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What Are the Sabbats in Wicca?

Learn what the Sabbats are from Wiccan High Priestess Phyllis Curott in this Howcast video.


The holidays that are celebrated as part of The Wheel of the Year are all referred to as Sabbath or Sabbaths which means a holy day. An esbat refers to the lunar cycle which corresponds with the New Moon, the Full Moon, the Waning Moon, and the Dark of the Moon.

So celebrations honoring the feminine energies in the cycle of the moon are called esbats. The Sabbaths can be celebrated alone or they can be celebrated in community. Their purpose is to bring your life and the life of the community into harmony with the natural world and therefore into harmony with the divine. There is a specific wisdom that is revealed by the cycle of life, by what is happening in nature at each of these Sabbaths. It moves through, essentially, a kind of agriculture cycle of the mystery of the cycle of life. And by working with the dynamic between the Sun and the Earth and each of these points in the Wheel of the Year, each of these Sabbaths, we are able to see the sacred reveal to us and see an aspect of its wisdom and then to make use of it in our own lives. So for example, we realize that all work at some point comes to fruition. That's called a harvest. When you've planted a seed and nourished it, working hard. It flourishes and it grows and you have to tend it because this is the part of the cycle from the winter solstice to the summer solstice and beyond. You then ultimately have to harvest.

So there is a parallel between the major events of a personal life and the events of the Earth's cycle itself. So we harvest our own work, our lives, our wisdom, the lessons that we have to learn from relationships that have failed or from deaths in the family or from illness, from gifts and accomplishments and rewards. There is a parallel of those dynamics that are taking place in the play, in the dynamic relationship between the Sun and the Earth. By creating a ritual that represents that dynamic, we are able to see the lesson. It plays out in front of it. That is also sort of the point of the myth of the storytelling. The story imparts that wisdom. So you work with whatever is available with what is happening at that time of the cycle of life. Of the seasonal shifts. We work with the energies of that shift in cycle. For example, in March, at the spring equinox, the vernal equinox, you might take a seed and you would charge it. There's a way of holding it and visualizing your goal. It's time for me to get to work on book number four on the green man. Perfect for seed matching. I take the seed of a tree. Maybe an acorn that has fallen from the tree next to my house. It's been there for over a hundred years. I take that acorn. I charge it. I charge it with my intent, my intent to do this piece of work which will be my offering to the well being of the planet. I bring it to my house and I charge it with the energy of my heart and then I plan it in the Earth. I might plant it in a pot if I live in the city.

Then later take that pot out to the countryside because you can't grow an oak tree in an apartment. But initially I'll start it in a little pot and I tend it. That's belting and I rejoice in it and I play and I see it coming up and seeing that tree sprouting is a miracle. No matter how many springs you live through, spring is extraordinary. I tend it at May Day and I tend it then the summer equinox and I make sure it's getting enough sun and enough water. I take care of it and I rejoice and I celebrate because it's growing and it's getting bigger and it's getting stronger.

Then at some point there's a harvest. I'm not going to harvest the Oak Tree, although I might generations down the road if it was needed and it was not well, we might harvest it and we would try to do it in harmony with Lunesa or the autumnal equinox. But I might harvest the acorns which are already starting to fall. The acorns are coming down off my tree. I picked a few up this morning and I brought them with me. Those seeds, right, are harvested for the next cycle of life. Each Sabbath represents a stage in this process of dreaming, planting, nourishing, caring for, harvesting, resting, planting again.

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