Because witches honor nature, they have eight festivals, or Sabbats, that mark the year as it turns through its seasons. The following is basic information about these Sabbats, and includes both standard Wiccan information as well as my personal Sabbat lore and experiences, in other words, what I perceive the Sabbats to be.
- Samhain happens near Halloween and is when the Wiccan year begins. My altar cloth is black, because we are in the time of year that is dark. On my altar is the harvest, our "dead Lord" whose life is in the crops and "sacrificed" when the crops are killed to become our food. This is the time of death, of honoring and communing with spirits that have passed to the other side. Now the veil between the worlds is thin. It is a good time to invite our beloved dead to visit with us. This is not a gruesome exchange, but reverent, earthy, natural, further it is joyous and festive. Victor Anderson says "If a ghost of a loved one shows up, ask him to join the party."
- Yule or winter solstice happens near December 21, which is the longest darkest night of the year. The dark of Winter is safe like my bedcovers at night. Dark whispers of a Mother's love caress me. In the darkness of the Mother's womb, the void I am safe, sustained, at peace. and can move inward, into my own dark self, looking, learning, purifying. I can cleanse myself of all that blocks me from being born new with the rising new solstice sun when the sun king is born, with promises for the Spring ahead.
- Brigid or Candlemas, on February 2, is the festival of the Goddess Brigid, patron of poetry, healing, and metalsmithing. Brigid's poetry inspires me to shake off winter's sleep now, stretch and start to get ready for Spring. I am still drowsy.
- Spring Equinox happens about March 21, and I pass from one time into the other, yet am between one time and another. I completely shed winter's sleep. As a time of passing, transition, it is powerful - a time of balance - equal day and equal night - so a time of magic. I am poised between being bound, and the movement of Spring. Bound like sleeping beauty who is released by love's kiss into the violent passion of Spring. Bound as in the cosmic egg, which exploded when the cosmos was hatched. Explosive moment of creation - moving dynamically chaotically.
- Beltane or May-Day, is a celebration of love. And we're talking Pagan now! Love -- moon rhymes with June, so the universe gets created. The Ancient people, from the Priests and Priestesses to the farmers understood the power of love: loving company between two people is an echo of the act that created all things. No, let me rephrase that: it IS the act of creation.
- Summer Solstice happens about June 21. All things move in spirals, and I watch the year move in a spiral, right now spiraling up to the sun's climax. I celebrate summer and the heat of the Gods.
- Lammas is August 1. Now the Corn King dies as his body is harvested from the fields so that I may be fed, so that I may live, so that I may go into the winter months of darkness rich with his blood and love in my veins. The Dark King, Shepherd of souls, becomes stronger now. With WInter I will go inward, to the inner depths of my own soul. And HE will embrace me with His love in the coming trials and celebrations of the Wintertime. Some of my crops are harvested and I give thanks. Some of my crops are not yet ready and I must insure their harvest.
- Fall Equinox happens near or on September 21.Today, the length of night time is equal to the length of daytime. At the Equinox, I become aware that this time is not the balance, or rather the order, one usually sees in nature. Nature is not really balanced. But ordered. A cyprus by the ocean grows windblown by ocean storm and wind, bowing towards the earth. That cyprus is the usual balance or order of nature - stable, poised, in harmony. ALL of nature leans like the ocean-blown cyprus towards the dark earth. But Fall Equinox is a balance of light and dark, night and day and therefore is truly an outlandish moment in time: equality, a equal balancing, an actual moment of balance. I draw on my roots in the darkness, yet revel in the kiss of summer breeze and sun.
I face the darkness of the fall and winter ahead and so face mysteries. The Goddess has surprises for me in the wintry months ahead that will surpass my best hopes.