Sabbat (neopaganism)

From Academic Kids

it:Sabbat (neopaganesimo) In neopaganism, a Sabbat is one of the eight major seasonal festivals which make up the Wheel of the Year. These include the solstices and equinoxes, and four additional festivals sometimes referred to as the "cross-quarter days". The word derives from Old English "sabat", from Old French "sabbat", from Latin "sabbatum", from Greek "sabbaton" (or sa`baton), from Hebrew "shabbat" - to cease or rest - the same roots as "Sabbath (christian)" or "Shabbat (judaism)". See also "sabbath".

Many neopagans in the Northern Hemisphere recognize the following Sabbats:

The dates on which solstices and equinoxes occur shift in a regular pattern against the Gregorian Calendar widely used in daily life. See Gregorian_Calendar#Calendar_seasonal_error for a depiction of that pattern. For calculation of dates you can use the external Online Calculator for Dates and Times of Equinoxes and Solstices (

In the Southern Hemisphere, most Pagans advance these dates six months to coincide with the seasons; for example, an Australian Pagan will celebrate Beltane on November 1, when a Canadian Pagan is celebrating Samhain.

Spellings differ slightly and most Pagans are somewhat flexible about dates, tending to celebrate at the nearest weekend for convenience.

Most witches also hold smaller rituals, alone or with a coven, Lodge, or Circle, monthly, often at each full moon. Wiccans call these Esbats. Sometimes rituals are held at the dark moon as well. In many traditions, Moon meetings are working or study meetings instead of festivals.

Druid and Heathen festivals have different names entirely. (Druids only name the "fire festivals" differently - i.e., the equinoxes and solstices. The rest are the same.) Druids do not order their meetings by the moon but also hold regular working and study meetings.

Pagans usually also observe secular holidays in their culture, and sometimes festivals from majority religions - for example, participating in Christmas gatherings if the rest of their family does so - although they do not usually commemorate these holidays by rituals in their or another religion.

Cross-quarter points on the Gregorian and astrological calendars

Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh are sometimes defined as cross-quarter points and their dates seem to betray anachronistic respect for the Gregorian calendar. Unlike the astrological calendar the Gregorian is not aligned with particular astronomical events in the wheel of the year. Both the cross-quarter dates and the Gregorian calendar may represent however some ancient (now forgotten) practice in the alignment of a twelve-month calendar, practice in which the alignment is deliberately one-eighth of a circle (45 degrees) out of phase with that of the astrological calendar.

The astrological calendar has twelve months of equal length and can be described as follows:-

  • Months from solstice (winter in the northern hemisphere, summer in the southern) to equinox: Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces;
  • Months from equinox (spring in the northern hemisphere, autumn in the southern) to solstice: Aries, Taurus and Gemini;
  • Months from solstice (summer in the northern hemisphere, winter in the southern)to equinox: Cancer, Leo and Virgo;
  • Months from equinox (autumn in the northern hemisphere, spring in the southern) to solstice: Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius.

In the Gregorian calendar four boundaries between months are close to but several days earlier than the true midpoints between solstices and equinoxes. If the Gregorian calendar had equal-length months and were accurately aligned with the true cross-quarter points then the solstices and equinoxes would fall halfway through the months of December, March, June and September, and the true cross-quarter points would be on the boundaries between October and November, January and February, April and May and between July and August.

Until fairly recently, the four seasons were based on the cross-quarter days. The summer solstice (northern hemisphere) was called midsummer, now it is the beginning of summer. If the summer solstice were midsummer then summer began on Beltane and ended on Lughnasadh. In terms of length of day, a function of season, the pattern was sensible when this was the case. Summer was the season of long days. Winter was the season of long nights. Spring and Autumn were transitional seasons between the two. In the modern definition of summer, beginning at the summer solstice, summer begins at the longest day of the year and each day gets shorter.

External links

  • BBC summary ( of Pagan festivals
  • About the Sabbats ( by Judy Harrow

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