The Sabbatic Round (The Wheel of The Year)

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under the star
A time for a broom, a time for a staff.
A time for a sword, a time for a cauldron.
A time for a pitchfork, a time for a stang.
A time for a hazel branch, a time for a chord.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under star.
A time for a lance, a time for a grail.
A time for a wand, a time for a peyton.
A time to say hail and farewell.
A time to say hail and welcome.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under the star.
A time for a snake dance, a time for a maypole.
A time for raising , a time for grounding.
A time you may dance.
A time to refrain from dancing.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under the star.
A time for going deosil, a time to go tuahil.
A time to go after barleycorn, a time to plant'em.
A time for cakes, a time for ale
A time for the Sabbat, I swear it’s not too late.

Sabbats are kept open to circling up with other groups. The tradition has its preferences, though values communion with those of a similar crop. Versatility is maintained so long as time is able to be set aside to maintain the tradition.

Circle or Compass may be cast depending on:
a) location- how we wish to interact with the land
b) an intuitive suggestion to do one or the other
c) other circumstances of operation not of point a.

The following is some general information on the Sabbats. General in that it reflects the larger Pagan community though much of the ritual format comes from my experience working with those of the Ravenwood-Circean Tradition:

Starting from our new year of Samhain, : Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara/Eostre, Beltane, Litha/Midsummer, Lughnasadh and Mabon. These days are collectively known as the “Wheel of The Year” and individually as Sabbats. Samhain, Imboolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh are know as the Greater Sabbats and Yule, Ostara, Litha and Mabon are known as the Lesser Sabbats or cross-quarters which are the equinoxes and solstices.

Sabbats are also often practiced as open-circles, either in relation to other practitioners outside of the coven or non-practitioners. However this is not always the case. Some open-circles may only be open to practitioners of the same tradition. These are also common dates for multiple Covens of a Grove to come together in circle.

The year, being divided into light and dark halves is ruled by The Goddess and God respectively. This plays a significant role in the theology and points to the mystery of anima and animus as The God and Goddess rule over the halve of the year whose attributes are of the opposite gender. The year is divided in the masculine mysteries between Vesper (dark halve) and Lucifer (light) halve on the subtle level and the Holly and Oak Kings on the seasonal level. The year is divided in the masculine mysteries between the White and Black Goddess- Hulda and Kolyo in certain traditions.

The transfer of power happens at Samhain (to The God) and Beltane (To the Goddess). It is mirrored ritually with the invoking of the deities by the High Priest and Priestess whom then decree the the nature of the cycle. The actual transfer is either presented by the passing of the coven sword or staff (typically Ash) which is converted into a besom for The Goddess or back to a staff for The God.

Samhain: Meaning “Summers end”; Samhain is the Celtic and Witches New Year’s Eve (and day). It is also known as “The Feast of the Dead” and “Ancestor Night”. Being the end and beginning of the new year, Samhain is an “inbeteween” of the current cycle or chapter of life and the next. Inbetweens are like a gateway or door between rooms. Because they are passages from one place or state to another they are believed to be between worlds- passageways for spirit. Due to this quality it is said that the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest this time of year. Samhain is the time for both communing with the departed and seeing those who passed away over the course of the year on their way; as such, ritual involves a “dum supper” in which one invites the departed to one last meal and farewell. This is also when the transfer of power occurs from Goddess to God.

The common folk would put candles in carved turnips called jack-o-lanturns to scare wayward spirits. This practice parallels the dressing up for the same purpose. Witches would not have needed to do this to protect themselves however many would use the folk magic(k) of the jack-o-lanturn to designate a protected area.

Being the new year, this is a perfect time for reflection and resolutions. Samhain is generally celebrated on October, 31st - Nov, 1st but technically the exact date depends on where the solstices and equinoxes fall that year as is the case of all the major Sabbats.

Yule: From the Norse “Iul, meaning wheel; Yule is the Winter Solstice or shortest day (longest night) of the year. It represents the death and rebirth of the Horned God as reflected in the change from he waning to the waxing of the solar cycle. While Samhain represents the rebirth of the cycle itself, Yule represents the rebirth of spirit and life in the darkest hour that nurtures it. Yule is a time for finding the strength of not only inner divinity but the collective spirit of community in a time when nature itself seems barren. It is joy and feasting amongst the harshest of conditions. It was not only believed that such merryment would see them through to the rejuvenation of the Sun but also that Odin would arrive by sleigh to distribute either karmic blessings or obstacles for the next cycle of growth depending on your actions regarding the prior.

The solar cycle represents long term growth while the lunar cycle represents short term growth. When the two cycles align it is considered a very potent time for ritual work. While these times are opportune the lesson of Yule is that true power lies within and one person can make the difference.

Also, for those interested in knowing, the tradition of the Christmas tree comes from the ancient honoring of the god Attis, a pine god. It was for being close to nature during the cold months.

Imbolc: From the Gaelic Oimelc meaning “Ewes Milk” because of the lactation that occurs that time of year among live-stalk; Imolc represents the return of the Horned God (Sun) and the rejuvenation of The Goddess as maiden. Also called “The Feast of Torches” and “Candlemas”, people would light a candle in every room of the house at sunset honoring the return of the light and the lengthening of days. The holy day is also associated with the goddess Brighid/Bride. The last sheaf of the former years wheat would be kept as the seed for the following harvest. From this sheaf a doll known as a brideog or “Harvest/Sheaf Mother” (also known as a biddy) would be made. The doll, symbolic of the fertility and eventual offspring of the great masculine and feminine, would cared for and nurtured as if it were a real child.

Brighid is associated with poetry and so Imbolc is an excellent time to read or even write poetry.

Imbolc is celebrated either on February Eve/1st or (usually) February Second. Be sure to check in relation to the equinoxes and solstices the exact time is desired.

Ostara: Also called Eostre, Eaostra and Oestra among other variants, is the Spring Equinox; light has finally caught up with darkness and day and night are equal. The God embraces The Goddess and life flourishes in great diversity. The cold harsh months have clearly ended, given way to wildlife and flowers of every scent, shape and color. This is a time to rejoice in the sheer beauty of nature as well as for conception and fertility and growth of any kind. Many are quick to catch the solar current now as it waxes towards the climax of Litha.

Rituals include the painting of eggs to promote fertility, in general or impart of a concept, ideal or physical entity. Rabbits and hares being the champions of reproduction that they are, are also present in the symbolism. The hiding and finding of eggs was/is a form of divination to indicate which things one should focus on for the coming growing season.

It is also tradition to balance an egg on end.

Beltane: Aslo spelled Bealtaine, Bhealtyainn, Bealtuinn, the Gaelic pronunciation is “b'yol-tinnuh” however most who celebrate this holy day pronounce it “Bell-tain”. Belltane is opposite of Samhain on the wheel of the year and only Samhain can hold a candle to this day in veneration. Make no mistake though that merryment and jubilation belongs foremost to Beltane. This day celebrates the Heiros Gamos, from Herios meaning holy and Gamos meaning marriage, celebrating the union of Goddess and God. For that reason this is a preferred time to perform the full Great-Rite though Ostara and Mabon are also good times being equinoxes. Like Samhain this is also a time of transferrance, this time from the God to the Goddess. The name of the holy day comes from the Celtic sun-god Bel, known as “The Bright One”. Traditionally, two balefires would be placed and livestock would be driven inbetween to consecrate, purify and protect them. This was not just strictly for livestock however and to this day many Witches still pass through the fire upon entering the Beltane circle. It is also tradition for couples to, for fertility and good luck, to jump the balefire (singular) to the cry of “Hurriah!”, and this is related to the jumping of the broom. Lastly, is the erection of the famous maypole, a phalic symbol that is usually appropriately capped. The ritual of the maypole involves the braiding of three ribbons into one while focusing on the intent and pattern you wish to see manifest, which are then tied to the pole. You then have two groups, one going deosil (sunwise, clockwise) and the other going tuahil, also called widdershins (against the sun, counter-clockwise) weaving through one another until the ribbons are fully wrapped around the pole. The two groups are usually divided into masculine and feminine parties.

The Puritan, Phillip Stubbs had this to say of it:

"Phillip Stubbs - Anatomie of Abuses 1583 Wrote:Against May, Whitsunday, or other time, olde men and wives, run gadding over-night to the woods, groves, hills and mountains, where they spend all night in pleasant pastimes; and in the morning they return, bringing with them birch and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withal. … But the chiefest jewel they bring from thence is their May-Pole, which they have bring home with great veneration. … They have twentie or fortie yoke of oxen, every oxe having a sweet nose-gay of flowers placed on the tip of his hornes, and these oxen drawe home this May-Pole (this stinking Ydol, rather), which is covered all over with floures and hearbs, bound round about with strings, from the top to the bottome, and sometime painted with variable coulours, with two or three hundred men, women and children following it with great devotion. And this being reared up … then fall they to daunce about it, like as the heathen people did at the dedication of the Idols, wereof this is a perfect pattern, or rather the thing itself. I have heard it credibly reported (and that viva voce) by men of great gravitie and reputation, that of forty, threescore, or a hundred maides going to the wood over-night, there have scarcely the third of them returned home againe undefiled."

This is echoed in words of the Oak, the Ash and the Thorn which is pretty much thee Beltane song:

Oak, Ash and Thorn Wrote:Oh, do not tell the priest of our rite
For he would call it a sin;
But we’ve been in the woods all night
A-conjurin’ summer in!

Litha: The Summer Solstice, longest day (shortest night) of the year. The Horned God is at the climax of his power and will soon wane into old age. The Goddess is pregnant with the harvest and the seed of The Gods rebirth. Although a major holy day in times past, Litha is not celebrated to the extent of the other Sabbats today. This is probably do to its placement in relation to the harvest season. Litha is considered a high day of power and its celebration is of the triumph and glory of the Sun (Horned God). It is a time of of fairs, of showing ones work and of crafts, even the trading of those wares. Considered a time of abundance, illumination and the sharing of that light.

Litha is to The God as the full moon is to The Goddess.

Lughnasadh: Meaning, “the commemoration of Lugh” a Celtic son-god; the Sabbat is also called Lammas, from the Anglo-Saxon “hlaef mas”, meaning “loaf mas” which is the celebration of bread after the harvest. This sabbat is the first of three harvest festivals along with Mabon and Samhain. As Lugh dies and is later reborn through his sacrificial mating with the Goddess many attribute this day to that event however that is more appropriate to the last harvest of Samhain yet this theme of sacrificial death and rebirth is relevant and constant to all three of the harvest sabbats. Alternatively, it may be said that the Sacrifice of the God goes on to sustain the whole harvest season though in Wiccan circles the act of the sacrificial God is ritualized at Samhain.

Like Beltane, Lughnasadh is common for marriages in anticipation of the intimate and ever-coming dark half of the year. Many prefer to marry now instead of at Beltane in honor and recognition of that being the marriage of thy Lady and thy Lord. Others choose Beltane to honor their union as a manifestation of the Heiros Gamos.

Lughnasadh is celebrated on July, 31st - Aug, 1st but you will need to consult the equinoxes and solstices for the exact time.

Mabon: The Fall or Autumnal Equinox; darkness has caught up with light and the harvest is nearing its end. This is a time to put ones affairs in order, to plan for the winter and ask what will be needed of the next cycle. It is a time to ensure that things will be looked after once you are gone. In many ways it is more somber and of the mortal-coil than Samhain.