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  Josephine Wall - Artist

Gaia, who is Mother Earth, is the bringer of life and beauty.
 Where She breathes, She brings new life to a sleeping Earth. 
>                                 Renewal springs forth along Gaia's path                                      

             Sabbat Celebrations          

Sabbat has two possible meanings not given in standard texts on Wicca, and both are connected to the Great Goddess.  It may derive from "Sabbatu," a Babylonian word referring to the menstruation of the Goddess Ishtar at the Full Moon.  It was a holiday--or a time when no work was done--which echoes Hebrew customs regarding their Sabbat(h).  Sabbath was another name for Shekinah, the female spirit of God in Hebrew tradition (the Hebrew Goddess).  The Sabbath is the Goddess' day of celebration.  It is also connected to the Akkadian "Shabbattu" or "Shapattu," which was their name for the feast of the Full Moon, celebrating the menses of the Goddess.  Working, cooking and travel were/are not allowed.  This may have evolved to earlier, modern times, wherein the Christians did nothing on Sundays in honor of their God.  Many Christians still honor that today.    So, it seems that the Sabbats did not evolve around the Solar Sun God, but of the Goddess and the Full Moon.   When one really looks at the Sabbats and what actually transpires, it is the Goddess, in her form as Mother Earth, who moves to and from the Sun, and it is She who creates the seasonal changes; it is She who dances the Wheel of Life and not the Sun.  The Sun is stationary.   If She stopped dancing, part of the world would be in darkness and part would be forever in the light.  It is She who rotates on the axis which makes it look like the Sun is shifting when actually it is Mother Earth who shifts, as does the Moon.    Our light and darkness and our seasonal changes are determined by Mother Earth and her dance around the Sun creating the Wheel of the Year.  Mother Earth/Nature and the Wheel of the Year is what Paganism (known as the Goddess religion) is all about. 

Now, the Pagan Sabbats have evolved into there being many ways to look at the Sabbats.  As an example;  Gerald Gardner's Wicca brought in the mythological aspect of the Goddess and her Consort into the Sabbats in a more human/sexual manner. Their Sabbats follow the union of the Goddess and her Consort, to the birth of the Sun God at Yule, to his death at Mabon.  Naturally we then have Samhain, our High Holiday.   Of course, the Wiccan religion basis its Wheel on the dance of the Sun instead of recognizing that it is Mother Earth who dances the wheel of life. All of this is more humanized than what the Sabbats really teach us which is striving for balance between the outer external life (male) and the consciousness-directed inner life (female).    The inner life must be the ruler of the outer life. Through the Goddess and the feminine path, we will be able to bring into balance the masculine and feminine parts of ourselves.  However, and most importantly with regards to Nature itself, the only true balance is life and death and that is through the Goddess.  True Nature can be harsh and cruel through draughts, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat, etc.  The Goddess Religion is not about duality/polarity but of Her seasonal.   It is about living in harmony with all of Her creatures.  It is learning to live through her beauty as well as Her harshness.   Many say it is a fertility religion.  Fertility is only one fourth of the pie.  Just as there are four seasons so are the passages which all her species go through-----youth, maiden, mother and crone.  And at the Youth and Crone aspects, there is nothing fertile about us.  Men's sperm takes them through even old age. They might not be as active but they can produce even up to early 80s! 

Many Pagans interact with the Sabbats in a more spiritual and growing manner. They bring it more into their daily lives. The religion has grown from sexuality to spirituality simply because we know more of why things are than our ancient ancestors did. For instance, we know that having sex in the fields, even though it may be fun, will not make for a successful crop or a woman laying underneath moon will get her with child. The religion has evolved because the children of the Goddess has evolved. In order for a religion to survive, it has to change as we do. We now know that it is She who moves around the sun just as we know She is not flat! She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes. Even Christianity has evolved from an angry God, a God-fearing God to a God of love and compassion. Now we interact with the Sabbats in a deeper, spiritual manner. The Sabbats can be seen as a birth of new ideas or a new way of living life, having balance in your live, celebrating and being thankful for what we have not only in each other but being thankful for the food that comes from the Great Mother. It is about dealing with loss of loved ones and letting go of things we no longer need to make room once again for the birth of new ideas. The Sabbats enrich our lives in a spiritual nature and we, as children of the Goddess, are able to find peace within ourselves and to love all her creations. Through the Sabbats, we dance the dance of life and sing, make love and grow from the lessons we learn as we make our journey on the Wheel that the Lady turns.

In the new religion known as Wicca, Gerald Gardner pulled in the various Sabbats from different customs and came up with the 7 Sabbats. He then added the Spring Equinox for balance of a Sabbat every six weeks. One must realize that no where in recorded history did any one group of pagans practice the entire 8 Sabbats.  Also, there is no record of pagans celebrating the Spring Equinox.  In fact, the Spring Equinox which Gardner calls Ostara is the Germanic name for their spring Goddess.  Ostara was celebrated in the fourth month of the year, meaning April, according to the British scribe Bede the Venerable, writing in the seventh century C.E.  Over a thousand years later, She was still honored in Germanic lands, where her name was used for the month in which she ruled, April.  She did not represent March with its Spring Equinox.    In Anglo-Saxon, her name became Estre or Eastre, which survives today in the festival of rebirth, Easter, and in the mood encouraged by springtime, estrus (the period of when in the wild the female will  accept mating with the male.  In other words, the two Sabbats of Ostara (supposedly Spring Equinox) and Beltane basically are one and the same in celebration, i.e., mating of female and male.   Gardner took the German's practice of Ostara and instead of celebrating it in April, the true month in which this Goddess rules, but instead, put it as the Spring Equinox.  He had no respect for the beloved Germanic Goddess Ostara and what She represented only to satisfy his own means.  He took an "old tradition" and changed it to fit his "new" tradition!   If one really looks at the Sabbats, one will see that the 8 Sabbats are redundant in nature....no pun intended.  If you look at Yule and Candlemas, they are very similar; as we saw the Spring Equinox is basically the same as Beltane.  At the Summer Solstice it is the death of the Sun; then at Lammas the death of the Corn God who is sacrificed for us to live; then the Fall Equinox, it is time to say farewell as things are coming to an end but then at Samhain, we release things of old to bring in the new.  How many times does the God die and we say farewell?  This is all due because Gardner's Wicca took from different traditions to create his own.

On a note here, since I am no longer Wiccan, and simply call myself a Pagan and Witch, I do not follow the Wiccan 8 Sabbats. I do not wish to dishonor the Goddess Ostara anymore than She already is.  I follow the true Celtic traditions of Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain, which Gardner called the Greater Sabbats. These Sabbats represent the land and Mother earth and vegetation while the Solstices and Equinoxes are celebrations of the Sun, which Gardner called the Lessor Sabbats. Please check out Gardner Unveiled which is a quite interesting read and very informative. For me, I am not interested in following another religion created by yet another man. I had always wondered why the 8 Sabbats seemed to repeat themselves and then after my research into the history of Gardner and what I had discovered, I was enlightened. However, I have given the meaning of the Wiccan 8 Sabbats for those who wish to follow those holidays.  Also, I believe that pagans of yesteryear did not do rituals for their Sabbats and certainly not in any ceremonial way to which Gardner has it.  He was a ceremonial magician and combined the Sabbat celebrations with ceremonial ritual which was performed when doing magick.    I believe the pagans of yesteryear celebrated the Sabbats as a festival where people gathered and shared in the seasonal changes and not standing in some cast circle, calling in Quarters with athames flying and incense flowing.  This simply was not done.  They might have simply performed some sort of celebration in their home in honor of that Sabbat.   Many of the pagans were farmers and worked from sunrise to sunset.  Their lives were just as busy in simply trying to survive as our lives are busy now.  My husband is a vegetable farmer and we live off the land like pagans of yesteryear with one huge difference and that is modernization, i.e., tractors, cultivators, etc.  And, during the summer, he is too busy to get off the farm for business other than farming let alone taking time off  for leisure fun, and he works from sunrise to way past sunset.  Also, there was no such thing as the three harvests as Gardner as it.  Harvest began at Lammas and ended at Samhain when a hard frost comes and kills everything. 

WINTER SOLSTICE

The night of the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Now darkness triumphs; and yet, gives way and changes into light. The breath of nature is suspended. All wait while within the cauldron, the Dark King is transformed into the infant light. We watch for the coming dawn, when the Great Mother gives birth to the divine Child Sun, who is the promise of the summer. We call the Sun from the womb of the night. Our Blessed Lady carries in her young womb - the womb which has birthed all things into being. Our Lady turns the wheel once more. Since it is a solar festival, it is celebrated by fire and the use of the Yule log. It is a time to let go of all fears, all doubts, all outworn ideas, all projects finished - anything in our lives that holds us away from the new beginnings that will lead to new growth. It is a time to let go of the past and walk toward the light. Some witches light a gold candle in the cauldron and jump the cauldron of rebirth making a wish for her to be a better person in the coming year. On this longest night, we renew and rebirth our bodies and spirit self. This is when we plant our seeds of change, whether it be truth, love, friendship, etc.

Candle Colors: Red, green, white and especially silver and gold. You can have scented candles of Yule incense or pine, bayberry or holiday potpourri. Incense: Cinnamon, myrrh, cloves, jasmine, aloe wood and frankincense, which are predominantly solar mixture of scents. Bayberry, cedar, pine and rosemary.

Gemstones: Cat's eye and ruby

Foods: Roasted turkey, nuts, fruitcakes, caraway, eggnog and mulled wine.

CANDLEMAS/IMBOLIC - February 2

To the Celts, this is the Festival of Bride.........the celebration of the soon to be return of the Maiden of Spring. Now the Crone starts to undergo Her wonderful transformation into the beautiful Maiden of Flowers, Mistress of the Hunt. Imbolic is the festival of light in the darkness, the celebration of rekindled fire.  The celebration of what is to come.  Farmers are making plans for the upcoming planting season.   Most witches light as many candles in their house or witch's room to bring on light and warmth and say goodbye to the dark. This is the time of individuation: within the measures of the spiral, we each light our own light, and become uniquely ourselves. It is the time of initiation, of beginning when seeds that will later sprout and grow begin to stir from their dark sleep.

This Sabbat also honors the moon as source of fertility for the months to come. The winter still cold reawakens and first feels the quickening of life. It is a time for changes below the surface of things, when solstice birth first begins to manifest. It is the time of year to make a commitment or recommitment to your spiritual growth. It is a time to look ahead in hope and joy for what is to come. It is a time of divination, looking into the coming year. It is a time for cleaning and purification. Self dedication. It is a time for looking for early spring. Crossroads figure prominently in this Sabbat. This is a night that spirits of the dead are said to walk among the living. The Crossroads also represent an equal-armed cross which is seen as a symbol of balance and protection. On the eve before this Sabbat, go to a crossroad and bury negativity so it cannot escape.

Incense: Frankincense, myrrh, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon and lotus, basil, wisteria.

Candles: Red and white.

Gemstones: Amethyst, garnet, onyx, turquoise

Ritual Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, celandine, heather, myrrh, frankincense.

SPRING EQUINOX

Gardner's Wicca calls this Sabbat Ostara to which it is improperly named. As mentioned in the Sabbat introduction, Ostara is the Germanic Goddess who represents the month to while She rules and that is April.......not March.     This is the time of spring's return; the joyful time, the seed time, when life bursts forth from the earth and the chains of winter are broken.   Mother Earth has moved closer to the sun beginning to warm the great womb of the Goddess.  She is no longer the Crone but has turned from Crone to Maiden and all of life is fresh and new.  The grass is starting to green up and trees are sprouting out.  The earth has awakened from Her slumber.   This is the time when the Goddess Hecate returns to the underworld and Persephone returns to Demeter.  Light and dark are equal. It is a time of balance, when all the elements within us must be brought into a new harmony. Now is the time to see how well our own souls are balanced and to plant those things that we are lacking in ourselves. It is a time to look within our hearts to see the empty spaces to be filled.   

Candles: Gold, green, yellow, peach, pastel colors.

Gemstones: Amethyst, aquamarine, bloodstone, red jasper.

Incense: African violet, jasmine, rose, sage, strawberry.

Ritual herbs: Acorn, celandine, cinquefoil, crocus, daffodil, dogwood, lily, honeysuckle, iris, jasmine, rose, strawberry, tansy and violets.

Beltane - eve of April 30th

The Witches' Sabbat of Beltane officially begins at moonrise on May Day eve, April 30th.   Beltane is a fire festival and is opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year. Samhain is the time when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, and Beltane is the time when the worlds are furthest apart. On this day we celebrate the May Queen of fertility and passion, a time when the Maiden of Spring comes of age and celebrates the fullness of her sexuality. The Maypole, symbol of the Tree of Life, or Moon Tree, is decorated with flowers and ribbons. The Great Rite is sexual license, "When we act out the lovemaking of nature by loving each other". It is the celebration of youth, of love and fun. It is a time of jumping through the Beltane bonfire. You can also light a fire in your fireplace. If you do not have a fireplace, you might light thirteen dark green candles to symbolize the Beltane fire. Dress in springtime colors.

Incense: Frankincense, lilac, rose, musk, civet, ambergris, jasmine, sandalwood, myrrh and myrtle.

Candle colors: Emerald, orange, carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz.

Ritual Herbs: Almond, angelica, ash tree, bluebells, cinquefoil, daisy, frankincense, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, marigold, meadowsweet, primrose, roses, woodruff, yellow cowslips.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

Mother Earth's dance of the wheel of the year  is now at Her closest to the sun causing the longest day in the year.  Her movement so close to the sun at this stage is the height of the sun's power. Like Samhain, the Summer Solstice  is another day when the boundaries between the worlds are thin, when mortals had strange experiences and when fairies trooped across the land. This is because the Summer Solstice is the intercalary or "extra" month of the Anglo-Saxon calendar, added every other year to bring the lunar months back in line with the solar year.  The nature of the Summer Solstice as a "day outside of time" is vastly different from that of Samhain. The Summer Solstice has an upside down quality about it; that is, things often reversed or mixed up, i.e., candles are floated on water and wishes made on them. It is a time of festival, merriment, making of wishes and of rejoicing, as the Earth Mother who receives that energy blooms with the beauty that will become the fruits of the harvests. However, the time for waxing is at an end and the time of waning is at hand.  Mother Earth will now begin Her shifting and moving away from the Sun. . The energy of the sun must go into the form of the Mother - the corn, the grain - and die in order to feed Earth Mother's children, to become the seed of a new cycle. It is a time that we must look within ourselves for inner enlightenment and meaning of our times of fulfillment, for without meaning, growth and purpose, fulfillment is emptiness.

As is the tradition to burn nine woods for Beltane fires, it is also customary to throw nine kinds of herbs into the Midsummer fire. They are: St. John's Wort, rue, vervain, mistletoe, lavender, thyme, fennel, plantain and mugwort.

Incense: Frankincense, lemon, myrrh, pine, rose and wisteria.

Candle Colors: Blue and green

Gemstones: All green gemstones, especially emerald and jade.

Ritual herbs: Chamomile, cinquefoil, elder, fennel, hemp, larkspur, male fern, mugwort, pine, roses, saint john's wort, wild thyme, wisteria and verbena.

LAMMAS - AUGUST 1

To Gardner's Wicca, this is considered the first of the three harvest celebrations in the Craft.   However, true farmers do not consider the harvesting of their crops in separate situations.  To the farmer back then to the farmers now, they consider their  harvest a continous flow up and until a killing frost hits the crops sometime in October killing everything.   I know this, as my husband is a farmer.   Our Mother Earth has blessed us with her bounty. The Goddess has given birth now, and we celebrate this birth, the fruits of the field and orchard, and garden. The Summer Goddess lays down her cloak of greenery and takes up the dark mantel of the Crone. The Goddess provides but she provides only what we are willing to work for and harvest by our efforts. It is the time of shortening days and ripening fields. The long days of summer are past and we watch our efforts come to fruition. Now is the time of harvest. We celebrate this time of year by celebrating summer. Summer is heat, growth, abundance and the work and play that naturally accompany these themes. Long hours of sunlight, tending gardens, harvesting fruits, vegetables, herbs, canning, freezing, drying the harvest. We celebrate summer with one eye on the winter ahead. At this time of the year, Mother Earth begins offering us some of the early fruits and vegetables. The celebration of Lammas is a pause to relax and open yourself to the change of the season so that you may be one with its energies and accomplish what is intended.

Candles are dark green, yellow and golden or orange.

This is the Sabbat to make corn dollies, to decorate the alter with ears of still-green corn and wheat, and whole fresh vegetables.

AUTUMN EQUINOX 

To Gardner's Wicca, this is considered  the second of the three celebrations of the Harvest Festival.   Once again, this is the eyes of Gerald Gardner and not farmers of the land.  I have read in many Wiccan books that it is the harvest of  fruit and wine.  That depends upon the fruit, as some fruit is produced in June.  If they are talking about fruit/grapes for wine, the majority of wine-making grapes are harvested from late August to early October and once again flows in with Lammas, the beginning of the harvest.  Like the Spring Equinox, this is a solar celebration and not a "mother-earth based bounty.       Mother Earth has moved further away from the sun, causing cooler temperatures and day and night are now equal. The Underworld Goddess returns. The Year Goddess approaches her Crone time now, as the night begins to lengthen and the days to shorten once more. We feel her bite, the crispness of the air, the brightness of the moon. Demeter yields her daughter once again to  the underworld and then mourns until Kore's return in the Spring.  .

Kore has not turned into Persephone who has descended to the land of Hecate and the dead, and Demeter in despair halts all new growth until her return. It is also the time when Hecate walks the land.  (In days of old, the story was told that Persephone each year went to the underworld for teachings from the Goddess of the Crossroads, Hecate, who could see past, present and future. Not until the Titan Goddesses were married off to war/hunting Gods did the story change to Persephone being kidnapped and raped by Hades.) This is the time for both mourning and joy, as we face the darkness and look back over the year we have just lived. For many witches this begins the most powerful time of the year - the dark time when the sun's light recedes to give more focus to the moon and the deep self of the female principle. As Persephone must separate from the world and her Mother for a time for teachings with Hecate, so must each of us undergo this mystery in our lives. Rituals of grieving are appropriate now as well as acknowledging the rebirth and joy to follow. It is a time when the Goddess must say farewell to her Consort. The separation between mother and daughter, and that between lovers is a dominate theme of this time. We are in deep need of rituals that help us through these transitions.

You can take an apple to the cemetery and hold it in front of you and say "Ancient symbol of life, death and rebirth, take away my mourning and assure me that death is not a permanent parting, but a new and joyful beginning" and then placed at a love one's grave for hope of rebirth or if you cannot get to a cemetery, after the prayer, bury the apple in the earth to symbolize your hope for the rebirth of all life. The theme is balancing polarities, so do some thinking about the balance within your life. The female and male elements of your personality - do they have equal respect and expression. This night, when the hours of light and the hours of darkness are equal is a night to honor the balance of the Goddess and the God and the balance of matter and spirit because the Craft religion celebrates not only spiritual life of the next world, but also the physical life of this world.

Incense: Benzoin, myrrh and sage.

Candle Colors: Brown, green, orange and yellow

Gemstones: Carnelian, lapis, sapphire, yellow agate.

Ritual Herbs: Acorns, asters, benzoin, ferns, honeysuckle, marigold, milkweed, myrrh, oak leaves, passion flower, pine, roses, sage, solomon's seal and thistle.

SAMHAIN - HALLOWS - October 31st

Samhain is the most sacred and high holiday of all the festivals of all rituals. Samhain combines a number of elements: the end of the agricultural harvest, the wild harvest, the transition of the fall foliage season into the onset of winter weather and the commemoration of The Day of the Dead. It is a time for remembering our ancestors and our departed loved ones, and a solemn time should be set aside for contemplating the mystery of Life and Death as taught by the ancient ways. Samhain is a time of introspection, of emptying the false from the mind, heart, and soul. It is a time to heal the source of our deepest wounds....and those we have inflected on others around us.....before time fails us. It is a time when we can learn to see clearly. The true victory of the self is in the Cauldron. Now we must look at the nature of our motives and at the results of our actions. Samhain is a time to communicate and hear the other side, a time of death, thinking of ancestors and what we are because of them. It is a time of letting go, a time when the veil is the thinnest between the worlds. We can penetrate the veil and get messages from people who have gone on before us to help us in this life. It is a time when we look at death hopefully trying to find meaning in that.

An eerie time, full of power, partaking of both the first and the second half of the year, yet belonging to neither. It is akin to dawn and twilight. Samhain was probably originally celebrated on the full moon closest to the now customary date of October 31. The full moon lends its light to the returning spirits who traditionally revisit the scenes of their lives. Samhain, signifying awakening, letting go, when the seed falls to the earth from the mother plant. It is the CRACK OF TIME, the boundary-point between the worlds, a time belonging neither to the old or quite yet to the new. Any ending is also a beginning of a new phase and at this time, memories and thoughts of the past mingle with hopes and fears for the future. It is a spiritual cleansing of those aspects of our life which we have grown out of or no longer need. It is a time for divination and looking into the future and a link with the dead. We have come to a place of rest and reward, all our labors and harvest complete for the time being. This is a time of Thanks-Giving for all that you have accomplished, been gifted with, brought to completion so far this year. Keep a votive candle lit all through this month as a symbol of the eternal blessings of the Goddess in your life.

Hecate, and none but She, is Queen of all living things .It is through Her that all things live or die. She is the laughing maiden, the living mother, and the black hag of death. She is the three and the one. She smiles and the radiance of the moon, whether it be full or dark, is everywhere for there is no power like Her power and no living thing can withstand Her power. For She is anticipation. She is the fulfillment. She is all death. Hear her words, children, worship and be glad for if you seek Her, She is with you always. She was with you in the beginning and shall be with you at the end.

Candle Colors: Black and orange.

Incense: Cloves, myrrh, sandalwood, camphor, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, gum mastic (oil), acacia, copal. Using equal parts, make incense to be burned on charcoals.

Gemstones: All black gemstones, especially jet, obsidian and onyx.

 

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