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Moonphase

   Home arrow Content arrow Articles arrow Faq about Wicca, Paganism and Witchcraft   
Faq about Wicca, Paganism and Witchcraft   E-mail 
Written by Atheneris  
Tuesday, 07 September 2004
Page 12 of 15

What are “Esbat” and “Sabbat”?

Esbats are the celebration meetings that are repeated in every full moon; they are not to be confused with the eight great cyclical festivities. Some traditions repeat those meetings in new moon, waxing and waning moon. 

Sabbat as a concept has a different meaning from the time of worship and rest of the Israelites that lasts from Friday sunset to the Saturday sunset. Because in the middle ages the Inquisition accused everyone who didn’t accept the dogma of the Catholic church with heresy –which included the members of the other monotheistic religions- the term sabbat has been misdefined as a result of this false association. 

According to Doreen Valiente, (An ABC on witchcraft,1973), Sabbat is a word coming from the chanting  “sabai” or “evoi sabai” that was made in Dionysian rituals (From Dionysus’ title Sabadius), and it is the name given to the celebrations of pagan beliefs which place the seasonal circles on their center.

(Here I need to add as a personal note:

Apart from Dionysos, Sabazios has been accepted as a Phrygian god and has entered the Greek pantheon later through being identified/associated with Dionysos. The greeks have many explanations depicting the festivities that take place in relation of this god’s connection to the Phrygian mother Goddess Matar (Kybele) cult. And even though the cult’s nature and properties are disputed it is beyond doubt of Anatolian origin. If Valiente’s theory is correct the Anatolian connection and the effect of Anatolia on paganism is once more encountered. Indeed when investigated thoroughly it is seen that Anatolia has been the primal source of many teachings. The subjects we are discussing are not alien to the country we are living in, on the contrary, they are familiar to us as our current culture has the same roots and shares many of their aspects. For a more detailed article (t.n. in Turkish)on this subject visit  http://www.anatoliancraft.org/contents/view/1521/31/  )    


Those celebrations are made eight times. The following information includes their names and dates;
 
* Samhain/Halloween – October 31
* Yule/winter solstice – December 21
* Imbolc/Candlemas – February 2
* Ostara/spring equinox – March 21
* Beltane/Mayday (sometimes 30th of April night, with walpurgisnacht) – May 1
* Litha/summer solstice – June 21
* Lughnasadh/Lammas – July 1
* Mabon/autmn equinox – September 21
 
 
Among these dates, when calculated astronomically, there may be a few lapses about days. Because the celebrations are also rituals, they must be in harmony with the astrological calendar.

Sabbats are usually divided into two as the greater and the lesser. Lesser sabbats; Ostara, Mabon, Litha and Yule (all of them involving the solstice and equinox). Greater Sabbats; Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnassadh and Samhain (which are four main Celtic festivals). According to Margaret Murray –if we may take her as a reference-, Celts were never able to develop a system that is completely focused on the sun. That's why lesser Sabbats which are astronomically focused on the sun came into their traditions later. Murray connects this to the Saxons, whom she calls "solstitial invaders". When they ran away from Rome’s pressure, they got to interact with Celts and the other clans. Still, she argues that since equinoxes cannot be seen from Britain, they just accepted the solstices but all those arguments are subject to great controversy. Most of the other pagan traditions do not discriminate between "lesser" or "grater”. Plus, for the traditions in the Mediterranean zone, this discrimination is completely unnecessary and ridiculous.

Despite this, as a third kind; the applications of birth and death, step to adolescence and rites of passages, and "hand fasting" - joining lives/pagan marriage concept- play an important role as the Sabbaths.

To give a little bit of information about each of the 8 festivals- they possess detailed and rich symbolism-:

Mabon, the name given to the autumn equinox, starts with god going to the underground by the last harvest, and starts the period of time the god’s spents in the land of eternity –some may call it as “summerland”- until god is resurrected again in spring.

Samhain, celebrated on 31st September, is the festival where the mysteries of eternal death-rebirth and life are experienced. Goddess leads for the rebirth of god and the dead by going underground.

Yule is the celebration for the rebirth and return of god.

Imbolc, known as a light festival, is the messenger of the end of winter, and goddess' power to restart the life.

Ostara, celebrated on the spring equinox, announces the beginning of spring and the blossom of nature. Goddess, here, is in the aspect of a life giving mother/creatrix.

Beltane, is an fertility festival. Its most important ritual is "hieros gamos" / “homus dei” / “great rite” . Beltane is the celebration of the holy unity of god and goddess and the cosmic harmony born from it.

Litha, celebrated in summer solstice, is the great festival of the masculine form of the creation. Its power reaches the climax in this very day and stars to weaken in the season cycle.

Lammas, the first harvest and festival. Ancient laws, karma, three fold law and such concepts are the main points of it.




Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 November 2004 )

 
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