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The Pagan Sabbats And Their History

I consider myself candid, opinionated and well-meaning.

Please do NOT read this topic if you offend easily.

Copyright 2003-2010, 2013, 2018 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.

This webpage is a 06/15/2013 update of the Internet newsgroup periodic messages titled "Definitions for Prospective Wiccan Novices (Part One/ Two/ Three/ Four/ Five of Five Parts)" and "A Reference List for Prospective Wiccan Novices (Part One/ Two/ Three of Three Parts)" that I provided until 01/2005. My Magick, Pagan And Wicca Definitions webpage and my Pagan Books And Films webpage supplement this webpage.

IMO sexuality is an integral part of magick, Paganism and Wicca. My neo-Tantra Definitions webpage supplements this webpage.

I can visualize a person reading this webpage periodically wrinkling their nose and thinking This discussion is not politically correct! My goal is not to offend; instead my goal is to understand. IMO understanding is good.

I originally heard the word Wicca from an acquaintance's chance utterance. I started reading books, participating in Internet newsgroup discussions and reinterpreting events [both current and up to fifty years past (my father's life)] occuring around me. In a blundering solitary manner I accumulated knowledge of magick, Paganism and Wicca. I found no definitive texts, I found no mentors -- the solitary Wiccan path was slow, confusing and totally lacking candor. I began writing my magick-, Pagan- and Wicca-related Internet newsgroup periodic messages hoping other interested parties would find my experience and opinions enlightening. I stopped providing these magick-, Pagan- and Wicca-related messages after 01/2005 because AOL dropped their Internet newsgroup coverage. Nobody contacted me concerning their absence. Each reader must judge if this reflects No news is good news (apathy) or Good riddance.

Why do I provide this information? Before offering these definitions I must state that I am not a Wiccan, a witch, a Pagan or a satanist. Learning details about Paganism and Wicca has cost me (and continues to cost me) much time and trouble that not committed prospective Wiccan novices can avoid by reading my webpage. Another reason I provide these definitions is the flood of negativism I observe practically everywhere. It appears that everybody has a license to criticize and complain, but few make positive societal contributions.

The Pagan Sabbats and Their History

The eight Pagan Sabbats (from the Greek word sabatu meaning to rest) are seasonal festivals where Pagan communities light life-symbolizing balefires. Pagans count the previous evening's sunset as the day's beginning. Sabbat celebrations begin on the previous evening's sunset.

Some Pagan modern traditions deemphasize the eight seasonal sabbats, instead scheduling their ritual celebrations at four week (nominal) intervals on full moon weekends.

'The Wheel of the Year' depicts the sabbats amidst the passing of the seasons

List: The eight Pagan seasonal sabbats are

Samhain: Sunset October 30 (midnight October 31 Stonehenge time) brings the sabbat Samhain (pronounced Sow-in, Sah-vin, or Sahm-hayn), a celebration of the harvest season's end. Samhain marks the Wiccan God's death in some European Traditions -- the Crone Goddess mourns the God's passing for the next six weeks. The Samhain/Halloween symbol of the Crone/Witch stirring her cauldron reflects the Pagan belief that all dead souls return to the Crone's/Witch's cauldron to await their rebirth.

Samhain marks Winter's beginning and is a time to celebrate the eternal wheel of reincarnation. Samhain falls opposite Beltane (midnight May 1 Stonehenge time) on the Wheel of the Year. Beltane (the final phase of planting) and Samhain (the third and final harvest) are the two most important sabbats.

European monarchs marked the Samhain sabbat's beginning by lighting balefires (bonfires -- balefire is an English word meaning boon or extra) on the highest hills. Having sex with ladies from the families of lesser nobility was included within the balefire ritual. Lesser noblemen then could light their own balefires on lower hills (and themselves have sex with ladies from the families of even lesser nobility or with commoners) and could begin their own Beltane celebrations. The ritual sex included within the balefire celebrations equates to the Aristocracy's (e.g., the King's, noblemen's or local land owner's) first night privileges -- the Aristocracy's right to control who could marry whom and the Aristocracy's right to bed any young lady first on her wedding night. The balefire ritual replenished the Aristocracy's energy and symbolically blessed the young lady bedded by the Aristocrat. The balefire ritual also maintained the continuity of the Aristocracy -- the pecking order is a time-honored tradition.

British and Irish Pagans lit their own Samhain balefires on lesser hilltops after sunset on October 30. The Pagans' balefires focused the dead God's energy, pushed back the darkness, repelled evil and purified the hilltop's ritual space. The balefire rituals and concurrent harvest celebration also tangibly reminded the Pagans about the Aristocracy's (e.g., the King's, noblemen's or local land owner's) real power over the Pagans: Winter is coming -- wanna eat?

Coven initiations [both robed initiations and skyclad (naked) initiations] are performed on Samhain. Witches commune with the dead on Samhain, holding their ritual Feast of the Dead and celebrating the eternal cycle of reincarnation. Necromancy spells and rituals performed during Samhain are more likely to succeed.

In the United States, Samhain sometimes is celebrated in conjunction with a Halloween party. The Halloween trick or treat tradition has two origins. One trick or treat origin is the Pagan Samhain custom of leaving out a small tray or plate of food for dead ancestors and other spirits. Trick or treat also reflects Pagans' inclusion of the Lord of Misrule within the Samhain circle. The Lord of Misrule [the personification of the Norse God Loki (also called the Master of Merry Disport)] created merry havoc within the Samhain circle, preventing unhappiness at the thought of Summer's end and the approaching harsh Winter. Back to List

Yule: Sunset December 21 (midnight December 22 Stonehenge time) is the sabbat Yule, The Winter Solstice. When the Wheel of the Year turns to Yule, the Wiccan God (who died at Samhain, October 31) is reborn of the fertile Goddess. During Yule the Wiccan Goddess and the reborn Wiccan God are reunited. At the Imbolg sabbat they will conceive the son who becomes the reborn Wiccan God at next year's Yule sabbat.

On this, the longest night of the year, the Wiccan God is represented by the Sun which returns in longer days to again bring warmth and fertility to the land. Yule's importance is based upon Pagan belief that Winter's increasing darkness and cold required that the Sun (the God) be lured back to the fertile earth (the Goddess in her mother role). During Yule ritual celebrations the High Priest and High Priestess (or a pair of selected individuals) symbolize the God and Goddess reunited.

Some Wiccan Traditions alternate their God persona. The Oak King rules as Horned God from the Winter Solstice (Yule, December 22) through the Summer Solstice (Midsummer, June 22) and the Holly King rules as the Horned God from Summer Solstice through Winter Solstice. These Traditions might stage a Yule ritual battle symbolizing the Oak King vanquishing the Holly King -- in a Midsummer ritual battle the Holly King will vanquish the Oak King. This changing of the Kings marks the annual cycle of the Sun, and can symbolize the seasonal change of Wiccan partners.

In Greek mythos the goddess Persephone (Proserpine) alternately spent six months belowground in Hades as Pluto's queen and consort, and six months aboveground with her mother Ceres, the goddess of fertility and abundance. The earth was barren and cold while Persephone's mother Ceres mourned during the six months Persephone spent with Pluto. The earth was fertile and warm during the six months Persephone spent with Ceres.

In the Twenty-First Century with its high divorce rates another analogy can be drawn. Children of divorced parents often live with each of their biological parents during a portion of the year. Yule (holiday break) and Midsummer (end of the school year) are times when children's transition between parents might occur.

Yule is the most celebrated of all the sabbats -- the return of the Sun's light and warmth is a universal concern and customs marking the Sun's return have pervaded other cultures and religions. For example, the Norse Tradition of a twelve-day-long Yule celebration probably is reflected in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. And evergreen wreaths (popular decorations during the Christmas holiday) symbolize the Wheel of the Year in Pagan cultures. The evergreens used in Pagan wreaths symbolize female fertility, while the pine cones often used in Pagan wreaths symbolize male fertility. Evergreens symbolized deity and the universe for the Druids. And mistletoe, the Golden Bough of the Druids, remains popular in Yule celebrations.

Other Pagan cultures used fire to symbolize the return of the Sun. Many of these cultures tended perpetual flames or candles throughout the year. At Yule the flames were allowed to burn out and the candles were extinguished. Then the fires were rekindled and the candles were relit, joyously symbolizing the return of the Sun. Lovers celebrated a rekindling of their romantic love along with the rekindling of the perpetual flames. (The corresponding emotions in the song Light My Fire by Jim Morrison and The Doors are obvious.) Sometimes the extinguishing and rekindling of perpetual flames was accompanied by a seasonal change of Pagan partners. Back to List

Imbolg: Sunset February 1 (midnight February 2 Stonehenge time) is the sabbat Imbolg (pronounced Em-bowl'-g). Imbolg, (also called Imbolc and Oimelc, words that both translate as ewe's milk), originated as a celebration honoring The Goddess's attempt to end harsh hungry Winter and hasten warm balmy Spring by luring back the God (who represented the warm Sun). The Greeks and Romans dedicated this celebration to Venus (goddess of love and beauty) and to Diana (goddess of the moon). On this day the Irish celebrated St. Bridget's Day -- young women (representing virgins) dressed in old worn clothing went door-to-door begging for alms. On Imbolg the French celebrate The Feast Day of St. Blaize, the saint of Winter protection and healing. Imbolg also has been called Candlemas in Anglo-Saxon cultures because of the custom of lighting a circle of candles (ritual fires) to hasten the return of the Sun and the return of Spring's warmth. Often the candles substitute for the celebratory outdoor balefires that create an lovemaking atmosphere during other sabbats -- the ritual performed within the circle of candles is obvious.

On pg. 104 of his c2000 text Wicca Unveiled: The Complete Rituals of Modern Witchcraft (ISBN 0 9536745 0 9), British author J. Philip Rhodes explains "It is traditional in pagan cultures for the Great Rite to be enacted at this time of year (see Initiation - 3rd degree) (italics added) because it is the time for the sowing of seed. For this ritual, the High Priestess as the Goddess of spring wears a crown of many lights or a flower tiara. Both represent her youthfulness. Some Wiccans plant wheat seeds at this time of year in a pot of earth. Others prefer to symbolically lay the phallic wand in Briids bed." Mr. Rhodes describes the referenced Initiation - 3rd degree ritual on pp. 93-96 of his text. On pg. 93 Mr. Rhodes explains "Only a third-degree member can give a third-degree initiation to a second-degree member. A third-degree initiation is required to run a coven. The rite is given upon request if the Priest and Priestess regard the candidate as suitable."

Wiccan binding initiation rituals explained in a c2000 modern text

The Grain Dolly (also called The Bride) commonly appears during Imbolg celebrations. For Imbolg the Dolly is constructed using dried grain from the last harvest, which is woven either into human form or woven into symbolic form. The Dolly is dressed differently at each Sabbat -- dressed as pregnant at Midsummer and Lammas, and dressed symbolizing the Crone at Mabon and Samhain. At Imbolg the Dolly is dressed as a bride, and is laid in a small corn crib (the Bride's Bed) awaiting her sun/husband.

All these celebrations share a common theme: hastening the end of the harsh hungry Winter and hastening the return of Spring with its agricultural fertility. In the United States Imbolg coincides with Groundhog's Day, a day when the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil rises from his Winter slumber and seeks his shadow. No shadow indicates an early Spring, while a strong shadow indicates six more weeks of harsh Winter. IMO the Groundhog's Day celebration symbolizes arrival of a new sun/suitor. If no shadow appears upon the sun/suitor's arrival, then fertile Spring quickly arrives. But if the new sun/suitor detects a strong shadow (symbolizing the former God), then the new sun/suitor hides for another six weeks and fertile Spring's arrival is postponed. Back to List

Ostara: Sunset March 21 (midnight March 22 Stonehenge time) is the sabbat Ostara (pronounced Oh-star-ah), a sabbat celebrating the Earth's fertility and the Sun's return. Ostara marks the Spring Equinox, the time in the Earth's annual cycle when the Sun again crosses the Equator and returns to the Earth's Northern Hemisphere. Many Ostara myths concern deities' struggles to return from the Underworld to the Land of the Living. Odin, Osiris, Mithras, Orpheus and Persephone are among the deities associated with the sabbat Ostara and these death/rebirth myths.

Ostara, a sabbat of great importance in Greek, Roman and the Nordic lands, is named after the ancient German virgin goddess of Spring. The Teutons honored their Spring goddess Eostre at this festival -- some associate the Teutonic goddess Eostre with the Christian holiday Easter. And Teutonic custom dictates that new clothing (symbolizing rebirth) be worn at Ostara -- it is considered extremely bad luck to wear new clothing before the Ostara celebrations.

The Greco-Roman tradition celebrated Ceres, their grain goddess, from Ostara until the first harvest -- grain is the staff of life. The lamb (and more importantly the egg) symbolize Ostara, fertility and youth. In Greco-Roman times, young men playing the roles of lusty young gods would offer lilies (another Greco-Roman symbol of life) to young women during Ostara. A young woman accepting a lily (and the young man's intimacies) was accepting a wedding engagement.

Slavic cultures believe that Death has no power over the living during Ostara. Slavic Ostara rituals include symbolically throwing Death into a river to drown. After this ritual drowning, Slavs pass red-dyed eggs among celebrants during their procession to the Ostara ritual feast.

These Slavic Ostara celebrations bear remarkable resemblence to Mardi gras, an annual masked celebration held in Paris and in New Orleans, both river cities. The masks worn during Mardi gras are symbolic attempts to confuse Death by obscuring the identity of the living. The masks worn during Mardi gras also permit royalty (i.e., the deities) to celebrate anonymously and safely among the common people.

In British Ostara rituals, a young man and young woman respectively were chosen to symbolize Lord of the Greenwood (a British version of the Horned God) and the Green Goddess (a fertile young virgin/mother).

St. Patrick's Day roughly corresponds with Ostara, the everpresent green symbolizing fertility and bounty. After repeatedly being driven out of Ireland, Patrick's procession journeyed to Tara, the seat of high government, on Easter to reaffirm Patrick's faith. Beer effectively is grain wine (sacred to Ceres) and grain wine flows freely on St. Patrick's Day. Honey traditionally symbolizes the Spring Pagan Sabbats -- IMO mead (honey wine) also deserves its place on the Ostara banquet table.

IMO Ostara could have been the inspiration for naming Scarlett O'Hara's fertile plantation Tara in Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone With The Wind. In Greco-Roman times, farmers sought special Ostara blessings for their freshly-tilled fields.

On the North and South American continents, Native Americans having astronomical knowledge celebrated the Spring Equinox and the Sun's return. Pagans consider Native American burial mounds and other native American historical sites to be sacred places. Pagans often hold equinox and solstice celebrations at publicly-accessible Native American sites (e.g., the trapezoidal Cahokia Mounds in southwestern Illinois). Back to List

Beltane: Sunset April 30 (midnight May 1 Stonehenge time) brings the sabbat Beltane (pronounced Beel-teen or Bell-tayn), a celebration of fertility and life above all else. Beltane marks Summer's beginning and is a time to celebrate the eternal wheel of reincarnation and the return of the Wiccan God. Beltane falls opposite Samhain (midnight October 31 Stonehenge time, Winter's beginning) on the Wheel of the Year. Beltane (the final phase of planting) and Samhain (the third and final harvest) are the two most important sabbats.

On pg. 128 of her family-oriented text The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways (ISBN 1-56718-663-7), author Ms. Edain McCoy explains "The Great Rite, an often misunderstood pagan ritual, is enacted on this Sabbat in nearly every modern pagan circle. The Great Rite symbolizes the sexual union, or sacred marriage, of Goddess and God from whose union comes all creation. The Rite is performed by one male and one female who are representative of the male and female polarities of deity. They unite sexually in a symbolic manner by placing a knife (a phallic symbol) into the chalice (primal female image), though some traditions allow for everyone to leave the circle except the two participants, the only ones who know how the Rite is enacted." (italics added)

Many Pagans believe that the name Beltane derives from the English word balefire meaning boon or extra. European monarchs marked the Beltane sabbat's beginning by lighting balefires on high hills -- having sex with ladies from the families of lesser nobility was included within the balefire ritual. Lesser noblemen then could light their own balefires on lower hills (and themselves have sex with ladies from the families of even lesser nobility or with commoners) and could begin their own Beltane celebrations. The ritual sex included within the balefire celebrations equates to the Aristocracy's (e.g., the King's, noblemen's or local land owner's) first night privileges -- the Aristocracy's right to control who could marry whom and the Aristocracy's right to bed any young lady first on her wedding night. The balefire ritual replenished the Aristocracy's energy and symbolically blessed the young lady bedded by the Aristocrat. The balefire ritual also maintained the continuity of the Aristocracy -- the pecking order is a time-honored tradition.

During Beltane, Pagan commoners celebrated having survived Winter's hardship and renewed their sense of community under their monarch and nobility. The balefires symbolized the warmth and vigor of the life-giving Sun and a commitment to maintain the Pagan family. The balefire ritual also focused the Aristocracy's power within the minds of their subjects: We control the farm land and Winter will return -- wanna eat? Monarchs and nobility provided much food and drink to be served during Beltane celebrations -- a treat and a relief after Winter's sparse drab fare.

Celebrants customarily took home a smoldering piece of the Beltane balefire to light the first cookfire of Summer and to bring Summer blessings to their own home -- the celebration continues at home after the community's Beltane fertility celebration. The same custom prohibits giving Beltane balefire embers to outsiders. This taboo reflects European belief that faeries could not ignite their own fires but must obtain fire from humans. Tradition states that faeries dress as humans, visit community Beltane celebrations and request balefire embers to start their own fires (propagate life). The same tradition states that faeries obtaining live embers gain some measure of power over the donor. This European tradition reflects a normal human desire to exclude outsiders from (the Beltane fertility) rituals.

Depictions of a balefire and of dancing around the May Pole

Dancing around the May Pole is another Beltane tradition. As depicted in Ms. Edain McCoy's text Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition (ISBN 0875427324) and (with Scottish Tradition variation) in the 1975 Pagan classic film The Wicker Man starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland, the May Pole was constructed by removing all but the topmost branches from a communal pine tree. White and red ribbons that represented the Pagan Goddess and God, respectively, were attached to the tree beneath the remaining pine branches. Women holding the white ribbons and men holding the red ribbons danced around the May Pole, interweaving the white and red ribbons around the May Pole. The May Pole represented a phallus, the untrimmed topmost pine branches represented pubic hair, and the interwoven ribbons represented the female birth canal surrounding the phallus. Back to List

Midsummer: Sunset June 21 (midnight June 22 Stonehenge time), the Northern Hemisphere's Summer Solstice, is the sabbat Midsummer. This sabbat was called Vestalia in ancient Rome, Alban Heflin in the Anglo-Saxon Tradition and All Couple's Day in Greece. Summer Solstice marks the longest day(light) of the year, the height of the Sun's (the Wiccan God's) power. June is the traditional time to wed in Europe and in the United States.

In Scotland the Midsummer sabbat was called Feill-Sheathain. Scottish sabbats honored Cerridwen the Crone Goddess (reminiscent of Hamlet's witches) and featured the cauldron, a Celtic symbol of life, death and rebirth. The cauldron symbolized that the Sun is not truly dead, but was reborn from the Goddess at Yule (nominally five months later). The Celts would light balefires (and conduct their ritual celebrations) from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Biiken, the old Norse word for balefire, apparently still is used to describe Midsummer fires.

The Midsummer sabbat celebrates fertility. The Wiccan Goddess is heavy with pregnancy, new farm animals soon will be born and the Earth is green with crops and vegetation. Yet fertility rites continue both to ensure an abundant harvest and also to ensure the continued prosperity of Pagan families. The Midsummer sabbat also celebrates the Sun which warms the fertile Earth, and celebrates the strength of the Horned God and father. Midsummer balefires symbolize the strength of the Sun and the Pagan father, and (a-hem) fertility celebrations often accompany the lighting of the balefire.

Some Pagan Traditions alternate their God persona. The Holly King rules as Horned God from the Summer Solstice (Midsummer, June 22) through the Winter Solstice (Yule, December 22). The Oak King rules as Horned God from the Winter Solstice (Yule, December 22) through the Summer Solstice (Midsummer, June 22). These Traditions might stage a Midsummer ritual battle symbolizing the Holly King vanquishing the Oak King -- in the Yule ritual battle the Oak King will vanquish the Holly King. This changing of the Kings ritual marks the annual cycle of the Sun, and can symbolize the seasonal change of Pagan partners.

In Greek mythos the goddess Persephone (Proserpine) was abducted by Pluto (the God of the Underworld). Persephone's mother Ceres (the Goddess of fertility and abundance) mourned and the Earth grew barren. The Earth survived only through the other Gods' intervention. The other Gods forced a compromise where Persephone alternately spent six months aboveground (Summer) with her mother Ceres, and six months belowground in Hades (Winter) as Pluto's queen and consort. The earth (and Persephone) was fertile and warm during the six Summer months Persephone spent with Ceres. The earth (and Persephone) was barren and cold during the six Winter months Ceres mourned Persephone's time as Pluto's consort.

Twenty-First Century society with its high divorce rates offers another analogy. Children of divorced parents often live with each of their biological parents during a portion of the year. Midsummer (end of the school year) and Yule (holiday break) are times when children's transition between parents might occur. And the changing of the Kings can symbolize separation and divorce -- a new and loving partner vanquishing an indifferent, abusive or (morally-)bankrupt partner.

Many Traditions view Midsummer as a time for family closeness. Scandinavians celebrate Thing-Tide just after the time of Midsummer. Thing-Tide is a gathering of families to conduct business before celebration and feasting. St. John's Day is celebrated in Ireland just before the time of the Midsummer sabbat. Some Irish believe that faeries cart off prized livestock and unsuspecting human revelers (particularly young maidens) on St. John's Day. German folklore contains numerous stories of foolish and naive persons wandering into the night woods during Midsummer and never returning. Consider the tale of Hansel and Gretel where a witch attempts to roast Hansel and to hold Gretel as a servant.

The association of Midsummer with family closeness (and with stories of family members disappearing during Midsummer) might be related to the myth of Persephone's abduction by Pluto. The Holly King / Oak King Tradition might be related to the myth of Persephone serving two rulers -- Pluto the god of Hades and Persephone's mother Ceres, the goddess of fertility and abundance.

During Midsummer, Pagans traditionally gathered magickal and medicinal plants to dry and store for Winter use. (This practice explains why Midsummer sabbat is called Gathering Day in Wales.) The Celtic Druids gathered their sacred mistletoe (the Golden Bough) on Midsummer sabbat. The North American Miami Indians gathered buckeyes (horse chestnuts) to fashion into protective amulets and jewelry. Lavender gathered during Midsummer have been used as aphrodisiac incense. Pine cones gathered during Midsummer have been fashioned into amulets of protection, fertility and virility. Back to List

Lammas: Sunset July 31 (midnight August 1 Stonehenge time) is the sabbat Lammas [an Anglo-Saxon word meaning loaf-mass (bread)] and the most commonly-used name for this sabbat. In old Irish a variant Lunasa means August. Lammas also is known as Lughnasadh (Loo-nahs-ah), First Harvest, and the Sabbat of the First Fruits. Lammas honors the Sun God Lugh (Loo) and his queen Dana, but Lammas principally is a grain festival. [Perhaps I am overly sensitive because I live in St. Louis Missouri USA (named for the patron saint of French King Louis XV), but whenever I see a variant of the word Lugh (e.g., Lew, Lewis, Lou, Louis, Louie, Luis, Luke, Lucas) I think of the horned Wiccan Sun God. Ironically(?) the Latin translation for Lucifer is light bringer.] In ancient Phoenicia this festival honored the grain god Dagon, and a significant portion of the harvest was sacrificed to him. Similarly, Native Americans celebrate early August as a grain festival and call it the Festival of the Maize. Corn, wheat, barley and other Northern Hemisphere grains are ready for harvesting by early August. Lammas is the first of the three harvest sabbats and a celebration of the Earth's fertility. Corn, wheat, potatoes and other crops harvested around Lammas are considered fertility plants and can be used within Lammas rituals.

Lammas rituals celebrate fertility and the Summer crops not yet harvested. In Romania's Transylvanian Alps (high in the Carpathian Mountains, the legendary home of Dracula) a fertility ritual involving animal sacrifice is practiced the first Sunday of August. A live sow is slain ritually on the high slopes of Mt. Chefleau in thanks for the abundant harvest, the sow's blood flows into the earth, the peasants touch their hands to the wet ground, and for protection and self-blessing the peasants use the wet blood to mark the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Some groups mimic this Transylvanian custom exactly, honoring the pig as an efficient converter of grain into lean meat during abundant times. Other Lammas celebrants might use red wine to symbolize blood during their rituals or might use human blood (e.g., from a deliberate cut or female human menstrual blood) during their Lammas ritual. And it is conceivable that some groups might use female human virginal blood within their Lammas ritual (i.e., a female virgin has her first sex as a part of the group's Lammas ritual).

Historically, Lammas is the traditional time for regicide -- king-killing rites. In some cultures no king was allowed to to die a natural death. These cultures believed that regicide facilitated the king's rebirth at Yule. These cultures also believed that spilling the king's blood into the earth was powerful agricultural fertility magick. Understandably, kings were not comfortable while among their advisors during Lammas celebrations and masks were not used during Lammas.

(If regicide seems a totally foreign concept, consider during election years the amount of time challengers spend assassinating the incumbents' characters, and the amount of time incumbents spend assassinating the challengers' characters. In the Twenty-First Century, I wonder how many hot Summer domestic arguments lead to divorce, overthrow of the husband patriarch and establishment of the single female parent household?) Back to List

Mabon: Sunset September 21 (midnight September 22 Stonehenge time) is the sabbat Mabon (May-bone or Mah-boon), named for the Welsh God who symbolized the male fertilizing principle in Welsh mythology. Some consider Mabon to be Persephone's male counterpart.

In Europe Mabon marked the end of the second harvest when Autumn crops (grapes, nuts and apples) were gathered. The equinox marked the infamous Festival of Dionysus (the God of Wine) in ancient Rome. The Scottish and Welsh poured Mabon wines onto the ground during their celebrations, symbolically honoring the aging Goddess moving into her Crone aspect and as a symbolic blood sacrifice so that the God might live until Samhain.

Mabon marks the beginning of Autumn, the time when the earth has surrendered its harvest and Nature withers to be renewed again in the Spring. Similar to the European Harvest Home festival, Pagans refer to this Autumn Equinox as The Witches' Thanksgiving. Typical Mabon activities include cider pressing, grain threshing, dancing, feasting from the plentiful harvest, and crowning a Harvest King and Harvest Queen. The Harvest King and Harvest Queen ritually symbolize the Pagan God and Goddess, and represent the Earth's survival through the upcoming Winter's hardship for renewed fertility in the Spring. The color blue symbolizes the Mabon Harvest King, while the color green symbolizes the Mabon Harvest Queen. The cornucopia (horn of plenty) symbolizes Mabon. The cornucopia is both a phallic symbol and a symbol of the Earth's fertility.

In China, Mabon is known as Chung Ch'iu and marks the end of the rice harvest.

Judaism celebrates Succoth near this time, a harvest holiday often observed by building a temporary outdoor dwelling decorated with fall vegetables in which all Succoth meals are served.

Contemporary United States Mabon activities can include wine tasting parties and Summer hayrides followed by outdoor cookouts around a bonfire.

Mabon is the Autumn Equinox, the time when day and night are in balance and all other things likewise balance for one brief moment. The God and Goddess are thought to have equal power on Mabon, as do the forces of good and evil. Mabon marks a seasonal transition, the Deities are aging and the Wiccan God will die with the old year. Mabon is a time to prepare for the upcoming Winter and its hardships. Back to List

A family-oriented comprehensive discussion of the Pagan Sabbats

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