With today being Beltane, it has me thinking about how a number of people I have talked to want to celebrate the different Sabbats but are afraid of being exposed or who live with other people who are more traditional or don’t fully approve of these witchy ways. Or…maybe they are just like me and are a little lazy and don’t want to plan anything elaborate…
I thought I would put together a quick guide on how you can overcome these difficulties and give you a few ideas of how to incorporate celebrating these holidays into your daily life!
First off, let me say, I am not an expert. A lot of my knowledge comes from trusty google and life experience. But – isn’t that the best way to learn things – by practicing them!
So – let’s get started!
When The Wheel Came To Be
What many newbie Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans (yes, there is a difference here, but that is for another post) don’t realize is that the Wheel of the Year which contains the eight Witches’ Sabbats (or major holidays) are not some ancient tradition that has been going on for centuries. In reality, The Wheel of the Year is a modern invention, dating to the 20th century.
Accounts are varied on how The Wheel of the Year was actually formed and when it was started to be utilized, but it is theorized that the term Wheel of the Year and the eight major holidays were widely practiced by the 1960s.
Personalize your holidays – they are “yours”
Now that you know that the specific eight sabbath are not some ancient mystical tradition, it may be easier for you to realize that it is not some great sin or taboo to change the holidays around a little bit. If you are celebrating something in your life make sure they fit your life and your belief system.
This is especially true when you see how many of the holidays are tied to local seasons and cultural traditions. It doesn’t make sense to start celebrating the beginning of spring when you live in a Northern climate and won’t see flowers start to bloom for another month. And some Yule traditions just don’t make sense for those living in the Southern Hemisphere (where they invert the calendar and celebrate Yule in June).
Pair Sabbats with “Traditional” Holidays
Another aspect of Sabbats that you will quickly realize is that a lot of the traditions and symbolism pair very closely with Christian holidays. There is a good reason for this. Many Christian holidays incorporated local pagan customs in order for the early Christians to more easily convert the pagans of the day.
You can use this to your benefit and easily purchase decorations that work both for the traditional Christian holiday and for the Sabbat you are currently celebrating. This also makes it easier to “hide in plain sight” with your neighbors not realizing that your eggs and bunny decorations are really for Ostara and not for Easter.
The Wheel of the Year
Now let’s go through each Sabbat and I will tell you a little about what I do to celebrate these holidays in a way that works in a non-pagan household so that I am not “pushing” my beliefs on any other members.
Yule (Winter Solstice)
Yule is perhaps the easiest holiday to incorporate into modern life, especially for those who celebrate Christmas. A lot of the traditional decorations that are found around Yule are the same as Christmas decorations. Decorating a “Yule” tree is as simple as decorating your Christmas tree.
Yule tends to fall just a few days before Christmas for those in the Northern Hemisphere. To make the actual day of Yule more special, you can burn a yule log aka make a fire in your fireplace. Alternatively, it is sometimes fun to make a yule log shaped cake to have for dessert and prepare a special meal. I have found that even non-pagans won’t complain when a holiday involves yummy food!
Imbolc (February 2nd)
Imbolc is one of the “light” holidays and signals the first signs of spring or the coming back of the sun from a time of darkness as the days slowly grow longer. Conveniently, it pairs nicely with Groundhog day and you can celebrate the two “holidays” together.
This holiday is also considered the goddess Brigid’s day and many celebrations incorporate items associated with this goddess. Personally, on this day I like to cook a nice meal, light some candles on the table, and read a few poems before dinner (Brigid is the goddess of poetry, fire and smithcraft) – pretty simple.
Ostara (Vernal Equinox)
This is one of those holidays that pairs beautifully with a Christian holiday – Easter. Egg hunts and bunny rabbits – perfect activities for Ostara. The one little hiccup you may run into is the actual dates. Ostara is a relatively fixed date, occurring at the Vernal equinox each year (around March 21-23), while the day to celebrate Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (how pagan does that sound!).
So, Ostara is one of those holidays that it may be a little easier to move around in your Celebrations. You could make a nice meal on the actual Vernal Equinox, or just wait around until Easter and combine the two holidays. Depending on when the full moon happens that calendar year, the two can either be relatively close together or a month apart (like they were this year because the full moon occurred on the Vernal Equinox).
Beltane (May 1st)
Beltane is a holiday that can be paired with “May day”. I don’t see May Day being celebrated much around where I live anymore, but, back in the good old days you would put a basket of flowers on your neighbors door and maybe dance around a maypole.
Modern Beltane celebrations have a lot to do with fertility and fire, but to keep this holiday celebration more PG you might consider collecting or purchasing some flowers and giving them to someone you love. Another easy way to celebrate!
Litha (Summer Solstice)
Litha occurs on the longest day of the year. Depending on where you live, this day could be a pretty hot or may mark the beginning of your summer activities. For those in the United States, this day falls pretty close to the Fourth of July and, if you don’t mind moving a solstice, could be celebrated together.
If you want to celebrate the solstice on the actual day the sun is in the correct spot, you could do something simple like treat yourself to some ice cream or a popsicle. Think of what reminds you of summer and do that – maybe a trip to the pool or the beach, a nice walk outside or a summery treat.
Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)
Lammas (which is much easier to say and spell) is the first of the three harvest holidays. This is one of those holidays that doesn’t always work well with what is going around you depending on where you live. And, in our modern day world, we don’t normally have to think about when when need to harvest the wheat or bring in the corn.
I like to personalize this holiday by thinking of it as the beginning of the end of summer. Where I live it is generally a very hot day, so thinking about Autumn really isn’t on my mind much. Instead I use it to think of what last few things I want to accomplish before the end of the summer months. If you want to be a little more traditional, you could bake some homemade bread – but I usually don’t like to turn on the oven at the beginning of August so I don’t do this. Instead I use this as an additional Litha type celebration and honor the sun in all its glory.
Mabon (Autumn Equinox)
Mabon is the Autumn Equinox and, really, it basically has a lot in common with American Thanksgiving. The decorations are pretty similar and it usually concludes with a big feast. Moving Mabon to Thanksgiving in America is a little far off calendar wise (about a month and a half), so, instead, you can use Mabon as a pre-Thanksgiving preparation. Try out some new recipes that you may want to bring to that big Thanksgiving dinner and see how they come out.
Alternatively, you can use Mabon as the celebration of the beginning of Autumn. If you can, you may want to go apple picking around this time of the year or bake yourself an apple pie. Think of something quintessentially fall related and do that. Maybe order yourself a pumpkin spiced latte at your favorite coffee shop or buy yourself a new scarf.
Samhain (October 31st/November 1st)
Samhain is probably the easiest holiday to celebrate as a witch – I mean, you can actually dress like a traditional witch when you go to work and no one will think anything of it! Samhain actually falls on the day after Halloween and pairs beautifully with the Day of the Dead, but most witches celebrate it on actual Halloween.
Traditionally, many witches and pagans use this day as a time to honor their loved ones who have gone on to the summerlands (aka those that have died). If you would like to follow this tradition, I have found it much easier to move this to November 1st and use the decorations for the Day of the Dead. Usually you can honor those that have passed by setting a place for them at the table and inviting them to have a meal with you (alternatively you can set out a bowl of dog/cat food for those pets who have transitioned). Setting out pictures or mementoes also is a great way to honor those that have passed.
As you can see, it isn’t too hard to incorporate The Wheel of the Year into your modern life – even if you live and are surrounded by individuals who do not share your same beliefs. You can make each celebration as elaborate or simple as you would like. I mean, who is going to question you getting a Pumpkin Spiced Latte on Mabon?
And remember, no two holidays need to be alike. Your Imbolc traditions may be elaborate one year and barely register the next. Let the energy around you and your feelings decide how you celebrate as the wheel turns.
What is your favorite Sabbat? I have always enjoyed Imbolc. Let me know in the comments which is your favorite and how you like to celebrate it!