Intro to the Sabbats

July 14th, 2001


What is a sabbat?  You hear the term thrown around quite a bit in the pagan community, but has anyone ever actually defined it for you?  As far as this lesson is concerned here is the definition:


Sabbat – Any of the eight solar festivals or observances of the pagan year.  The word is derived from the Greek word “sabatu”, meaning, “to rest”.

Now the eight Sabbats (Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer, Lammas, Mabon, Samhain, & Yule) were not derived from the practices of one tradition, nor part of the traditions that later adopted them (Norse, Celtic, Teutonic to name a few).  All of them were not even evident in the Greek and Roman yearly celebrations.  However, I think it’s the diversity of the origins of these occasions that has added to our richness as a culture and way of life.


Since the base definition of Sabbat (as I have mentioned earlier) is to rest, then it has become customary for pagans not to perform magick on those days unless there is a serious need.  Magick is, as we know a lot of hard work, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Some people perform their acts of magick just prior to the Sabbat to take advantage of the waxing energy caused by the anticipation of the pagan community, but according to some, this is a time for enjoying your friends, family, paying homage to your chosen deities and connecting with your self, and the world around you.


Before you break out in a sweat over worrying about what is and is not “correct” to do, please keep this in mind.  Again, the Sabbats were a time when our ancestors left their daily work schedule behind and got together to offer up their thanks and honor to their Gods and Goddesses, to play games, share news, make plans for the coming year, etc.  Sounds a lot like a family get together doesn’t it?  Well this is the type of culture that they lived in.  They understood that everyone played an integral part in the functioning of the community and the Sabbat was a time when they could come together and give ritual observance to that fact.  Society today does not function in quite the same way – we still depend on one another for things in our lived to function semi-smoothly, but it tends to be more impersonal.  For example, I don’t go to the neighboring dairy farm for my milk and cheese, and in turn trade off some of my vegetables – I go to the supermarket and buy the items I need with paper that has been assigned value (currency). 

So does this mean we are not honoring our tradition correctly? Certainly not!  Worry more about what feels correct to YOU and let others opinions be just that – opinions to consider.


In this Lesson we are going to deal with the first four Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year – Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer.  So without further ado, here we go.