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Esbats and Sabbats – The Holy Days of Witchcraft
Every religion has its days of strength, respect and celebration. Wicca is no different in this respect. The holidays that Wiccans celebrate are referred to as Sabbats, or the Eight High Holy Days. They occur about every six weeks, and mark the change of seasons. The sun, as a representation of God, is honored on Saturday, and the ceremony for a special holiday is often held at noon. Another type of holy day that is more familiar to most people is Esbat. Esbat is a monthly event that usually coincides with the full moon. It is the night when magicians gather to perform rituals and magical works for the coming month.
This article will detail all of these holy days and hopefully shed some light on what witches do throughout the year to honor their Gods.
As mentioned above, Esbat is a ritual that coincides with the cycles of the moon. Usually, the day it is performed occurs when the moon is full, although this is not necessary. The full moon is important because witches firmly believe that the power of magical work waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. When the moon is waxing, or full, it is good to perform rituals that attract things to you or increase positive effects in general. When the moon is waning, or waning, it is good for removing unwanted influences, or getting rid of negativity. However, when the moon is full, witchcraft is at its peak, and is good for almost any ceremony a witch wants to perform. A new moon, or dark moon, occurs when the moon is not visible at all. During this time, the ceremonies that are performed are either for intense protective ceremonies or negative magic.
On which day the proof is done, is it done in the evening or at night. The reason behind this is that these rituals are meant to work with the Goddess represented by the moon.
The actual process of making a proof can be summarized very briefly. The witch or coven will gather at a designated ritual location. There, they would cast a circle, and perform rituals that would heighten their magical and psychic power, and then channel that power toward their desired goal. Because there are so many variables to how a witch or group of witches may wish to channel their energy, it is difficult to provide an example of these rituals.
However, one of the things that is a common theme among the esbats is that it is a time to connect and commune with God. This is often done by reciting The Wiccan Rede and The Charge of the Goddess while in the circle. Then, time may be spent in meditation or practicing with tarot cards, runes or other methods. A cake and wine gathering follows, where the assembled witches will celebrate their coming together and reflect on the previous month and make plans for the coming month. The ritual circle is then opened, the leftover cake and wine are offered to Nature, and the witches will go their separate ways.
Eight High Holy Days
There are eight major holidays that Wiccans celebrate:
– Samhain (noun see you or sow-en)
– and Mabon
Each of the Holy Days represents a different change of seasons, and a different stage of life. The common representation of these stages is God, although many practitioners include the goddess in some form as well. They are primarily festivals of the Sun, and, unlike esbats, rituals are usually performed when the sun is highest in the sky.
Sabbats are usually large gatherings where the whole family will come together and celebrate with food and drink in addition to religious services.
Samhain is probably the best known of all the Wiccan Sabbats. It is on October 31st and it means the end of one cycle of the year. While many see it as the beginning of the first annual cycle, it doesn’t actually take place until Yule in December.
The main symbolism behind this holiday is death and honoring loved ones who have passed. It is generally thought that on this night, the veil between the worlds is thinnest, and witches take advantage of this opportunity to communicate with their family and friends who have passed on.
Samhain is also the last harvest festival of the year, and the last opportunity for coven and their families to come together to share their resources before digging in for winter. The time between Samhain and Yule is spent planning for the coming year and remembering the past year.
Yule is generally thought to be synonymous with the Christian holiday of Christmas. This is not exactly the case. Yule actually falls on the winter solstice, which usually falls on or around December 21st.
The significance of this festival is rebirth. This is the day when the days begin to lengthen, and the sun returns. The general representation of this is the Holly King, a Dark God, who is replaced by the Oak King, or Sun God. Although the sabbath that marks the beginning of the year may vary from tradition to tradition, this is the most popular to mark the beginning of the year.
All sabbats represent a phase of life, and Yule falls into the category of birth. This is the time of conception, the beginning of life. When families and friends come together during this holiday, they start planning for the next year as well as preparations for the coming spring.
Candlemas is also known as Imbolc. It is well and truly the first harvest festival of spring. The specific date this day falls on varies from tradition to tradition, but it can be anywhere from January 31st to February 2nd. At this time, we begin to see the first signs of spring, and the renewal of life.
The celebrations for Candlemas are all about clearing away the old and making way for the new. The Virgin side of the Goddess is revered at this time, as are all the Gods and Goddesses associated with love and fertility. This holiday is considered a particularly auspicious time for a new marriage or relationship.
It is one of the traditional symbols of Candlemas. They are usually decorated and included in celebrations. Another tradition for the holiday is to make a besom, a simple stick made of twigs or straw, and use it to ritually clean the house. It is then placed near the front, symbolizing letting go of the old and welcoming the new.
Also called Eostar, this High Holy Day falls on the spring equinox, on or about March 21. This is the second of three birth festivals. At this time, the spring season is in full force, and the planting of the year’s crops is well underway. New spring growth can be seen everywhere, and pray to the Gods for the prosperity of the farm and home.
Two of the traditional symbols of this holiday are the egg and the rabbit. The egg is a symbol of new life and new growth, and is included in many ritual activities and celebrations at this time. The rabbit, known for its mating habits, is also a symbol of growth and fertility. Both symbolize change. The Christian faith fully acknowledges these two symbols in their celebrations that take place at the same time.
Also known as May Day, this Holy Day falls on the first of May. It’s the last of the birth festivals of the year, and with it comes a lot of tradition with unrequited sexuality. May Day is one symbol of this holiday that can be seen in many traditions. It is a tall pillar placed in the ground, symbolizing the Sun God united with the Earth. It is decorated with long ribbons and fresh flowers, and of course, the girls traditionally dance around the pole.
One of the traditional May Day activities for this holiday is to secretly leave baskets of flowers and goodies at your neighbors’ doors.
In general, this is a festival that celebrates the return of the sun.
This Holy Day celebrates God who is represented by the sun in all his glory. It is celebrated on the summer solstice, when the longest day of the year occurs. Midsummer is not a birth or harvest festival. In this way, it is like Yule. On this day, the rituals are usually about protecting the home and family for the coming year, payment rituals, and celebrating the abundance of The Oak King at the beginning of his life.
For those who work with faerie energy in their ceremonies, Midsummer is an ideal time to communicate with them. It is a common tradition for witches to go out at dawn and search for the fairy folk among the oak trees, ash and thorns.
Another name of this festival is Lughnassadh. It takes place on August 1st, and is the first of three harvest days celebrated by witches. Now the focus is on harvesting the fields and gardens, and preparations for the coming winter begin. The days are getting shorter, and the Sun God is starting to lose his power as the days get shorter.
Since this is the time of year when we first begin to gather the bounty of the harvest, it is often a holiday associated with feasting and celebration. Ornaments and flowers are often made from dried ears of corn, and are used in ceremonies and home decoration.
Mabon is the primary harvest festival, the opposite of Ostara, and it takes place on the Autumnal Equinox. On this day, witches honor the light of the sun, and prepare for the coming winter. This festival is a sign of God’s aging and preparation for his death and rebirth.
Although this holiday is a bit more bittersweet than the rest, it is one where Wiccans are sure to give thanks for what they have received in the past year. It’s a popular time of year for witches and pagans to visit their communities, and often share their rich bounty.
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