Sabbats Made Easy: Cheat-Sheet for the Wheel of the Year
A Sabbat is a holiday based on ancient pagan traditions. The sabbats are celebrated by various branches of Paganism, including Wicca and Witchcraft. There are eight major Sabbats which make up the Wheel of the Year. Sabbats are based on ancient Germanic and Celtic holy days marking the changing of the seasons. There are cross-quarter days and quarter days. The cross-quarter days are known as the major fire festivals and include: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. The quarter days are the equinoxes (Spring and Autumn equinoxes) and the solstices (Summer and Winter solstices).
NOTE: Keep in mind the dates provided will be different if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Yule: Winter Solstice
Names: Yule / Winter Solstice / Jul
Date(s): Approx. December 21st (N. Hemisphere) and approx. June 20th (S. Hemisphere)
Origins: Norse Germanic
What we celebrate: On this sabbat, we celebrate the winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year. We remember the death of the Holly King and the rebirth of the Oak King (giver of light), and the rebirth of the Sun god. We honor family and friends with gift-giving. This holy day symbolizes the return of the sun’s reign over the sky – the days will once again become longer than the nights. And warmer days are ahead. In Norse Germanic tradition, the entire Winter season was a time when the ancestors visited us and we honor our maternal ancestors and Disir. As well as Odin, Thor and other gods.
Deities: Oak and Holly Kings, Odin, Thor, Freyr, Holle / Holda, Freya, Abundantia, Krampus, Cailleach, Mother Mary, La Befana, Berchta, St. Lucia, Opis, Elves, Sunna, Saturn, Lord of Misrule, spirits of the Wild Hunt and Santa Claus.
Magical Workings: Fertility, rebirth, family, healing, love, strength, preservation, self love, dream work, divination and reflection.
Traditions: yule log, giving gifts, wassailing, caroling, bonfires, feasting, yule goat, advent calendar, holiday baking, yule tree, burning candles, decorating, simmer pots, Krampus parades, honoring Nisse and Tomte, Modraniht (Mother’s Night), telling ghost stories
Decorations: Holly, mistletoe, spruce, poinsettia, evergreen trees, ivy, yule logs, pine cones, snowflakes, snowmen, oranges, suns, stars, Krampus, bells, candles, lights, reindeer, yule bock (goat), and elves.
Animals: Reindeer, moose, mice, snowy owls, horses, snowy foxes, robins and white animals.
Imbolc: St. Brigid’s Day
Names: Imbolc / Oimelc / St. Brigid’s Day
Date(s): February 1st (N Hemisphere) and August 1st (S Hemisphere)
What we celebrate: we recognize the initial breaking of winter ground into spring (early stages) and the milking of the ewes. We celebrate Saint Brigid and Goddess Brigid, and ready ourselves for warmer days to come.
Symbols of the season: Snowflake, white flower, snow, crocuses, lambs, first flowers, brigid’s cross and dairy (milk, butter, cheese).
Traditions: Light every lamp in the house, or light candles in each room to represent the sun’s rebirth. If snow is on the ground, or falling, walk around in it and draw a sun with your projective hand. Make Saint Brigid’s crosses or dolls to celebrate Saint Brigid. A bonfire is appropriate as the ancients tended Saint Brigid’s flame for years, never letting it burn out.
Gods/Goddesses: Goddess Brigid, Saint Brigid, the Maiden
Magical Workings: New life, cleansing, success, rebirth, new love, new friendship, seeds of opportunity, luck and protection
Decorations: Candles, flowers (snowdrops, crocus, and daffodils), oil lamps, besoms, corn dollies, Brigid’s crosses, wreaths, woolen yarn, and sheep
Animals: Lambs and birds
Ostara: Spring Equinox
Names: Ostara / Eostre / Spring Equinox / Vernal Equinox
Date(s): March 21st (approx. N Hemisphere) and September 23rd approx. (S. Hemisphere)
What we celebrate: The changing of the season and the arrival of spring. The earth’s rebirth and awakening from a long, harsh winter as well as fertility and motherhood are celebrated. Resurrection in its purest form. The days are of equal length to the nights.
Traditions and rituals: Collect wildflowers from a field or, at the very least, a florist shop. Walk in gardens, parks, or forests to celebrate nature on this sabbat. Plant seeds, do gardening and yard work. Herb magic. Make an Ostara wreath. Paint or dye eggs; celebrate the Easter bunny with Easter baskets. Feed birds with bird seed. Write your intentions for the spring on an egg and bury it near your front doorstep. Set up and decorate an Ostara tree.
Gods/Goddesses: Eostre, Persephone, Demeter, Cybele, Zeus, Osiris, Horus, Freya, Mithras, Blodeuwedd, and Saraswati.
Magical Workings: Success, blossoming love, passion, budding friendship, rebirth, fertility, balance, cleansing
Decorations: flowers, bunnies, buds and blossoms (worn too), spring water & flowers in cup/cauldron, bird nests, birds, robin’s eggs, pastel colors, and eggs of all kinds.
Animals: Birds, baby chicks, rabbits, lambs, snakes, deer, baby animals of all kinds.
Beltane: May Day
Names: Beltane / Beltuinn / May Day / Walpurgisnacht
Date(s): May 1st (N Hemisphere) and October 31st (S Hemisphere)
Origins: Celtic (Beltane) and Germanic (Walpurgisnacht)
What we celebrate: The first day of the month of May (or end of October depending on your hemisphere) is a celebration of fertility, abundant life, wild abandon, and the union of the God and the Goddess to procreate.
Traditions: Hold festivities in a forest or near a living tree. Create a small token in honor of the wedding of the God and Goddess to hang on a tree. Weaving and planting are traditional. Erect a traditional maypole and dance around with ribbons. Light a bonfire. Make love.
Deities: Druantia, Horned God, Green Man, Fairies, Berchta, Holda, Freya, Fertility Deities, Flora, and Cybele.
Magical Workings: Fertility, success, abundance, love, passion, education, primality and healing.
Decorations: Maypole, ribbons in trees, candles, fire, bags of flowers, strings of beads, garland, carvings, phallic symbols, cups, cauldrons, wicker man, symbols of love and fertility.
Animals: Deer, goat, rabbit, and ram.
Midsummer: Summer Solstice
Names: Midsummer / Summer Solstice / Litha
Date(s): approx. June 21st (N Hemisphere) and December 21st (S Hemisphere)
What we celebrate: Summer solstice is the longest day of the year. At this time, we honor the wedding of heaven and earth and the sun in all its glory. The days are longer than the nights. The earth is bursting full of life.
Lore and Traditions: Leap the fire for purification and renewed energy (not recommended for safety purposes). Make a cloth pouch of herbs such as lavender, chamomile, St. John’s Wort, Vervain, or others. Mentally pour all troubles into this pouch as you construct it. Burn in balefire and visualize troubles burning and blowing away for good. Put out offerings of cake and milk or mead for the faeries.
Gods/Goddesses: Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, Fertility Gods, and the Fay.
Magical Workings: Healing, love, weddings, vitality, energy, fairy magic, and protection magic.
Decorations: Candles, fairies, strawberries, sun, greenery, flowers, trees, and ribbons.
Names: Lughnasadh / Lammas / Loaf-Mass
Date(s): August 1st (N Hemisphere) and February 1st (S Hemisphere)
What we celebrate: This is the first of three harvest festival sabbats and it occurs in the thick of summer. During this celebration, we focus on the story of Lugh, a Celtic sun god. Fruitfulness and abundance are key themes as plants are yielding bounty and the Sun is high in the sky.
Lore: Greet the sun or watch it set. Plant the seed of a fruit. Weave wheat or make corn dollies. Visit lakes, orchards, fields, hills, and wells. Pick blackberries and grapes. Bake bread from wheat and other bountiful crops. Drink wine.
Gods/Goddesses: Lugh, Tuatha de Danann, Gaia, and Mother Goddesses.
Magical Workings: Fruitfulness, endurance, love, strength and skill, handfastings, confidence, success.
Decorations: Sheaves of wheat, barley, oats, fruits, berries, grapes, the sun, the god.
Animals: Woodland animals, birds, and deer.
Mabon: Autumn Equinox Sabbat
Names: Mabon / Autumn Equinox / Witches’ Thanksgiving
Date(s): September 21st approx.
What we celebrate: Mabon (pronounced Mah-bahn not May-bun) is the second of the three harvest sabbats and occurs at the autumnal equinox when the season changes from summer to fall. At this time, day and night are divided equally and we pay respect to impending night. Druids celebrate Green Man; Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess who is turning from Mother into Crone and the God preparing for death and rebirth.
Traditions: feasting, wine-drinking, gratitude, quality time with friends and family, harvesting herbs and vegetables
Gods/Goddesses: Mabon, Modron, Green Man, Demeter, and Mother Earth Goddesses.
Magical Workings: Reaping success, abundance, protection, gratitude, balance, hearth and home.
Decorations: Acorns, oak sprigs, pine or cypress cones, wheat stalks, fruits and nuts, basket of dried leaves, gourds, cornucopia
Samhain: All Hallows’ Eve
Names: Samhain / All Hallows’ Eve / Hallowe’en / All Souls Night
Date(s): October 31st (N Hemisphere) and April 30th/May 1st (S Hemisphere)
What we celebrate: Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is the Pagan new year and night of the dead, when the spiritual world has its thinnest veil (in Celtic lore). Samhain is the third and final of the harvest festivals. This sabbat honors the year’s last harvest— anything harvested after Samhain belongs to the fay and is not to be eaten by humans. We honor our ancestors at this time. We prepare for the Winter season ahead.
Magical Workings: Spiritual awakening, communion with the dead, psychic abilities, success and bounty, divination, ancestral work, shadow work, releasing and banishing
Decorations: Jack o’ lanterns, witches, werewolves, cats, moons, gourds, costumes, brooms, pumpkins, candy, squash, bails of hay, dried leaves, bats, scarecrows, lanterns, cobwebs, apples, corn husks, and candles.