wasn't an issue. So, if you are a solitary witch at home, use the names that feel most comfortable to you.
Samhain 31st October/Halloween
Pronounced sow-ain, Samhain is the most important festival of the witch?s year, it is the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. At this time, the Goddess takes her role as crone or wise woman, and now we look to her for guidance. On this night, the wise woman bestows her wisdom in many forms - for example in divination methods such as tarot cards, runes, dark mirrors and other forms of scrying.
Samhain is the only one of the eight Sabbats that deals with death, and in history, this would have been a time for people to let their loved ones go, to finish jobs, pay debts and start to get everything ready for the winter months ahead. So now is a good time to put aside any differences you may have with someone, ready to move into the New Year.
We remember loved ones who have passed, and we place an extra setting at the dinner table to honour them. A time to remember, and also a time to look to the future. Known to the rest of the world as Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, this is a truly magical time. For those who work the land by growing their own crops and herbs all plants must be picked before this day. Anything left in the garden after Samhain is said to lose it's nutrition and belongs to the fae.
Yule 21st December/Winter Solstice
This is the winter solstice celebration of rebirth. Of the year, it is the shortest day and longest night, which brings an end to darkness as the days will now start to get longer. An excellent way to celebrate is to go out just before dawn to watch the sun rise and welcome the returning Sun King.
You can create your own Yule log in the same way that our ancestors did. Take a log with a flat bottom, as it needs to hold candles. Every person at your Yule celebration must place a candle onto the log and light it whilst making a wish. Keep this log safe for the rest of the year, and burn it in your fireplace on the following Yule.
Exchange hand made gifts of good will with your friends, and drink plenty of mead and warm mulled wine. This is a time to rejoice, and to look forward to lighter days.
Imbolic Feb 2nd/Candlemass
Pronounced im-bolk meaning ?in the Belly?, this is the time when the crone removes her winter cloak to become once again the maiden. The earth is ready to give birth to new things, and we see with the first arrival of lambs in the fields. Now is a time to kick bad habits and look to the up and coming year with fresh thoughts. Pay off any debts, or bring to an end anything that you feel will help you to make a better start to your year.
Spring clean this month, and get ready to receive all the things you have hoped for and thought about all winter. Clean out your wardrobes and give to charity all that you know you?ll never wear again. You can also ask your children to ?spring clean? their toys, as they will have received so many over the Christmas period and by now will know which ones they have outgrown.
We celebrate the goddess Bridget by making a basket bed with a corn dolly dressed as a bride to represent the maiden, and place this with a symbol of masculinity to ensure the fertility of the earth in the months ahead.
Ostara 21st March/Spring Equinox
This is pronounced o-star?-a and is a time to rejoice the spring and natures? beauty, to just get out and walk with the earth. We celebrate being alive at this time and that the days and nights are now equal, so this is an excellent time to balance out the things in your life that may not seem very even at this moment.
Ostara gets its name from the free spirited goddess Eostre and the story is that while entertaining some children, she turned a chicken into a rabbit and it preceded to lay coloured eggs, and so we get the basis for the Easter Bunny and its colourful eggs. This is also a time when the maiden truly embodies the spirit of spring, wraps herself in a cloak of new flowers, and sees the adolescent sun god in a very new light. A time to celebrate being alive and truly look forward to what the year has to offer you with an open mind.
Share with the earth what you have at the moment, bury one egg in each corner of your garden and your house will be fruitful all year round. If you don?t have a recycle bin or a compost heap, now is the time to get one. Witchcraft isn?t just about spells and magic, it?s also about the earth and how we can protect it.
Beltaine May 1st/May Day
Beltaine is the second most important celebration after Samhain. Bel is the name of the welsh sky God and Tan (means fire). Hence, this is known as the celebration of the fire in the sky.
Beltaine is a time for union between goddess and god, and many Wiccan couples will perform the ritual of hand fasting on this day. Hand fasting is the union, as equals, of a male and female witch and is presided over by a Wiccan priestess - though the couple write their own vows and make their promises directly to each other. They have three choices of duration: a year and a day, a life time, or for all time - which means they will meet in the next life time and so on. The couple?s hands are tied together with a small rope or ribbon, and at the end of the ceremony they leap over a broomstick or besom into their union. This is where the saying ?tying the knot? originates.
May is a good time for outdoor celebrations such as may pole dancing, so you could try to find a local fair or carnival to visit, then invite your friends home, and sit under the stars surrounded by the people you love.
Litha 21st June/Summer Solstice
This is the longest day and the shortest night of the year and from this point, the days will get shorter and the dark hours longer. The goddess is still in her robes of Mother but the ever changing God now takes his place as the Father Sun.
This is a time of reflection - so try to rise with the sun on this day and greet the dawn, spending a few moments in thought. Divide your celebrations for today the between light and dark hours. Take a walk in the park and look at the world before the night starts to draw in and spend time watching the sun go down.
This is a good time of year to have your altar outside for evening rituals, as the weather should still be warm in the evenings. On this day, have a picnic with your friends and try to help them in some way - whether it be going to see them more often or by performing a little magic with their consent.
Meditate on what your choices will be for the second half of the year and on projects that you may be presently undertaking, acknowledge whether or not they are working and decide on appropriate action. This is very much a time of light and dark, and as all witches know, this doesn't mean good or evil - it actually represents day and night. So, when someone tells you a witch works on the dark or light side maybe it?s just because she works more at night or during the day!
Lammas 1st August/Lughnasadh
This is the festival commemorating the death and resurrection of the Celtic sun god Lugh and is pronounced [loo-nass-uh or loo-nass-ar]. The goddess - still the mother - is sad, as the Sun God?s power is now waning, though he lives inside of her as her child, thus maintaining the cycle of life. In the past, some of the remains of the first harvest would be kept and made into small cakes, bread or biscuits in the shape of men, and this is the origin of the ginger bread man. They were then eaten in sacrifice to the land to repay it for what it had given.
Lammas is a time to count our blessings, and to give back to the earth to cover what we have received. We can do this by giving our own ginger bread men to family and friends to celebrate our own personal harvest. We must make some sacrifices now for the coming year, so decide one altruistic thing you would like to do in the next year, and commit yourself to this. The lesson for Lammas is to be patient in the face of uncertain outcomes.
Mabon 21st September/Autumn Equinox (Harvest Festival)
Mabon is pronounced ma?-bon meaning ?great sun?. By some it is called the ?Witches Thanksgiving?, the second harvest as the rest of the grain is stored for winter. Once again, a time of balance when days and nights are equal. As with the other equinoxes and solstices, the date may move slightly from year to year.
Mabon is the feast of the bringer of justice and the release of prisoners. In years gone by, most prisoners would be returned to their families at this time of year as people would be preparing for the winter months when food was scarce. They would know exactly how much food they had to last them for the winter and how many mouths they could feed. Any old or infirm live stock would be slaughtered so as not to waste food also.
Mabon is a good time then to let go of old arguments, pay debts before the snow comes and let go of any regrets - keeping then alive helps to feed no-one. The Autumn Equinox is also a great time of healing, so put mistakes behind you and move forward.
Here is a little more information on the Witches Sabbats:
Samhain 31st October, Imbolic 2nd February, Beltaine 1st May and Lammas 1st August are all major sabbats. Samhain is the most important with Beltane the second. These are all celebrations of fire, and can be celebrated by building a fire outside or by lighting candles indoors.
Yule 21st December and Litha 21st June are both solstices with the days being at their shortest and the nights at their longest. These are minor sabbats.
Ostara 21st March and Mabon 21st September are the equinoxes and at these times, the days and nights are equal. These are also minor sabbats.
As the solstice and equinox are never the same, we can celebrate anytime from the 20th to the 22nd of these months
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