Sabbats and Esbats: Introduction.
The Sabbats are seasonal festivals that celebrate what happens in heaven and on earth.
The so-called "small" Sabbats are solar festivals and the dates fall on the solstices and equinoxes: four particular points on the annual orbit of the Earth around the Sun.
The name "equinox" or "solstice" indicates that the daily path of the sun ceases to be longer and begins to be reduced, or vice versa:
the sun is seemingly "quiet". The name "evening" indicates that the day and night are of equal length.
Our ancestors knew that it takes about 40 days before what is happening in the sky (the sun) is noticeable on Earth.
The four "big" sabbath therefore celebrate what naturally occurs 40 days after each small Sabbath and the names are derived from the four main farming Celtic festivals.
Where small sabbath presumably once were celebrated mainly by priests / astronomers and druids, the great sabbath were real popular festivals.
Because Christianity failed to eradicate them Christians tried to absorb pagan festival into their religion.
Like this Anglo-Saxon Wicca often uses Christian names for their pagan festivals:
Candlemas for Imbolc, Lammas for Lughnasadh,Halloween for Samhain and May Day for Beltain, which was probably the most exuberant,
but which was dedicated to Mary throughout the month.
Following the Celtic tradition the sabbath are usually celebrated after sunset of the day prior to the actual date.
Secondly, it is often not possible for practical reasons to celebrate the sabbath with the whole coven on the exact date and are assumed to pass to the
nearest Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
By the way: our ancestors did probably alike.
For example, if you celebrate Yule, the shortest day, you may want to celebrate Yule as well a few days earlier or later,
as long as it falls in the period where the days are very short and the sun seems to stand still. For the great sabbath this is even more the case.
Those watching at what happens in nature, know that nature is rarely exactly stick to the calendar and so can take an average value to the date as long as is considered
when nature has an explosion of life (Beltain) or when Death appears (Samhain)
1 November: Samhain
Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year and is a farewell to the old year.Like the day begins at sunset,so it was allowed to start the year in winter,the dark time.
On September 21, day and night become equal length and the days shorten fastest. 40 days later, on November 1, the days have become really quite short
and the "dark time" arrived.
Traditionally, the night of Samhain, as is the Beltane night, is the night when the veil between the worlds is thinnest
and influences can penetrate from the one in the other. Where Beltane however is associated with birth, Samhain is associated with death.
For those who believe in reincarnation is death that what precedes life like the night precedes the day, and the "dark" time of the "light" time,
winter to precedes the summer.
In Greencraft Samhain is the moment when the God has been sacrificed with Lughnasadh, now arriving in the other world, like Beltane is the
moment when the God is born into this world after fertilization at Imbolc.
In ancient Egypt abn aloë vera was planted after the dearth of the pharaoh so when it flourished it was seen as the first sign that the pharaoh had arrived at Osiris (Sirius).
Thus, the time between Lughnasadh and Samhain is the time between the physical death and the arrival of the soul in the other world. Samhain is one of the three Harvest Festivals.
21 december: Yule
Yule is the time when the Sun at high noon at the lowest point on the southern sky and the orbit of the Sun is the shortest.
The point of sunrise is the most south-eastern point of the sunset and the most south-westerly.
It is the shortest day and the longest night. From now on, the days will become longer and the Sun will again climb higher in the sky.
In Greencraft every little Sabbath a promise of what will happen in nature until the great Sabbath which is 40 days later.
Yule is the promise of fertilization with Imbolc, which will eventually lead to the birth of Beltane.
In North Germanic tradition Yule was the feast which was particularly important because the first sign that the days did not shorten anymore but
that Finbul (winter) would slowly end, abbouncing that the feared Ragnarok was not for now.
The Nordic-Germanic word "Yule" is echoed in Dutch as "joelfeest."
1 February: Imbolc
40 days after the shortest day follows the (average) coldest day and from now it will become slowly hotter now.
In Greencraft Imbolc is the feast of conception. For the Celts it was the goddess Brigid who played the lead role in this festival.
In one of the Irish-Celtic creation myths the first Oak was created from the fertile waters of Danu and the first divine couple, Dagda and Brigid, out of two acorns.
In Greencraft We celebrate with Imbolc the fertilization of Brigid. In nature it is the time where the earth is again plowed and fertilized.
The dark period that began with Samhain is now finally over.
In Greek myths, the period of Samhain to Imbolc was the period that Persephone dwelt in the underworld and Hades ruled the underworld.
At Imbolc reverses the goddess back to her mother Demeter and the realm of the living and the earth becomes fertile again.
The Scottish Celtic tradition the nine "light" months are governed by Brigid and the three "dark "by Cailleach.
Celtic name" Imbolc "is usually translated as" in the belly. "
21 March: Ostara
Ostara is the moment of the vernal equinox, the day which becomes always longer has finally overtaken the night and day and night are now an equally long moment.
The Sun rises now exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west, while describing exactly an arc of 180°.
After Ostara the Sun will rise more and more Northern until the longest day has arrived with Litha.
As Greencraft Yule promise of conception, Ostara is the promise of birth.
The English word "Easter" for christian Easter is derived from the name of the goddess Ostara.
Eggs were seen as a symbol of the promise of the birth, hence the pre-christian intentional habit to give each other, at this feast, eggs bearing a wish.
The hare was seen as a symbol of the coming explosion of new life with the next big Sabbath Beltain.
The (Easter) eggs and (Easter) bunny prove that these symbols were so deeply rooted that Christians made them a christian symbol.
1 mei: Beltane
40 days after Ostara finally an explosion of new life happens in nature:
Everything is in bloom, all buds burst and all trees get fresh new leaves.
As Samhain announced winter, so Beltain announces the summer. As Samhain is the festival of the dead, Beltain is the feast of the new life.
In Greencraft Beltain is the feast of the birth of the new god in this world.
Because the gods are not people, this new god is also immediately mature and symbolizes youth and the awakening adulthood.
In the Irish-Celtic tradition it is the god of love, Angus Og. The word "Og" means "youth".
Beltain was the time of year when the young couples for the first time went to the forest to love.
In Greek myths we see in the Oedipus story the memory of this god who takes the place of his father by killing him and his mother to marry the goddess of all life.
The "old god" is the god of the other world who fertilized the goddess with Imbolc but who has no place in this world anymore.
The Celtic name "Beltain" is usually translated as "the fires of Belenos." Belenos or Beli, which in Irish-Celtic known as Bile is the god of the underworld or of the "Dark Sun".
21 June: Litha
Litha is the moment of the longest day and the shortest night and the polar opposite of Yule.
Sunrise and sunset have now reached their most northern point and the position of the sun at high noon is highest in the southern sky, the shadows are shortest.
One could even imagine the god and goddess with Beltain like two young lovers, then now is the moment in Greencraft where the god must take his responsibility.
He must close the sacred marriage with the goddess ,who represents "the land".
As formerly the king was also closing a sacred marriage with the country and where he took responsability for the fertility of the land.
In ancient Rome, the month of May was a time for love but marriage was taboo; June was the time for weddings and closing contracts.
The inclusion of that responsibility is basically a promise from the willingness to sacrifice of the coming great Sabbath.
1 August: Lughnasadh
40 days after the longest day follows the (average) hottest day and from now on it will slowly become colder.
In Greencraft Lugnasadh is the feast of the sacrifice.
Already the days get shorter and to allow for a new cycle of fertility, the god must be on the way to the other world where he will arrive again at Samhain in
order to fertilize the Goddess with Imbolc so a new God can be born at Beltain.
In nature this is the beginning of the grain harvest and in Dutch, the word "harvest" is derived from the name of the month which was given in Gallo-Roman times in honor
of Emperor Augustus.
The peasants scythe cuts the "head". meaning the stalks from the corn and the corn god sacrifices his life.
Part of the seed shall serve the people as food and part will be saved to be re-seeded after Imbolc.
In many pagan traditions this symbolism of a god who sacrifices himself to himself back, is found. In the Nordic-Germanic tradition it is Odin.
The other harvest festivals are Mabon and Samhain.
21 September: Mabon
Mabon is the time of the autumnal equinox. The night is getting longer again and will overtake the day. Day and night are equally long moment.
The sun is rises now exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west describing an arc of exactly 180 degrees.
After Mabon, the sun rises increasingly Southern to again come the shortest day at Yule.
In Greencraft Litha is the promise of the sacrifice and the physical death, Mabon is the promise of the arrival of the soul in the other world with Samhain.
The name Mabon comes from the Celtic god "Mabon folder Modron", which means "youth, son of the mother".
In the Welsh-Celtic tradition the story is told of Culhwch and Olwen or how this imprisoned god should be freed.
Freeing the god from his prison symbolizes the soul that is lost on the way to the other world and which should be "liberated". T
The Sabbath Mabon is the promise that the soul will reach the other world with Samhain.
Actually Mabon is quite a recent esbat.Mabon was introduced around 1960 by the Alexandrian Wicca.