The Sabbats are the eight Solar celebrations and festival points in the Witches or Wiccan, as some prefer to be known, year. The Sabbats represent the seasonal year as it turns continuously through birth, life, death and rebirth and the changing of the seasons. A very important point to remember when following the Witches seasonal wheel or year, the seasons in New Zealand (Southern Hemisphere) are opposite from those in say America and the UK. (Northern Hemisphere) To work with the Sabbats is to simply follow the seasons in the country in which you live. The four directions of East, North, West and South never change, no matter where you live and when you match the Sabbats with the directions and the seasons you will begin to see how it all fits in. Armed with a compass you can pinpoint the true North and work it from there.
The Seasonal wheel is divided into the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and eight points which are the eight Sabbats that sit midway between each season and at the start of each. The term Wiccans use, “A year and a day” means a complete turn of the wheel. The picture above shows the wheel for the Southern Hemisphere. Summer sits at the North point, Winter in the South, Autumn to the West and Spring to the East.
There are four Greater and four Lesser or Minor Sabbats, however be sure that they are no less minor nor greater than each of their companions.
THE FOUR LESSER SABBATS
There are the two Equinoxes of Spring and Autumn and the two Solstices of Winter and Summer. They are also known as the Quarter days and the Sabbats that indicate the middle of the season. The word “Solstice” comes from the Latin, solstitium meaning “Sun standing still.” The Solstices occur twice in the seasonal wheel, this is when the tilt of the Earths axis is turned directly to or away from the Sun and reaches its most Northern or Southern point. As the sun faces the most Southern point, there is more heat in that direction, this in turn is the Summer Solstice, the longest day and the other hemisphere at this time will receive less heat, so that becomes the Winter Solstice, the shortest day. Remembering the seasons are opposite so when the Sun faces the Northern point, those in the Southern Hemisphere will receive less sun.
“Equinox” derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox. (night) This is when the center of the Sun is positioned directly over the Earth's equator. When the Sun rises above the equator, the Spring Equinox has taken place and when the Sun goes below the equator, it is the Autumn Equinox. Once again as with the Northern and Southern hemispheres, when Spring is in one hemisphere, Autumn is in the other.
THE FOUR GREATER SABBATS
These are the four festivals that fall approximately in between the Quarter Days and are commonly known as 'Cross Quarter days' Fire Festivals or the Greater Sabbats. Called Cross-quarter days because they fall approximately between a Solstice and an Equinox. Samhain is between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice and so on…
The four greater Sabbats are Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas. They are also the Sabbats that indicate the onset of each season and times of great power.
Southern Hemisphere - April 30th - May 1st
Northern Hemisphere - October 31st - November 1st
Death, the end of the Witches year and the start of a new one. A time to honour spirits and souls of the dead, to rest and reflect on the past year. The God is in the Underworld or Summerland as it is also known and he prepares for his rebirth. The Goddess is resting and awaiting the birth of the Sun God at the Winter Solstice.
Southern Hemisphere - June 21st - 22nd
Northern Hemisphere - December 21st - 22nd
Birth of the Sun God. The Goddess begins to rest. This is the longest night of the year. The Sun God is born from the Goddess who after her labour will rest through the winter months. From this day forward, the light begins to grow and strengthen as the dark half of the year has been defeated and overcome by the lighter half.
Southern Hemisphere - August 1st - 2nd
Northern hHisphere - February 1st - 2nd
The Goddess awakens. A festival of growing light. The festival of the awakening and thaw of the earth after winter prevailed it, a celebration of light, fire and ice. Imbolc was traditionally associated with woman only as it was a celebration of the Goddess and the Goddess within. The God is a young babe, stirrings begin. Nowadays men gather and join in the festivities as well.
Southern Hemisphere - September 23rd
Northern Hemisphere - March 20th - 21st
A Solar festival that celebrates new growth, birth and resurrection. Now a young lad, the fertility of this God is beginning, prominent with new birth and growth. The Goddess is a young maiden. The powers of male and female, night and day are in balance for a split second.
Southern Hemisphere - October 31st - November 1st
Northern Hemisphere - April 30th - May 1st
Nature’s abundance and fertility. Honour the Green Man and celebrate the union of the God and Goddess. The Sun God is now a young man full of vigour and anticipation, with the Maiden Goddess as his partner they consummate their love with the Great Rite. Fertility is abundant around us within nature, as is the passion and sexual energies of the Gods as nature shows off its abundance and fertile growth.
Southern Hemisphere - December 21st - 22nd
Northern Hemisphere - June 21st – 22nd
A Solar festival and the longest day of the year. The Sun God is at his peak, approaching fatherhood and nature is flourishing within the crops, livestock and wildlife. The Goddess is in her Mother aspect, heavily pregnant and symbolizing fruition and childbirth. From this day forward the sun is now ready to begin its decline until the Winter Solstice to when he will be born again.
Southern Hemisphere - February 1st - 2nd
Northern hemisphere - August 1st - 2nd
The Sun Gods power is waning and He knows his time is near. As he sacrifices his life, the first harvest begins. Grains are cut, breads are baked, Harvest festivals and harvesting. The Goddess begins her Crone phase.
Southern Hemisphere - March 20th - 21st
Northern Hemisphere - September 21st
The second harvest as the bounty from the crops is honoured and has taken place solely because of the self-sacrifice of the God. The day and night are equal again for that split second in time as with the Spring Equinox, the only two festivals where this takes place. Gathering, storing, preserving and preparation is continued for the time ahead when winter will be with us. The Goddess now in her Crone aspect prepares herself for the coming winter.