The Sabbats are those times of the year when we (as witches and others in nature religions) celebrate the Great Circle of Life, as it has been acted and reenacted out in the changing of the seasons and in the renewal of the Earth around/through us.
There are 8 basic Sabbats a year. These holidays fall into one of two main categories. The first category being the Major or Fire Festivals which contain:
SAMHAIN (pronounced so-wen)
The second category is the Minor or Lunar festivals which contain:
At each festival (Sabbat) either the God or Goddess is said to rule that time of the year, and as such that gender (the Lady or Lord) is highly honor in the festival itself. Many thanks and reverence is given to the Goddess and God and the celebration is a joyful one with a good time for everyone involved. Usually no real work is done on a sabbat; work is usually saved for the monthly Esbats (full moons). Yet there have been exceptions to this rule, like say there was an emergency (example a healing was needed) or if the spell or magick could only be done on this specific day. In general however, Sabbats are times of thankfulness, great joy, humble reverence and fun. They are usually very inspirational and touch each member in a special way that is known only to them.
The following is the common names and general descriptions of what is celebrated at that particular sabbat. The dates are general dates that the Sabbats are celebrated on, and really depend on where you live in the world; these dates reflect North American dates. You will notice that I have started with Samhain, the Witches New Year and went from there.
Samhain Sabbat - (Hollowe'en) Oct. 31
At this time we celebrate the 'death" of the God and bid him farewell. The Holly Lord waits to take his place, yet we know that the God isn't forever wrapped in a cloak of darkness but will return and be reborn at Yule.
It is at this time that we honor those who have crossed over, and often set a feast to our ancestors. It is at this time that the veils that part the worlds of spirit and physical reality are at there thinnest and can be most easily crossed.
Winter Solstice - (Yule) Dec. 21
At this time we celebrate the rebirth of the Lord to the Bright Lady. It is on this night that it is the shortest day of the year and the gift of re-newal of the sun (son) is given to us as a promise of the wonder of re-birth of spring that is still yet to come.
In celebration of the return of the Sun (son) many Wiccan's burn a candle in the window to honor this rebirth, and to guide the macgick of "life" to their homes. The Goddess takes time to renew herself from the labor she has gone through and all rejoice at the new life that has been given to us once again.
Imbolg- ( Imbolc, Candlemas) Sabbat - Feb. 2(Also know as Lady Wolfen Mists birthday, that me, just in case ya wanted to know)
At this time we celebrate the "quickening" and the physical renewal of life under the snows of winter. Winter has been long and cold and plants and colors begin to geminate in the ground. Spring is well within sight as the Wheel of the year slowly turns.
Imbolg was also called the festival of lights, traditionally many pagans would light bonfires or wear crowns with candles in them to "lure the suns return" and to speed up the return of spring.
Ostara- (Spring/Vernal Equinox)- March 20
At this time we celebrate the first day of our return to spring. Fertility runs in abundance here and the light definitely returns the days are growing longer as the nights get shorter. The Virgin Goddess gives blessings and fertility and abundance freely at this time. All things are re-newed, fresh and growing.
Beltane Sabbat - May 1
At this time we celebrate the young Lord and Lady moving into maturity, sexuality runs strong at this time. The young Lord grows into manhood and the young virgin Goddess becomes a Woman. It is at this time the Goddess becomes pregnant with the child that will be born at Yule. The world enjoys the traditional "Lusty month of May" and the fertility of the world is celebrated.
Today's pagans celebrate the fertility and abundance in a ritual that centers on this subject, but caution members to be discriminating when celebrating sex with another. With all the diseases around today one can ever be too careful! Also the sharing of the body/soul should be done between persons that are already involved, and not with total strangers. Giving yourself to another is a sacred act and should be undertaken in a sacred manner. In Beltane we see the return of vitality, of passion and hopes consummated.
Summer Solstice -(Midsummer's or Lilith)- June 21
At this time we celebrate the powers of nature that have reached their highest point. The Lord is as powerful as he will become and from this point on, both he and the Lady begins to move towards old age. It is at this point that he is as at his peak of power after this day his strength begins to diminish. But for now the world is running abundantly with magick and fertility. This is a great time for just about any magick you would want to do.
Lughnasadh- (Lammas)- Aug. 1
At this time we celebrate the very first harvest of the seeds we have put into the abundant earth. They have grown and are harvested for the coming winter months when food will be scarce. Traditionally the first corn is taken and baked into a loaf and offered to the Bright Lady and Lord in thanksgiving for the bounty that is yet to come.
Autumn Equinox - (Mabon) Sept. 22
At this time we celebrate the last of the harvest that was begun at Lughnasadh (Lammas). We are ready for the onset of winter and the long darkness that is ready to descend upon us once more. The Gods power has declined and he tires easily. Here day and night are equal and the God prepares for his inevitable journey, once more, to the underworld. The Goddess know what is to come and she silently morns the loss of her love, yet she takes refuge in knowing that as the cycle of life continues, and as the power wanes, a bright new born son (sun) will be reborn at Yule. And the Wheel turns once more!