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The Sabbats

This article was written by Sandra Kynes on August 30, 2006
posted under Sabbat

The Sabbats are a combination of solar and earthly celebrations. The daily cycle of the sun and the seasons of the earth determined the rhythms of activity for our ancestors. They lived close to the land and on an everyday basis observed its subtle changes.

Entering sacred space in ritual helps us awaken to what is eternal within ourselves. When we do this, we also find where we fit in the web of life that surrounds us and touches everything in the universe. That connection also extends over time because as we engage in traditional celebrations with the Sabbats, we connect ourselves with those who have gone before us, our ancestors. In a sense we also project out to the future to those who will follow in our footsteps. Our energy becomes part of a spiral that stretches through time and space.

The solar Sabbats are called Quarter Days because they separate the year into four parts. The Cross Quarter Days are based on agrarian celebrations, which were extremely important to our ancestors who could not rely on food being trucked in from other places if the harvest was poor. For this reason feasting is an important part of a ritual gathering. While we don’t have to worry about harvests and can enjoy almost any kind of food any time of year, if possible, try to have only seasonal foods at Sabbat feasts to help you tune into the natural energy level for that particular time of year.

Each Sabbat marks a changing point in the year that is accompanied by a shift in energy. If we are open to it, these times of transition can have a physical, mental and spiritual impact on us. In addition, these turning points carry the mythology and symbolism of the Goddess and God.

The Sabbats: Mother Earth and Father Sun

Following are the basic themes and approximate dates for the celebrations, which can shift by a day or two:

Yule, December 21, Winter Solstice. Marks the longest night of the year, the return of the light and the (re)birth of the God.

Imbolg, February 2. The time of quickening. Halfway between Yule and Ostara, the growing light is definitely noticeable. The baby God is growing and the Goddess is once again a maiden.

Ostara, March 21, Spring Equinox. This is a time of balance when light and dark, male and female energies are equal. This is the time of courtship between the maiden and young lord.

Beltane, May 1. Fertility in the "lusty month of May". This marks the sexual union of the Goddess and God. It is a time to feel the vitality of life.

Litha, June 21, Summer Solstice/Midsummer. The Goddess becomes mother. This is a turning point for the God as his light begins to wane. We celebrate long days and warm weather.

Lughnasadh, August 1, Lamas. Time of ripeness. Because the Goddess and God provide for us, this is a time to pause and think about the blessings we receive.

Mabon, September 21, Autumn Equinox. A day of balance. The time of the major harvest and the time to give thanks for abundance. Pagan Thanksgiving. This is the God’s last Sabbat.

Samhain, October 31. The Goddess is alone as crone. The God has descended to the Underworld. We prepare for our journey through the dark of the year.

Even though the Goddess changes throughout the year, she is eternal; she is earth. The God is born and dies each year as the sun passes through its two phases called Big Sun and Little Sun. The waxing and waning of the God also makes him the king and spirit of vegetation. He sprouts from the earth and is the son of the Goddess. He matures and spreads his seed to earth becoming her consort. At winter he dies, but will be born of the earth again.

The seasonal cycles and all the mythology that has grown up around the Goddess and God provides a comforting continuity. Allow yourself to step outside your everyday world and experience the awe and wonder of this great drama.

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