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Notes on
WICCAN FESTIVALS

 

 

There are Full Moon Festivals, which are of course held on the night of the Full Moon, that are simple celebrations of the Goddess. They are a time of thanks and contemplation. They are also a time to ask for help, should you need it. Throughout the year there are eight Sabbats or major festivals, descriptions of which you will find below, that celebrate the Wheel of Life or the Wheel of the Year. There are guidelines for each ritual but each group, coven or solitary is free to adapt the ritual, within reason, to suit themselves.

The group that I celebrate the Sabbats  with have a wonderful way of celebrating. We arrive, usually with a dish for the table, and lend a hand with any other preparation. We talk a little and sometimes laugh and our numbers are dictated by whoever turns up. The altar, which is often the firepit itself, is decorated with the fruits, nuts, flowers and vegetables of the season and will usually have something at each corner that represents the four major elements or the Guardians of the Four Directions.

The ritual begins when all the preparations are complete. As we pass into the circle, one by one, our headwoman blesses and purifies us (usually with a few words and a pass-over with incense or a branch of an appropriate plant). Once inside the circle we are safe to express our feelings and words. The trust inside the circle is sacred. When everyone stands in the  circle, another woman calls in the four corners, asking for protection, and then the respective deities are invited to join us. The candles are usually lit and then the purpose of the ritual begins.  When this is done the consent of all present is sought to close the circle and we sing the closing chant. Finally we leave the circle, one by one, just as we came.

After the ritual, for whichever festival it is, is done we all share a vegetarian meal and chat away. Sometimes there will even be a bit of singing and music. 

 

 

Samhain (pronounced Sowen)

Samhain comes at the time of the final harvest of the year and is the beginning of Winter, the time of the Hunter.  It is the end of the Wiccan year and the beginning. It celebrates the coming of the winter and the preservation of life during that time. But it doesn't just celebrate the cycles of the seasons. As do most of our festivals, the cycles of life are also celebrated so Samhain is also  the time when the veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead is said to be lifted. It is the one night of the year that family and friends that have gone before us may join in the festivities. In fact, it was traditional, in a family situation, to set a place for the departed loved one at the table so that they may share in the meal. Most importantly, it is a time to communicate and tell your loved ones that you love them. Samhain survives in popular culture as Halloween, although friends and family, in that tradition, have become ghosts and goblins. 

During our Samhain ritual each person introduces to the circle the person they would like to invite to dine with us. Some may have some words for the deceased person to hear that they may or may not share with the group. Another part of our Samhain ritual is the resolutions where there is a banishing of bad habits and negative behaviours (we do it by writing the said habit on a piece of paper and burning it in the fire).

Color associations: black, orange
Plant associations: allspice, sage
Food associations: pomegranates, pumpkins, gingerbread, apples, muffins
Other names: All Hallows Eve, Hallowmas, Martinmas, Third Harvest, All Saints Eve, Calan Gaeaf

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around  October 31st.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around  April 30th.

 

Yule

 Yule is the winter solstice. It is when the winter starts to loosen its grip and the Hunter must start to prepare to turn things over to the Maiden. It is about preparation for the coming of Spring. It is about the anticipation of new life. The purpose of Yuletide festivities is to entice the sun out from its hideout in the clouds. Its traditions survive in popular culture as the Christmas tree with all its pretty lights which represent the sacred fire that allows us to survive the winter.

Holly decorates the houses inside and out for good luck. During Yule we will sing and dance, dress the trees and make little presents for each other. Yuletide presents are traditionally 'from the hand and heart'. In other words you make them yourself.

Color associations: red, green
Plant associations: holly, bay, ginger, yew, fir, mistlrtoe, ivy
Food associations: dried fruits and preserves
Other names: Alban Arthan, Midwinter, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around December 23rd.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around June 22nd.

 

Imbolc

Imbolc, celebrates the coming of spring and renewal and is sacred to Brigid. The time of the Hunter ends and the Maiden begins. It survives in popular culture as Candlemas when candles are lit to welcome the growing warmth of the Spring. The word Imbolc comes from Oimelc meaning "ewe's milk." because is is also the time when milking animals begin lactating.

Color associations: Yellow, white
Plant associations: rosemary, daffodils
Food associations: milk, honey
Other names: Candlemas, Disting-tid, Feast of Brigid, First Light

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around February 2nd.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around July 31st.

 

Ostara

Ostara is the Spring Equinox . The earth is warm and it is time for the crops to be planted. The world and the wheel of life begins to turn from the Maiden to the Mother. Its traditions survive in popular culture as easter eggs, which are symbolic of new life and the Easter bunny which was the sacred animal of the Saxon spring goddess Eostre. Although, much of the ritual is spent in meditation and contemplation of the wonders of the Earth Mother, there are other activites like decorating eggs and planting your 'needs'. Planting your 'needs' is done by taking  some seeds that mean something to you, asking them to represent 'such and such a need' and planting them carefully in a pot or garden. Don't forget to nurture and water your 'needs'.

Color associations: green, yellow
Plant associations: ginger
Food associations: eggs
Other names: Easter, Lady Day, Bacchanalia, Spring Equinox

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around March 23.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around  September 22nd.

 

Beltane

Beltane, which is on May Eve in the northern hemisphere, is the beginning of Summer. It is celebrated with many bright colors, bonfires, the maypole and dancing. Often women will make 'hope wreaths' for their hair and their homes which are woven with flowers, ribbons, wishes and hopes. It's when  the Sacred Marriage between the God and the Goddess takes place and the rites surrounding Beltane are designed to bless the marriage with fertility, making the harvest spectacular! For this reason it is also the time when many Wiccans prefer to marry. Traditionally the young folk dress the wells and springs with flowers to honor the Goddess and the 'need fires' are be lit to honor the God. The idea of the 'need fires' is to leap them, leaving in the flames your bad habits or worries. 

Color associations: green, red, yellow, bright colors
Plant associations: chives, borage, sweet woodruff, rose
Food associations: strawberries, cheese, honey
Other names: May Eve, Roodmass, Walpurgis

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere on April 30th.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere on October 31st.

 

Litha

Litha is the summer solstice. The world has turned from the Maiden to the Mother and she is pregnant with the harvest. It is also known as Midsummer Nights Eve, the night of the faery folk. Litha is the time to begin gathering herbs to dry for winter and it is the time when a lot of Wiccans rededicate themselves to the God and the Goddess. 

Color associations: red
Plant associations: mugwort, pine, oak, vervain, thyme, sunflowers, heather
Food associations: lemons, oranges, summer fruits
Other names: Summer Soltice, Midsummer, Vestalia

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around June 21st.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around December 22nd.

 

Lammas

Lammas celebrates the beginning of Autumn and the harvest. The Mother turns the world to the Crone. This year our group took a long walk down to a nearby stream in silent contemplation. Each of us took a red flower and into that flower we sent our hopes. When we reached the stream we sat for a while in meditation and then, one by one, we put our flowers, representing our hopes, into the stream, onto the Goddess. A traditional activity is the making of corn dollies and bread figures of the Mother goddess.

Color associations: gold, yellow
Plant associations: corn, wheat, rye
Food associations: corn, grains, breads and baked goods
Other names: First Harvest, Lughnasadh, Ceresalia

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around August 1st.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around February 2nd.

 

Mabon

Mabon is the Autumn Equinox when the Crone begins to turn things over to the Hunter and preparation for winter must begin. Winemaking, fruit harvesting, pickling and bottling begins. It is the Wiccan Thanksgiving. One of the things our group likes to do is make charms for all the things in our lives that we are thankful for.

Color associations: orange, red, yellow, rusty colors
Plant associations: hops, grape, oak, pine cones
Food associations: apples, grapes, nuts
Other names: Autumn Equinox, Wine Harvest, Festival of Dionysus, Second Harvest.

Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around September 21st.
Celebrated in the southern hemisphere around March 21st.

 

 

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