Wiccan Festivals

There are 8 Wiccan festivals throughout the year, which are known as Sabbats. 4 of these festivals were originally celebrated by Pagans and are now known as Greater Sabbats, but as the Wicca religion has evolved 4 lesser Sabbats have been introduced.

Consequently there is now some controversy as to which celebrations should be acknowledged and which not, depending on your point of view.

I am not going to tell you which is right and which is wrong, this information is intended merely to educate you as to what they all are and let you make your own decision.

The Sabbats follow what is known as the “Wheel of the Year”, that being a constant annual cycle.

Yule

Traditionally celebrated on 21st December, the shortest day of the year. A festival of light, marking the end of the long winter nights and celebrating the return of the sun, the Winter Solstice for Pagans is a time of feasting and the exchanging of gifts, and is likely to be the original festival that the Christian religions modified into Christmas. Traditional adornments are a Yule Log, usually of oak, and a combination of mistletoe and holly. Fires and candles would be lit in celebration of the light which was to return after this longest night was over.

Imbolc

Traditionally celebrated on 2nd February and marks the time when the Oak King triumphs over Jack Frost, and Mother Nature begins to wake from her frosty sleep. Also known as Candlemas and St Brigid's Day, this festival is not common to all Pagans but is very popular with Wiccans and various Celtic sects. Brigid is the Celtic goddess of fire and inspiration, and this day celebrated with the lighting of candles and, as usual, much feasting.

Ostara

Celebrated on or around 21st March, the spring equinox, when night and day are of equal length. Celebrations mark the official start of spring, at least among Wiccans and Celtics, and thanks are offered up to the goddess of fertility as the world is reborn after winter. Ostara is a colourful holiday as followers will dress in bright clothing to celebrate the return of colour to the natural world. As with many other festivals, feasting and socialising are important factors in this holiday.

Beltane

Beltane is the second most important festival in the Pagan calendar and celebrations traditionally begin at dusk on the 30th April, continuing through the night til the dawn of the 1st May. Beltane is very much a fertility festival associated with the end of winter and the rebirth of the land, and central to many Beltane celebrations is the Maypole - a fertility symbol with the pole itself having male symbolism, and the ribbons entwining around it having female. Often a bonfire is burned, and members of the group are encouraged to jump through the flames for luck and to encourage their own fertility.

Litha

The festival of the summer solstice - the longest day of the year - on or around June 21st. The solstice marks the arrival of summer, when the hours of daylight are longest and the sun is at its highest point before beginning its slide into darkness. It is traditional to host communal festivities with morris dancing, singing and feasting taking place round a bonfire and torchlit processions through the village after dark.

Lughnassadh

Pronounced Loonah-sah, this festival occurs on 1st August when people give thanks for the first bread baked with the first harvest of the year. By virtue of the fact it is a celebration of harvest it is, in essence, a harvest festival but whereas the familiar harvest festival celebrates that the harvest is "safely gathered in", Lughnassadh celebrates the full ripening of the crops when the harvest can begin. There are no specific 'festivities' associated with this time of year, but many people bake bread and weave wheat to make corn dollies.

Mabon

The autumn equinox is traditionally celebrated on September 21st when night and day are once again of equal length, and respects are paid to impending dark. Many festivities focus on the blessing of the darkness.

Samhain

The end - and beginning - of the Pagan year and celebrated on October 31st. Samhain (All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe'en) is one of two nights each year when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest (the other being Beltane) and on this night communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easier than at other times of year. Historically, a tradition of this festival was much the same as Christmas is today - whereas children leave a glass of milk and a mince pie for Santa in modern days, food offerings were left on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Today a lot of practicing Pagans still carry out this tradition and leave lighted candles in their windows to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Samhain is one of four fire festivals and bonfires are lit to warm friendly spirits and ward off evil spirits. It is customary to give an ember from the fire to visitors, who would then take it home to start a new cooking fire. The name 'bonfire' is believed to be derived from the custom of burning the bones from the feast held on this night - a 'bone fire'.