Sun & Sabbats: Celebrating the 8 Most Important Wiccan Holidays
Pagans love celebrating sabbats as the Wheel of the Year keeps turning continuously. Every Wiccan festivity is an opportunity to get together with fellow Wiccans, friends, and families, engaging in celebratory feasts, merrymaking and spiritual and personal development.
Wicca is mostly regarded as an unorganized religion due to the lack of any major holy text. Moreover, the religion does not follow any standardized rituals nor does it have any designated location for worship. Most of the rituals, rules, and details are defined by independent traditions, individual practitioners and covens. However, Wicca consists of a formational center that all practitioners of the religion abide by: the Wheel of the Year.
Wiccan holidays or Sabbats celebrate the journey of the earth around the sun, which is known as the Wheel of the Year.
These holidays occur according to seasons and the natural rhythms of the earth. Commemorating the holidays is regarded as turning the wheel by Wiccans.
The Wheel of the Year
“Through the Goddess, we can discover our strength, enlighten our minds, own our bodies, and celebrate our emotions.” – Starhawk
It refers to the 8 main festivals that are celebrated by Wiccans during the calendar year. Although there are many other minor sabbats that are celebrated every now and then, these 8 holidays form the core of Wicca and are prominently featured on the wheel. These Wiccan holidays honor the cycles of life, the changing of seasons and revere the Earth and its gifts. The sabbats are an occasion for the practitioners to get together with their covens and informal circles for rituals and celebrations. Even solitary practitioners can connect their energy with thousands of other Wiccans across the world by performing the sabbat rituals on these auspicious days.
Wiccans and Pagans consider most things as cyclical. Hence, the image of the wheel is highly significant which represents the belief of recurrence. The holidays are based on the yearly birth and demise of the sun and the 8 main holidays highlight the most widely accepted periods for seasonal celebrations.
“Magic is natural. It is a harmonious movement of energies to create a needed change.” – Scott Cunningham
How exactly do you celebrate sabbats? Well, that’s simple. Just like the practice of Wicca does not conform to any fixed details, the celebrations are not bound by any specific rituals. However, there are some common elements that focus on the relationship between God and Goddess, the time and the season of the year. For instance, the themes for Wiccan holidays celebrated during spring & summer are abundance and fertility, while sabbats celebrated during the autumn focus on harvesting.
These rituals are followed by a celebratory meal with sumptuous food and drink. The events may be grand or simple and can include a casual Wiccan circle, a coven or even a single practitioner. It is common for Wiccan circles, covens and pagan groups to conduct the rituals in public places so that more people may take an interest in the religion, observe, understand and learn the practice of Wicca. This also helps to remove all the misconceptions associated with religion. While other groups prefer to celebrate the sabbat rituals in strict privacy.
The rituals, decorations, and food depend on a specific sabbat and the season. Rituals are often devoted to various aspects of gods and goddesses by witches according to the Wheel of the Year. They also present appropriate offerings & decorate the altar based on the sabbat’s themes and the existing season.
The Eight Wiccan holidays
“Magic is not always serious or solemn. It is a joyous celebration and merging with the life-force.” – Scott Cunningham
The Wiccan sabbats include 4 solar holidays and 4 earth festivals. The solar holidays comprise 2 equinoxes and 2 solstices commemorating the yearly journey of the earth around the sun, while the earth festivals are held in February, May, August and October every year. These eight festivals are celebrated across the world by Wicca and neo-Paganism practitioners.
Here are the 8 major sabbats celebrated by most Wiccans every year:
*Note: The dates may vary from year to year as equinoxes and solstices occur on different dates in various parts of the world. The closest possible dates are mentioned here.
1. Yule, Winter Solstice (Dec 20-23)
Held during the winter solstice, Yule is also referred to as Midwinter. It is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. It is recognized by most Wiccans as the beginning or the end of a year. A celebration of the sun or fire as a source of life, it is a festivity of hope and renewal. Yule portrays the return of light and the sun as well as the rebirth of the Horned God, the newborn solstice sun. The newborn sun provides a fresh new start during Yule. Trees that thrive in winter are decorated with food items as it depicts life and constant growth even during the harsh cold nights.
Many Christmas rituals and traditions are adapted from Yule like the use of yule log which is considered to bring good luck by banishing evil spirits. Moreover, the use of mistletoe during Christmas also comes from Yule. The celebration and rituals largely vary between covens, witches and solitary practitioners. During this period, spells on love, happiness, peace, and harmony are cast.
2. Imbolc, The Promise of Spring (Feb 1-2)
Literally meaning “in the belly” in Gaelic, Imbolc is also known as Brigid’s Day, Imbolg and Candlemas. This marks the preparation for spring and all Wiccans focus on organizing and cleaning their homes and living spaces along with their minds, hearts, and souls. Being the midpoint of spring equinox and winter solstice, Imbolc celebrates the return of spring and the rekindling of inspiration and creativity. Imbolc is a celebration of new growth, new possibilities, emerging life, and pure joy.
Brigid, the pagan goddess and maidens are revered during this festival as they are associated with fertility. During this time, animals and crops are blessed to remain healthy and abundant throughout the year. The first buds of spring also signify the arrival of a new life. In honor of the sun’s rebirth, most witches light ceremonial candles in different rooms in their homes after sunset. Many practitioners also gather together with their circles and covens to feast, reflect, share and laugh. This is the time to clean your energy by casting different cleansing spells.