THE WITCHES' FESTIVALS
The Witches Year begins on Samhain, or Halloween. Samhain marks the time of year when the Sun God departs into the Underworld. The Mother Goddess, in the form of the wise, Old Crone, mourns the "death" of her consort, the season turns cold and the days grow shorter as the nights grow longer. As the Sun God departs, so too does the life of nature. While the Goddess mourns, she does not despair, however, because She has the knowledge that She is the Bringer of Life, and on Yule, the Sun God will be reborn from Her womb. Yule, or the Winter Solstice, marks the time of year when the Sun God is reborn, and with his arrival from the Underworld, the days begin to grow longer. The Goddess takes the form of the Maiden, and rejoices at the return of the God. Imbolg, around February 2nd, marks the time of year when the Goddess recovers from giving birth to the God. The young Goddess awakens to the growing strength of the young God as She nurtures Him. The days continue to grow longer as the Sun God grows stronger. On Ostara, the Vernal Equinox, the Sun God is now strong enough to conquer the darkness, and the length of day and night become equal. Witches gather and celebrate at this time to welcome the coming Spring, and the Goddess responds by revitalizing life on earth. Beltane, (April 30-May 1) is the time when nature, as represented by the Goddess, is ripe and fertile with life and vitality. The God expresses his love for the Goddess, and the two are joined in marriage and the flowers of Summer bloom in their honor. In the ecstasy of their happiness, the God impregnates the Goddess as she takes on the form of the Mother. On the Summer Solstice, Midsummer, the God is at his strongest, marking the time when daylight is longest. The Goddess and God revel in their love and happiness, flooding the earth with growth and fertility. Lammas, or August Eve, marks the change from growth to harvest. The Mother Goddess gives birth to grains as the Sun God's strength wanes and the days become shorter. Mabon is the Autumnal Equinox and marks the time when day and night are equal. The Goddess, transitioning into the form of the Crone, gives birth to the Second Harvest of fruits and vegetables. The Sun God continues to lose his strength and begins to prepare for his journey into the Underworld. The Wheel of the Year completes its cycle with the return to Samhain. The Goddess gives birth to the Third Harvest of meats and, again, mourns the death of the Sun God. The child in her belly gives Her hope though, for as the Wheel of the Year is an endless cycle, so to is Her story.
Samhain (Halloween) - October 31
Samhain, which is Irish-Gaelic for “Harvest of the Pigs,” is the third and final harvest in the Witches' Calendar as well as the Witches' New Year. It is a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at it's thinnest and we as witches focus our thoughts on increasing our own psychic abilities and to honor those who walk in the Spirit World. The thin veil between the worlds allows us to communicate with our loved ones who have passed on and join with them once more. In ritual, we invite our deceased loved ones to take part in our celebrations, by leaving food and a seat at our table so they may take part and feast with us. Witches gather to celebrate the final harvest with family and friends, we mourn the downward spiral of life, but focus our minds and hearts on what is to come in the future. To a Witch, this is a powerfully magickal time, and not the fearsome time that some would have us believe. It is a time to release the incorrectness in our lives and project for a future of balance, harmony, joy and health. Witches and their children often dress in clothing and costumes to project out these wishes and spells. For Witches, this is also a time of thanks as we remember all those in the past who fought to win the rights we have today, many of whom paid the ultimate price. We include those who were tortured and killed under the inaccurate definition and description applied to Witches and Witchcraft during the Burning Times. In remembrance, we share the knowledge gained from the past and ensure that truth and wisdom will prevail in the future.
Yule - Winter Solstice, December 19-22
On this sacred day, we gather to draw in the power of the Witches Winter Holiday Yule. Yule is the longest night and shortest day of the year as well as the beginning of the waxing part of the year. Even though it is in the heart of winter, the days still begin to grow longer. It gives us the hope and thoughts of spring with the knowledge of the sun's rebirth. This is a time that Witches recognize the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King. The Holly King reaches his time to go to the underworld to allow the Oak King to be reborn and grow to become ready to fertilize the land in spring. In days of old, families would gather for feasts and celebrations to call back the sun. Families spent much of the cold months together to share food and the warmth of the fire. Yule logs were burned as a symbol of calling back the sun. Wreaths were made to hang on doors as a symbol of the wheel of the year and the cycles of life.
Imbolg - February 1st or 2nd
On Imbolg (February 1st or 2nd) we become aware that the Sun's energy is slowly growing stronger. The Earth Mother is slowly awakening under the Sun's revitalizing energy. At this time, we call to the Mother to accept this energy and use it to bless us and renew the Earth. We call to the young Sun God to empower him and draw his fertilizing energy back into the Mother. Imbolg marks the welcoming of spring and the festival of the beginning of the end of winter. It is a festival of light and of fertility. Imbolg is the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the God. The lengthening periods of light awaken Her. The God is a young, lusty boy, but His power is felt in the longer days. The Earth begins to feel this warmth, marking a return to the months of spring. It originated in Ireland as a holy day for Brigit (pronounced "breed"), the Great Mother Goddess, who was in the form of a bride for the returned Sun God. The word Imbolg is Irish Gaelic for "in the belly" and Oimelc (pronounced EE-mulk), means "ewe's milk" in Scots Gaelic. Children born on Imbolg are said to be the "first children of spring" and will always be one step ahead of everyone else. Imbolg is a good time for self-dedication rituals or spells for new beginnings. This holiday is not common to all Pagans. Sometimes referred to as Brigit's day, this Sabbat is very popular among Witches and Celtic Practitioners. Brigid (pronounced "breed") is the Celtic goddess of Fire, Poetry and Healing.
Ostara - Vernal Equinox, March 19-22
Ostara, also called the Spring Equinox or Vernal Equinox, is a time when we, as Witches, celebrate the arrival of Spring. Ostara marks the day when night and day are equal or in balance. The sacred and magickal images of Ostara are the egg and the rabbit. In ancient times, Eostre was the Norse Goddess of Fertility, and it is she that is honored on this Sabbat day. During this time, the chill of Winter begins to wane away, leaving the days to become warmer and longer. Looking around, we see new birth everywhere, from homes on the hillside to animals in the fields. Life has begun again. This is the time to plant the seeds of flowers, herbs, and vegetables, or to plant the seeds of your own spiritual garden. As the light takes over the dark, Witches celebrate the fertility of the Earth and the growing of the young Sun God's energy. In symbolic ritual, the young God is armed with the tools necessary to conquer the darkness as he rides out across the sky. We give thanks for the upcoming light for the next half of the year. Witches incorporate the warm colors of Summer with the cold colors of Winter; cold blue and hot red. We wear the color lavender to honor this magickal time and decorate ourselves and our homes with light pigmented colors. Ostara sparks my imagination and reminds me of flowers in bloom and trees growing brightly. As Witches, we cast spells for new beginnings, fertility, love, luck, money, and future prosperity.
Beltane - May 1st
On May 1 or the eve of May, we as witches celebrate the marriage or union of the God and Goddess. The weather is warm and we begin to spend more time with our local community. We cast spells for spiritual growth, belonging, and blessings for all who seek the Old Ways and all who respect the Witches path. Beltane marks the summer half of the Witches Yearly Calendar; it is a time when many strive to improve their love lives. This holiday marks a very sacred and magickal time of the year when witches twist and bend beautiful colored ribbons around a maypole, an ancient pagan symbol. The maypole itself symbolizes the masculine energy entering the feminine. Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. The word Beltane means fire of Bel, Bel being an ancient Celtic God of the Sun. As the beginning of summer, the world is blooming with color and exotic energy. In old Celtic traditions, it is a time when many strive to get hand-fasted (Wiccan Wedding Ceremony) and declare vows of love for a year and a day. In our Witches tradition, we cast spells for the earth, work in our magickal gardens, and draw in the warm energy of the sun. Beltane, the cross Sabbat to Samhain, is also the time when the veil between the world of men and the world of the fairy folk is at it's thinnest, and this is a good time to contact fairies and incorporate them in your magick. Fire, as well, is also a symbol of Beltane, for in ancient times, Beltane marked one of the sacred festivals of Fire and Fertility. Beltane brings a spark of spring magic to all those who are willing to open their eyes to it.
Midsummer - Summer Solstice, June 19-22
Midsummer or Litha, falls on the Summer Solstice, on or around June 20. During this time, we as Witches honor and celebrate the Sun at the peak of His power. We draw in the energy of the Mother Earth and her magick of fertility and growth. We prepare ourselves and our homes for the waning periods of the Sun, which lie shortly ahead. Midsummer is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. In our Witches tradition, Litha symbolizes the end of the reign of the waxing year's Oak-King, who is now replaced by the Holly-King of the waning year (who rules until Yule). In our ritual and magick we understand and attune ourselves with this subtle change and draw in the growth and balance in which the Holly King draws forth. We cast spells for love, passion, and psychic power. The Fairy World itself is drawn to the energy of this time and many of us attempt to contact these magickal creatures and use their magick to empower our lives, homes, and spells.
Lammas - August 1
Lammas, or Lughnasadh (pronounced "LOO-nahs-ah"), is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “Loaf-mass” and is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats, usually celebrated on August 1st or 2nd, although occasionally on July 31st. The Lughnasadh Sabbat is a time to celebrate the end of Summer and the beginning of the Autumn season, as well as to usher in the first of three harvest celebrations in the Witches Yearly Calendar. It is the time of harvesting corn and grain, grapes and wine, and is therefore greatly associated with bread, as grains are the first crop to be harvested. We as Witches give thanks and honor to all Gods and Goddesses of the Harvest, as well as those who represent Death and Resurrection. This is a time when the Sun God magickally begins to weaken as the Sun rises farther in the South, each day growing shorter as the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow, but she realizes that while the God is dying, He lives on inside Her as Her child. This is, in a manner, the Witches Thanksgiving, and we continue to tend to our gardens, and begin to harvest our magickal herbs and flowers.
Mabon - Autumn Equinox, September 19-22
Mabon or the Autumnal Equinox, falls on or around September 19-22. It marks the time of year when day and night are equal, as they are on the Spring Equinox, Ostara. The difference between the two is that on Mabon, the night will overpower the day, and the Sun will weaken until Yule, the Winter Solstice. Mabon is the second of the three harvest festivals, to include Lammas (Lughnasadh), Mabon, and Samhain. It is the harvest of fruits and vegetables, and metaphorically the harvest of the years trials, tribulations, and hard work. We mourn the weakening of the Sun God, and rejoice in the Goddess' bounty that she has given birth to. Our altars are decorated in the Autumn colors of golds, coppers, reds, and oranges, accented with gourds, oak leaves, acorns, and pumpkins. We cast spells for prosperity, abundance, new beginnings, drawing balance, and strength and protection. Mabon is a time of dramatic change, one from the vibrancy and newness of the Summer, to the impending darkness and seeming death of Wintertime. It is for this that we cry, both in sorrow and happiness. It is balance. It is what we as Witches strive for.