Please note that the dates are only estimates and some Sabbats may fall on surrounding days rather than those specified.
Samhain: 31st October
Samhain (pronounced SOW-wen) is one of the Greater Sabbats, and always falls on the 31st October in the Northern Hemisphere (NH), and on May 1st in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Samhain is known as the Witches’ New Year, or Festival of the Dead, and is a profound and spiritually moving event, marking the death of the Lord and the start of the New Year.
Wiccans hold celebrations to honor the dead on Samhain, having silent suppers, reliving the moments of life with a friend or loved one who has passed on during the year. If someone has not lost anyone during the year, it can be a time to support those who have, or give reverence to all the people who have passed on, and reflect on how their lives touched others around them. A place at the supper table is often set for those who’ve passed on.
On Samhain, the veil between the living and dead is said to be at its thinnest, which makes this a fantastic time for communicating with the Dead and the best night for divination and scrying. The closer to midnight, the thinner the veil. This is also a time for reassessment (like the Julian Calendar’s New Year), and for looking to the future. Using the energies at this time to seek guidance for new directions or reviewing life plans is best, and is also a fantastic time for defence/protection spells.
Yule: ~ 21st December
Trees? Decorations? Mistletoe? Sounds familiar, right? Well, you’re wrong, because we’re talking about Yule, not Christmas. Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, has its roots in Paganism. Ancient Romans decorated their homes with boughs of green trees; the Druids honored trees and collected and hung mistletoe.
Yule (pronounced YOOL) is one of the Lesser Sabbats, and generally falls around the 21st December (give or take a couple of days) in the NH, and around the 21st June in the SH. It marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. It is celebrated as the time where the God is reborn and light starts returning to the Earth. Wiccans will celebrate by exchanging gifts, decorating a tree, hanging wreaths, singing, feasting and by burning a Yule log. The exchange of gifts symbolises hope, and of the gift the Lady has bestowed on the Easrth by giving life to the Lord (the Sun) once again.
Imbolc: 2nd February
Imbolc (pronounced IM-bolk), also called Candlemas, is the time of year where Wiccans celebrate the renewing fertility of the Earth. It falls on the 2nd of February in the NH, or 1st August in the SH. The Goddess is seen as recovering from childbirth (see Yule), and the God is a small child. Sometimes a sort of ‘cabin-fever’ might set in at this time, with the feeling of Spring on its way. Imbolc is a Greater Sabbat, and a time to celebrate with seeds, or with a newly germinating idea. Some covens like to initiate their members at this time of year. A holiday of purification and of renewed fertility of the Earth, Imbolc is a great time for some early spring-cleaning and getting rid of things you don’t need. Also a good time for conception and fertility spells.
Ostara: ~ 21st March
Ostara (pronounced OH-strah or OH-star-ah), also known as the Spring Equinox or Eastara, is the time of year when day and night are of equal length. It falls on the 21st March in the NH, or on 21st September in the SH.
It is the Festival of the Goddess Eostar, a form of Astarte, whose emblems are the hare and the egg of rebirth. The egg is a symbol of ‘life-in-potential’, so we imbue them with wishes we hope will manifest during the coming summer. The balance of night and day makes this time perfect to seek balance in our own lives; and it is a time of casting off the old and taking on the new (hence the term ‘Spring Cleaning’). Traditionally, the energies of this time are used to clear out on the mental and emotional levels, and take on new ways of thought and new aspirations.
In Wicca, the Lord and the Lady are seen as young and innocent, and as the days grow longer, they being to wonder about each other. In ritual, we might bless seeds for planting.
Beltane: 1st May
Beltane (pronounced a variety of ways such as BELL-tayn, BELL-tay-nyah, or BEE-yell-tayn), also spelt Beltaine and also known as May Day, is where signs of summer start to show. It is celebrated on the 1st May in the NH, or the 1st November in the SH.
This festival is where the Goddess takes on her role as ‘Mother’, and the God and Goddess are wed. Therefore, Beltane is often a time that Wiccans might choose to marry or have a handfasting (a Wiccan marriage ceremony), and it is also a time for renewal and strengthening of relationships.
Wiccans will often celebrate by leaping over a fire, or dancing around a maypole (a phallic symbol representing the Lord). This Sabbat’s energies should be used to enhance all ties with loved ones (romantic or otherwise).
Litha: ~21st June
Litha (pronounced li-THA or LEE-tha), also known as the Summer Solstice, marks the longest day of the year. It is celebrated around the 21st June in the NH, or 21st Dec in the SH.
The height of the Sun’s energy can be used in spells for energy, vitality and renewal, as well as reinforcing spells for health and prosperity. It is also a good time to communicate with fairies and forest sprites. The Lord and Lady are at their peak. As Litha is a Lesser Sabbat, Wiccans will give reverence at this time of year, but don’t usually hold large celebrations. Whilst a joyous holiday, it can also be tinged with sadness due to the days growing shorter after Litha.
Lughnassadh: 1st August
Lughnassadh (pronounced LOO-nus-uh), also spelt Lughnasadh or also known as Lammas, marks the beginning of the fall harvest, the day on which the first grain is cut, and the festival of the Celtic God Lugh. It is celebrated on the 1st August in the NH, or the 1st February in the SH.
The God starts to lose his strength as daylight hours start to shrink, but the Goddess is already pregnant with God, to be reborn again at Yule. Traditionally, this is a festival of sacrifice, with blood and wine being given back to the land in payment for the coming of the harvest. However, nowadays it is perfectly fine to sacrifice anything you see fit, such as bread and wine.
Your house and altar can be decorated with a wreath, fruits and vegetables.
Mabon: 21st September
Mabon (pronounced MAH-bon or MAY-bon), also known as Madron or the Autumn Equinox, is (like Ostara) the second time of the year where both day and night are of equal length. It is celebrated on the 21st September in the NH, or the 21st March in the SH. The Lord is preparing for death at Samhain, whilst the Lady is beginning to mourn his loss.
Being that the day and night are in equal length once again, it is again a good time for focusing on balance; however this time the focus should be on repayment and thanks, rather than on cleaning out and starting over. The energies of this season can be used for magick working on inner balance, and it’s a time to ensure all debts, both literal and spiritual, are paid off.