November 21, 2010


The Wheel of the Year

An old Christian hymn says, “This earth is not my home; I am a stranger here.” That is a dangerous philosophy, because from it comes the view that it doesn’t matter what we do to the earth – we really don’t belong here anyway. It is true that there’s a part of us which lives in other planes of existence – the part of us that survives from incarnation to incarnation. But we here, in this lifetime, have no other home than this earth.

abbat celebrations are normally open – either to specific invited visitors or to “anyone,” depending on the nature and purpose of the celebration. Usually, the only Sabbats that are closed are Beltane and Samhain (see below). Beltane is sometimes closed because it is a celebration of committed sexuality. Samhain, the time to remember our beloved dead, can be closed if the intentional community celebrating it needs to support one of its members through a personal loss during the year.

  • Yule – the Winter Solstice Yule is the time when the darkness of the night is longer than any other night of the year, yet it is also the time when the we see the promise of the light’s return, as the days begin to grow longer. Along with many other religions, Christianity among them, we celebrate the rebirth of light and hope into the world; but we also celebrate the darkness and the opportunities it affords for solitude, contemplation, and renewal.The Sabbat of Yule is celebrated during the night of the winter solstice, which falls either on December 21 or 22, depending on which year it is in the leap year cycle.
  • Imbolc – February 1-2The word Imbolc comes from Celtic, meaning “in the belly;” it is also called Oimelc, for “ewes’ milk.” This is the time when young lambs are born, and it is the indication that life and warmth will return to the earth after winter. It is the time of the emergence of the young Goddess Brigid (pronounced Breed) into the world, and offers the time to celebrate the new in all life and, more importantly, the strength and sacred worth of women.The Sabbat of Imbolc lasts from sundown February 1 to sundown February 2; it is celebrated early in the morning of February 2.
  • Oestara – the Spring EquinoxOestara was originally the festival of the Goddess Eostre, whose name comes from Astarte, a Cannanite goddess. (The Christian holiday of Easter also gets its name from her.) At Oestara we see symbols of new life everywhere – eggs, rabbits, flowers, new lovers holding hands, and other things. It is the time to celebrate the joys of first love, of life, and of sexuality.The Sabbat of Oestara is celebrated in the morning of the spring equinox, which falls either on March 20 or 21, depending on which year it is in the leap year cycle.
  • Beltane – April 30-May 1Beltane was traditionally the time when the Goddess and God were joined in the Sacred Marriage, or Great Rite; by that act of ritual sexual intercourse, the Goddess (and, in human terms, the priestess) declared her consort to be worthy of ruling with her. Beltane is the time to celebrate committed love, whether that be the committment of partners in a marriage or of members of an intentional community. The name comes from a Celtic phrase meaning “bright fire,” because at this time our ancestors lit the Baelfires, which were seen to have magical effects on the lives of the people.The Sabbat of Beltane lasts from sundown April 30 to sundown May 1; it is celebrated mid-morning of May 1.
  • Litha – the Summer SolsticeLitha – also called midsummer – is known throughout Europe and European cultures as a magical time. From Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Woody Allen’s “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” from Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night” to Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” the magic of midsummer night is known to all. It is the longest day of the year, and gives us the chance to celebrate time, time to do, time to learn, time to explore, and time to love.The Sabbat of Litha is celebrated during the day of the summer solstice, which falls either on June 20 or 21, depending on which year it is in the leap year cycle.
  • Lughnasadh – August 1-2Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-na-sad) is a Celtic/Irish festival of the first harvest, and takes its name from the Irish god/hero Lugh. Just as the feminine is celebrated at Imbolc, half-way around the wheel of the year from here, so at Lughnasadh we celebrate the masculine – the power of men, dedicated to the protection the community.The Sabbat of Lughnasadh lasts from sundown August 1 to sundown August 2; it is celebrated mid-afternoon of August 2.
  • Mabon – the Fall EquinoxFor our ancestors, Mabon was the festival of the great harvest of fall. In honor of that, we Pagans celebrate Mabon as our Thanksgiving, rather than in November – which is actually a celebration of the deceit and betrayal of the Native Americans by the first European immigrants to this continent, more than a celebration of the bounty of the Earth. The name Mabon (pronounced MAY-bon) comes from the name of another Irish/Celtic hero, Mabon ap Modron, whose story appears in some tellings of the Arthurian legends.The Sabbat of Mabon is celebrated in the evening of the fall equinox, which falls either on September 22 or 23, depending on which year it is in the leap year cycle.
  • Samhain – October 31-November 1Samhain is a very misunderstood holiday. It encompasses both the modern holidays of Halloween and All Saints’ Day. We Pagans do not see the light and the dark as two separate enties, always at war, but rather as two different sides of the same “coin,” each needing the other for existence. Samhain is the time when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, when we can communicate with our beloved dead, and remember them as we knew them in their most recent lifetime on earth. We also honor and celebrate the lives of all who have died for their faith, from the Witches who died in the Christian persecutions to the Christians who died in the Roman arenas.The Sabbat of Samhain lasts from sundown October 31 to sundown November 1; it is celebrated at night on October 31.

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