October marks the start of the New Year for Pagans, Witches, Wiccans and even the Military known as the Fiscal Year. Although our actual day may differ, the month is the same for the start of the year.
October 31st is known as Samhain, Dia de los Muertes, Halloween, All Hallows Eve and the Witches New Year. For this is a time when the veil between the worlds of life and death becomes the thinnest. Making it easier for them cross over in the living. This makes it a perfect time to communicate with love ones. Divination is performed, relatives are remembered, a plate of food is set for those whom have died.
It is a joyous time of remembrance for our loved ones who has passed within our lives. Many decorate their altars with pictures of their loved ones, white, black, grey candles are lit. Some will choose to leave a plate of bread and nuts out for the animals.
In Mexico families will pack a picnic basket and go to their loved ones grave and spend the afternoon with them.
In a nutshell Samhain is the time when we honor our love ones whom have passed with food, joyous talk of remembrance.
Yule - Dec. 21st
Yule is the starting point when the light of the sun will start to grow longer, which in turn will make our days start to stretch more. To many this is known as "Winter Solstice", The return of Light", "The Sun King" and "Yule".
It is also a time to realize that all of nature is in hibernation and in need to be in a state of rest. This includes not just the animals but us as well. The weather has changed to the point that we spend less time outdoors. A time to recoup ourselves and energies.
Some say that this is also a time for the Goddess to rest and will not call upon her until Imbolc. Others will take the opportunity to connect to the Crone aspect of the Goddess.
Those who honor the Sun God will celebrate him during their rituals. This is without a doubt a fire ritual since it corresponds with the Sun and light.
Bonfires, fireplaces, lanterns and candles are lit and burned throughout the night.
This is also a good time to let things go, write them down and cast it in the fires. In some parts of the eastern counties of Pennsylvania, the Witches will use the snow to bind. They will write on a piece of paper, pack it with snow, like in a snowball and allow it to freeze outside over night. Then they will have a painted black jar and place the snow ball inside and place a air sealed top on and never open it. Keeping the jar in a locked box is pretty common with this.
Imbolc - Feb. 1st
Imbolc, also known as Groundhog day. This is a Sabbat is known as "The festival of lights" and Candlemas. White candles are burned as a sign of new beginnings and purification.
Dated back to the 18th century the Christians celebrated this day in honor of Saint Bridget. In Wicca, Saint Bridget is made into a Goddess known as "Brigid".
In truth they are both the same, however it is Saint Bridget that the scholars have been able to trace back the furthest.
Imbolc is time to pay homage to the soil of the earth, hence the use of the color brown. Where as in Ostara we honor the actual growth (green) coming up from the earth(brown). Pagans offer to the earth a long tradition of pouring milk into the ground for nourishment. Women who are lactating will use the milk from their bodies.
This is also the sabbat when many come to a crossroad, for there is a solution awaiting at the crossroads. Making a crossroad in your back yard or within your house is a great way to perform this ritual. You can only take one problem within this ritual. For instructions on this ritual click on the Imbolc picture.
Ostara - March 21st
A time of transition of the season. The animals are starting to come out, flower buds are sprouting and all of nature is feeling what's to come ...The Spring Season. It is a perfect time for getting rid of things you wish to no longer have in your life. Perhaps this is where the term "Spring Cleaning" links to. After all, Ostara is also known as The Spring Equinox.
The Spring Equinox is a powerful time because the day and night are equal.
This is a refreshing time to let old habits go and start building on new projects that you have been wanting to do. I equate this with the New Moon, for it is the start of all new things.
This Sabbat is linked to the Maiden aspect of the Goddess Mother. For she is skipping happily about with her basket and spreading seeds as she goes. Seeds of herbs, vegetation, flowers, love, life, and magick.
This Sabbat connects with the Goddess Oestre, also known as "The Goddess of the Dawn". She can be seen with rabbits, wind and light. Some will say that this is the Sabbat when you may receive a new magickal ability. New Magic can be vibrant and powerful. There are Witches So go ahead and plant a seed to start a magical growth. Spring is here!
Beltane - May 1st
Beltane is also known as May Day. Dancing around the Maypole was taught in schools in Pennsylvania and throughout some parts of the world. Today some Pagans & Wiccans carry the tradition on wards. Another old tradition was to leap over the bonfires for luck and dance around.
Naturally, this is a fire sabbat for sure and the Fire itself in history had many purposes.
The fires were burned in rituals in order to protect the crops, animals and to ward off fairies. Fairies that liked to play in the gardens and around the crops.Their playful activities would
practically be equivalent to insects attacking your plants.
The fire also represented luck if you jumped over the flames. Contrary to the wiccan belief there are no historical documentations of mating rituals associated to this day. The only reference of this were in legendary fables such as King Author. Wiccans have created a new tradition within their religion that includes fertility rites between people and not just animals on this day.
Many wiccans will disagree with this and say that their fertility rites are old, historical and came from Paganism. This is indeed true, except fertility rites were not connect to a Sabbat. Pagans would perform these rites whenever a couple wanted to conceive. New moon, Full moon, winter, spring, summer, fall, etc.
Summer Solstice - June 21st
This sabbat is also known as Lughnasadh. This is considered the first harvest and to some the second harvest. Both will agree that this is an essential time. For it requires the hustle and bustle to prepare for the winter months that lie ahead of us. Farmers and Pagans are fully aware that certain crops will no longer grow this year, so they gather as much as they can preserve. In addition to that, they attend to the rest of the crops that will have the chance to survive for at least one more month.
Lammas has been celebrated in some of the ways as Beltane and Imbolc. The deities Lugh and Tailtiu are associated with this sabbat. The Goddess Tailtiu is a earth goddess who represents the dying vegetation that feeds everyone.
The festivals of Lughnasadh involved negotiations, contracts, matchmaking and trial marriages. Yes, trial marriages. They would use a wooden door with a hole in it, so that the young couples could hold hands through the hole to signify the temporary marriage. This trial marriage would last a year and day. (Perhaps this is where wiccans picked up their trial period for new coven members.)
After the year and a day the marriage would be made permanent or broken without any consequences.
Lammas - August 1st
Mabon - September 21st
This sabbat is also known as Midsummer.The Summer Solstice is the turning point where the sun begins its retreat to the south. This is the longest day and the shortest night of the year.
The year's greatest bounty is at hand for the harvest is approaching as summer begins to wane towards winter. This is a time of great bounty, celebration, abundance, love, fortune and the realization of wishes and dreams.
The herbs and flowers gathered on Midsummer Eve are considered exceptionally potent. St John's Wort, burdock, thorn, and nettle, harvested on this night are hung on doors and windows and placed around the home for protection.
In Germany, Mugwort and Vervain were tossed into the Mid-Summer fire upon leaving it, with the words, "May all my ill-luck depart and be burnt up with these." Women wear circlets of clover and flowers, while men wear chaplets of oak leaves and flowers around their heads.
Foods and decorations center around what nature has bestowed, rich, colorful and flavorful - mint iced teas, dandelion salads, strawberry shortcakes, geranium leaf sorbet, berry pies, daisy chains, lavender wreaths, rosemary garlands; the pure enjoyment that only summer fresh foods, sweet summer flowers and joyful company can bestow.
This sabbat is also known as the Autumn Equinox, for it marks the beginning of the season, autumn and the last harvest. Festivals are held while people enjoy the last growth of foods. The foods in the rituals normally do not include any meats. Olives, cheese, apples, crackers, bread,nuts, etc. Blush wines are also included along with mango and peach juice.
Some Witches use this time to reflect on their workings within the craft in the past year, as well as wrapping up any spell work that were done in several parts. In China they too have a festival during this time known as the "Moon Festival". Mooncakes are served in honor of this time. The majority of mooncakes are filled with lotus, sesame seeds,and dried fruit. There are several items that can be included in these delicious mooncakes and basically depends on the person who is serving them.
This is also a time when some Crone Witches (50 & up) can feel a heighten sense of their psychic abilities. While others generations may feel a strong pull to the craft and this is when they began to seek and belong. For they are natural Witches, whether they are aware of it or not. That is why they feel the pull and sense to belong to those in the craft. This can be a wonderful experience when they are welcomed by Crones and others that already have years of knowledge, practice and training.