How Witchcraft Works

The Wiccan Sabbats

Beltane 2004, a festival in Oxford, Conn.
Photo courtesy Witch's Voice

Part of the Wiccan philosophy is the eternal cycle of life. The Wheel of the Year is essentially the Wiccan calendar, and it shows the never-ending cycle.

The Wiccan year begins on the sabbat (holy day) of Yule, when the Goddess gives birth to the God. The God grows strong through spring and summer, and then in fall, the God and Goddess unite. At this time, the Goddess becomes pregnant with the new God. The old God dies on Samhain (Halloween) to be reborn at Yule. This cycle is acted out symbolically during certain rituals and is known as the Great Rite (see previous section).


There are eight sabbat rituals throughout the year:

  • Yule: Celebrated at the Winter Solstice, Yule is the celebration of the Goddess giving birth to the God.
  • Imbolc: Celebrated on February 2, it is the time when the first plantings of spring crops occur. It is also considered to be a time of spiritual cleansing and renewal of vows.
  • Ostara: Celebrated at the Spring Equinox in March, this sabbat represents a new beginning partly because it marks the beginning of longer days and shorter nights. It also marks the union of the God and Goddess and therefore symbolizes fertility.
  • Beltane: Celebrated on May 1, it represents the end of the planting season and the beginning of harvesting. It also represents fertility, as the celebration often involves loosened rules for fidelity.
  • Litha: Celebrated at the Summer Solstice, this sabbat represents the peak of the God's strength. It may involve lighting large bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
  • Lughnasadh: Celebrated on August 1, this is a time when the Goddess turns over control to the God. It is a time of feasts and craft festivals.
  • Mabon: Celebrated at the Autumn Equinox, Mabon represents the balance between light and dark, as it is the day that nights start becoming longer than days. It is officially the Pagan day of Thanksgiving.
  • Samhain: Celebrated on Halloween, Samhain means the end of summer and the beginning of winter. On this night, the dead are said to be able to communicate with the living in order to be with and celebrate with their families.

So now you've had a small peek into the world of modern Wiccan witches. For more information on witchcraft, paganism and related topics, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links