Wicca Witchcraft is not just about casting spells and working magic. Wicca is also a wonderful life living religion, a continuous celebration of all aspects of life. In all, Wiccans celebrate 21 festivals (Rituals) each year. These are broken down into eight main festivals called “Sabbats” marking the suns annual cycle and that of life and nature. The other thirteen festivals are Full Moon celebrations called “Esbats” when they gather together to honor the Goddess and God.
The eight main festivals are further broken down into four Greater Sabbats, and four Lesser Sabbats. The four Greater Sabbats are those associated with agriculture and the bearing cycles of animals, thus their dates my vary slightly from year to year. They are known by a variety of names including:
Imbolc - (February 2nd) also known as: Oimelc / Candlemas
Beltane - (April 30th) also known as: Roodmas / May Eve / Walpurgis Night
Lughnasadh - (August 1st) also known as: Lammas
Samhain - (October 31st) also known as: Hallowmas / Halloween
The four Lesser Sabbats contain the “Solstices” and “Equinoxes”, the astronomical beginnings of the seasons. Again their dates may vary by a day or two each year, as they depend upon the sun’s entry into the zodiacal signs of: Aries (Spring), Cancer (Summer), Libra (Autumn), and Capricorn (Winter). These are:
Ostara - (March 21st) also known as: The Spring Equinox
Litha - (June 21st) also known as: The Summer Solstice
Madon - (September 21st) also known as: The Autumn Equinox
Yule - (December 21st) also known as: The Winter Solstice
Sabbats then are solar rituals, marking the points of the sun's yearly cycle, and are but half of the Wiccan ritual year (see Sabbats). The other half is made up with "Esbats", the Full Moon celebrations.
Esbats (Full Moons):
There are 12-13 full moons each year, or one every 28 and a quarter day’s. The moon of course is symbolic of the Goddess, as well as a source of energy. After the religious aspects of the festival are over, many witches then practice magick, tapping into the large amounts of energy believed to exist at those times.
Moon phases are important in determining the best time to practice magic. The term “Moon Phases” is use to indicate the periods of the moons reflected light as seen from the earth in its different shapes i.e. crescent moon or full moon. The moons cycle travels from New Moon to Full Moon back to New Moon. Its progress is broken down into four phases called quarter moons: first, second, third, and forth.
New moon / Waxing Moon / Full Moon / Waning Moon
The first quarter (New Moon) begins the cycle, but at this stage it cannot be seen for three days, the moon rises and sets with the sun and is therefore obscured. By the end of this first quarter, the moon should be visible as a slender crescent just after sunset.
The second quarter (Waxing Moon) covers the period half way between the new moon and the full moon. As the crescent of the moon grows up into a full moon, it is said to be in its waxing phase. The moon is sometimes called a Waxing Gibbous Moon while it traverses through it's waxing phase with a “bulge” on the left side. This moon rises in the afternoon and sets after midnight.
The third quarter (Full Moon) marks the beginning of the moons descent from full moon to new moon. At this stage the moon is at its furthest point from the sun, it rises as the sun sets, is visible all night, and then sets as the sun rises again in the morning.
The forth quarter (Waning Moon) marks the period half way between the full moon and the new moon. The crescent of the moon is decreasing and is said to be in its waning phase. The moon is sometimes called a Waning Gibbous Moon while it traverses through it's waning phase with a “bulge” on the right side. It rises in the early evening and sets after sunrise the next day.