For each of these holidays, I give a brief overview and share some associated customs. I have had direct experience with all of these. The Sabbat cycle I describe here reflects the climate zone in the Northern hemisphere where I live as well as my own multi-cultural, spiritual approach with a Wiccan emphasis. Feel free to adapt these customs to reflect your own environment and spiritual path.
Lore and Rituals by Selena Fox The Solstices, Equinoxes, and mid-points between - - also known as the Cross Quarters - - have been celebrated by a variety of Nature peoples around the world and across the ages. February 2, early February colors: Groundhog, other creatures emerging from hibernation; young Sun rituals: Ostara, Vernal Equinox dates: Ostara, Kore, Maiden gods: Hare, Green Man, Dionysus rituals: April 30, early May colors: May Queen, Flora gods: Images that are typically associated with Imbolc are the reunion of the God and Goddess, crowns of light, and different celebrations and ceremonies surrounding new life and fertility.
Imbolc can be celebrated in a variety of different ways. Imbolc is also a time for feasting and gathering together to reflect, laugh, and share. Ostara is represented by the Sun God and the Maiden Goddess who conceives, and will again be the Great Mother in 9 months.
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Different flowers like daffodils, lilies, peonies, violets, and others are often symbols of the Spring Equinox. Herbs associated with this time are florals like jasmine or rose. Things are very feminine, bright, and joyous when celebrating this time of year. As an equinox aka: This is a time for setting intentions, being grateful for spring and the nature all around us, and is a day of magic, blessings, and new beginnings. To celebrate, one might plant seeds, bless plants and scatter them around an altar or the home, or cast various spring and balancing spells.
Beltane, or May Day, is typically celebrated from the evening of April 30th into May 1st and marks the halfway point between spring and summer.
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Beltane is the feast of the fire and various Earth energies are at their strongest during this time. The evening before May Day is considered one of the most sexually charged times of the year and fertility all around is at its peak. As Beltane is the feast of fire, fire is a hugely represented symbol for the holiday.
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Traditionally, all fires will be extinguished and the coven will light a specific, special fire to celebrate, but flames, in general, are a symbol of Beltane. Spells to cast include anything involving union, fertility, aligning the masculine and feminine energies inside oneself, and shared intimacy.
Celebrating the Seasons
Fire is also a way to purify, so purification and spells to encourage vitality are powerful during this time. Summer Solstice or Litha is a celebration of the longest day of the year and the official entrance of summer, typically falling between June 20th and 22nd. Light and life are all around us, and the Sun God is at his strongest. Often seen as coupling or handfasting season, June is when marriages or unions are typically formed and celebrated as well. Blessings and joy are abundant during this time. Summer Solstice is represented by the Sun God, also the Lord of the Forest, and elements of emerald, oak, and green.
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Herbs used during Solstice are mugwort, honeysuckle, lavender, chamomile, lemon, and wild thyme and may be worked into potions, adorn an altar, or burned around the home as incense. Because Solstice is all about the sun, celebrations are based around the longer days and its immense power. It is a time to reaffirm your vows and practice, give thanks for all that you have and have been blessed with, and connect to the Earth. Rituals can include meeting with covens and groups to celebrate, or simply setting intentions alone and meditating, preferably outside and of course, in the sun.
Lammas or Lughnasadh is the first of the three autumnal harvest festivals and celebrates the first harvest and the knowledge that summer is ending. Typically celebrated on either July 31st or August 1st, Lughnasadh is a time for thanking the God and Goddess for crops, the seeds and ensure a new harvest will come, and the food on the table.
It is about celebrating the circle of life and all that we have. Lughnasadh is associated with all things fall and homey. Think apples, grains, rich colors like red and gold, corn, the hearth etc. Altars can be adorned with wheat or herbs like heather, sandalwood, heather, and even small baskets of fruit. Celebrating Lughnasadh is all about giving thanks and being grateful. Feasts with covens or other witches are typical during this time of year.
One might even save seeds or seedlings and bless them with the intent of planting them when spring comes back. Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox, is the 2nd harvest celebrated during the fall and lands between September 21 and September 23rd. This equinox marks the official beginning and arrival of autumn and marks the acknowledgment and respect owed to the impending dark days. This is also a time for release and putting old business to bed in order to prepare to relax, recuperate, and reflect.
Things we associate with the Autumnal Equinox are wine, gourds, ciders, acorns, dried seeds, and horns of plenty. Think all things warm, homey, cozy, and filled with comfort.