live, worship and celebrate by the changing seasons and lunar cycles.
The year is cyclical, it is like a wheel, revolving from season to
season and year to year, hence the name "Wheel of the Year".
Every year, there are eight Wiccan "holidays" known as
Sabbats and there are 12 - 13 Esbats "lunar holy days"
consisting of the new and full moons.
Here is a brief explanation of the Sabbats as celebrated by Wiccans:
Samhain pronounced "sow-in" October 31
Also known as Halloween, All Hallow's Eve, Hallowmass or Day of the Dead, Samhain is the Wiccan & Witch new year. This is one of the most important of Sabbats, for we remember those that passed from the world of the living, to the world of the dead and the veil separating the two worlds is at it's thinnest. The celebrations are centered around the mourning and letting go of our deceased loved ones. A popular practice during Samhain is the preparing of the "dumb supper". During a feast, an extra plate of food is prepared for those who have passed on. It is a way of honoring the deceased and after the feast, the plate is taken outside, to be consumed by any creatures that might happen by. The mythical signifigance of Samhain is that the Goddess mourns her slain consort, the God, and she contemplates the birth of her child by him. The Goddess is in her Crone aspect, revered as the wise old woman who has the accumulated knowledge of one who has lived a very long time.
Yule (Winter Solstice) December 21
Winter has covered the earth and this is a time for the telling of stories, the sharing of skills and knowledge and the burning of the Yule log. It is the longest night of the year, and many Wiccans will burn the Yule log, which is tended all night long. Yule trees (where the idea of the Christmas tree came from) are decorated by Wiccans and are a symbol of the green, fertile land that will once again spring forth with life come spring. Mythically speaking, the Goddess gives birth to teh Sun God on this night and Wiccans celebrate the birth or return of the Sun God.
Candlemas (Brigid's Day or Imbolc) Feburary 1 - 2
Spring is coming, although winter is still upon the land. Wiccans celebrate Candlemas by blessing their ritual tools and building a bonfire to signify the warm sun. The mythology of Candlemas signifies the time when the Goddess has recouperated from the birth of her child, and has changed over into her Maiden aspect.
Ostara (Spring Equinox) March 21
This Sabbat corresponds with the arrival of Spring and is a good time to prepare for the planting of gardens, flowers, herbs and other plants. During this time, it is evident that Winter will end soon, and this is a very joyous occasion. Celebrating fertility, Wiccans paint eggs, an ancient fertility tradition which was adopted by Christians in celebrating Easter. In mythology, the Goddess is now fully in her Maiden aspect, a young, fertile girl who will grow strong with her son/consort. The Sun God is vital and strong at this time of the year.
Beltane April 30 - May 1
Beltane, like Samhain, is an important Sabbat, and one of the most joyous. This is traditionally a fertility festival, and companions that wish to make a commitment to each other will hold a Handfasting (like marrige) to strengthen their commitment with one another. The weather is getting warmer, the days are longer and it is a happy time for all. The mythical observance of Beltane is the sexual maturity of the Goddess and God, they mate and the Goddess transforms into her Mother aspect.
Midsummer (Litha or Summer Solstice) June 21
This is the longest day of the year. Everything has been planted, the days are warm and life is good. In mythology, the Goddess is pregnant by the God and her belly is swollen with new life. The Goddess at this time represents motherhood and the joys and responsiblilites thereof.
Lammas (Lughnasadh) August 1
The harvest yields its bounty and a huge feast is prepared. Homemade breads, and summer fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Corn dollys are made from dried corn husks and winter is just around the corner. In myth, the God is sacrificed, willingly, to allow the community to continue. This selfless giving is revered and honored and the Goddess, with child, is a symbol of the continuation of life.
Mabon ( The Autumnal Equinox) September 21
This Sabbat celebrates the harvest of grain. Winter is closer yet and we appreciate the last harvests of the year. Wine is also made, as grapes ripen in some areas during this time. Wiccans celebrate this season with a feast of grains, apples, and other fruits and vegetables. The next Sabbat is Samhain, and so the wheel turns again.
now the words of the witches, The secrets we hid in the night,
When dark was our destiny's pathway, That now we bring forth into light,
Mysterious water and fire, The earth amd the wide-ranging air;
By hidden quintessence we know them, And will and keep silent and dare.
The birth and rebirth of all nature, The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal, Rejoice in magical ring.
Four times in the year the Great Sabbat Returns,
and the witches are seen at Lammas and Candlemas dancing, In may Eve and old Hallowe'en.
day-time and night-time are equal, When sun is greatest and least,
The four lesser Sabbats are summoned, And Withes gather in feast.
Thirteen silver moons in a year are, Thirteen is a coven's array.
Thirteen times make a Esbat make merry, For each golden year and a day.
The power that was passed down the age, Each time between a woman and man,
Each century unto the other, Ere time and the age began.
drawn is the magical circle, By sword or athame of power,
Its compass between two world lies, In kand of the shades for that hour.
This world has no right the to know it, And the world of beyond will tell naught.
The oldest of Gods are invoked there, The Grat Work of magic is wrought.
For the two are mystical pillars, That stand at the gate of the shrine,
And two ate the powers of nature, The forms and the forces devine.
dark and the light in siccession, The opposites each onto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Godess: Of this our ancestors teach.
night he's wild wind's rider, The Horn'd One, the Lord of the Shades.
By day he's the King of the Woodland, The dweller in green forest glades.
is youthful or oldas she pleases, She sails the torn clouds in her barque,
The bright silver lady of midnight, The crone who weaves spells in the dark.
The master and mistress of magic, That dwell in the deeps of the mind,
Immortal and ever-renewing, With power to free or to bind.
drink the good wine to the Old Gods, And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame's fair land shall recieve us In peace at the end of our days.
And Do What You Will be the challenge, So be it Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.