Ostara happens at the Spring (Vernal) Equinox. The days becomes equal to the night, and the light finally overcomes the darkness of winter. Ostara’s theme is fertility. The God courts the Goddess and their sexual energies of desire flow over the Earth, leading to a burst of new life and growth upon the land by the plants and the animals. Here the courting God and Goddess’s desire to mate drive the Earth and its inhabitants to mate and bring new life to the land.
The Teutonic goddess of spring, Easter brings her symbol of the egg and her patron animal, the rabbit. Wiccans celebrate Easter during the Ostara Sabbat. The ChristainChurch tried to stamp out celebrations of Easter and her symbols of fertility (the egg and the rabbit), but they had become too deeply embedded in the people’s hearts. Christians got their Easter eggs and rabbits from this Goddess. How many Christians know that when they celebrate Easter, they’re using a term originated by Pagans?
Generally, eggs are a popular representation of fertility and new life. Early Wiccans revered the “cosmic egg,” as many refer to it, for the secrets it held; it contained and produced life. It looked like a stone but held life within.
Wiccan activities on Ostara include coloring eggs and decorating them with fertility symbols, and then hiding them for children to find.
The Sabbat Imbolc is midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox when the light is beginning to return to the world and it is celebrated on February 2nd. Wiccans associate the Imbolc Sabbat with fire as they do at the Yule Sabbat. Can you see a theme here? This is for a reason: Fire honors the god and gives him strength. And who doesn’t like a nice warm fire on a chilly night during the cold part of the year?
At Imbolc the goddess has finally recovered from the strains of giving birth to the god. She is now back and ready to start the growing season of the year. Now purified, the goddess becomes the young maiden once more. Because of this, the act purification is a large part of this Sabbat.
At Imbolc we honor the goddess Bridget, the goddess of fertility and birth. She is the Celtic goddess of fire and rules the art of forge craft or metalsmithing. Bridget provides inspiration and represents domestic arts like healing and cooking. We often use fires in the home as a nice way to honor Bridget, the goddess of the Earth.
Wiccans memorialize Imbolc, the time of purification, with the tradition of lighting candles. Candles provide inspiration and symbolize the growing light and strength from the sun god. Candles help coax the light into the year to come and bring on the bounty of nature. Imbolc is translated as “in the belly.” This refers to the coming of new life to the land.
At this time of the year, the ewes give birth to their lambs. Since the ewes’ lactation period has peaked at Imbolc, Wiccans view milk as an appropriate drink for this Sabbat. They enjoy lamb’s meat cooked on a sacred fire, paying homage to the goddess.
As the time of beginnings (births and the starting of new life), Imbolc is a good time for initiations and rededications for us. With the waxing year our intentions grow along with the light. And so our dedications to the gods grow in strength at this time.
Yule is when the god is reborn from the virgin goddess. The goddess turns once more into her youthful form, as the young virgin mother. At Yule the goddess is the new mother and the god is her child.
Yule is also the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. In early human history, people feared that the sun would not reappear without help. With this belief began the custom of lighting candles and fires to lure back the sun. It was believed that this ritual would help the god to be reborn from the goddess, by helping the goddess to have an easy delivery.
Evergreen trees are associated with the Yule season. Our ancestors revered evergreens. Why? Evergreens were seen as proof of everlasting life. They saw that evergreen trees were the one source of life that continued to live and stay green throughout the year. Even in the deepest winter. They didn’t die with the rest of the plants during the cold months. They were special. Beginning with the Celtic Druids of central Europe during the Late Bronze Age, evergreens became sacred due to their representation of everlasting life.
The people of the day brought evergreens into their homes and decorated them with small gifts to the god and goddess. Candles were placed on the bows of the trees (I do not recommend this due to fire hazard). This is where Yule trees come from, and, incidentally, where the Christian’s get their Christmas tree. The Yule tree was so popular that the Church couldn’t stamp out the practice. The rest is history.
For Wiccans, Yule logs are another nice custom of at Yule. The pagans of northern Europe began the custom of cutting off a piece of a Yule tree (usually an oak tree) to save for a ritual the following year. For the ritual, people would gather on a hillside for a sacred bonfire and celebration. Afterward, they brought home a lit branch from the bonfire to light their fires at home, which had all been extinguished prior to the sacred gathering. They would then light their last years Yule log in their fireplace to bless their home. This tradition continues today.
At Yule celebrations, we gather with our loved ones to enjoy the merriment of the Sabbat with food and drink. We open gifts and sing songs about the god’s return.
(Note that those without fireplaces can drill holes into the top of a Yule log and burn candles. Commercially made Yule logs with candleholders are also available.)
Blessing Baskets are a great tradition I’m starting up for this Yule. A Blessing Basket consists of a small basket that you hang on the Yule tree. Place the Blessing Basket somewhere special and prominent on the tree. What do you put inside the Blessings Basket? Small treats like candies and such, plus a small gift. Most important, include a piece of paper inscribed with a blessing of good fortune.
How to make a Blessing Basket
What you will need:
Putting it together:
1) Take the basket and decorate it in whichever fashion you like, keeping the inside empty, here mine is already decorated.
2) Take the tissue paper and lay it flat on the table.
3) Place candy and goodies on the tissue paper.
4) Place the slip of paper inscribed with the fortune and a small gift in the middle of the tissue paper.
5) Gather corners of the tissue paper and bunch the corners together.
6) Use ribbon to tie up the bundle.
7) Place inside the basket.
8) Make a loop to hang your Blessing Basket on your Yule tree.
On Yule each person picks a basket that they did not assemble. The person reads their blessing of good fortune which brightens their Yule season.
Samhain is the final harvest Sabbat of the year. At this time the last crops are gathered and put into storage for the cold winter’s months. The god makes his ultimate sacrifice at this time. But fear not his sacrifice is a willing one, for he does this for his children. The god is symbolized by the last of the harvest. He (the god of the harvest) is cut down (sacrificed) at this time so that we may have food to last us through the winter. The “Johan Barleycorn” songs came from this.
At this time of the year, the cattle and pigs are culled keeping only the ones strong enough to weather the harsh winter months. The meat is then salted and cured so that the people would be able to survive the long winter.
Samhain is also known as the witches’ New Year. The Celts felt that this was the beginning of the year. The reason for this is they believed a new life started at death. You needed to die to be reborn into a new life. That is just what the god has done with his sacrifice. He now resides in the underworld awaiting birth at Yule.
Samhain is also the time to communicate with the dead, The Veil between the worlds is the thinnest at this time. The Veil is the doorway or curtain that separates the land of the living with the land of the dead. Contact between the two worlds is now easily accomplished. So contacting past loved ones is common on this Sabbat. The dead are honored at this time. An example of this in today’s modern society is Mexico’s day of the dead.
The Wheel turns to represent death at this Sabbat, only to continue turning at Yule, to the beginning, representing life and rebirth. The eternal cycle of reincarnation is celebrated during Samhain. The old god dies to be reborn at Yule.
Mabon is a time of balance between light and dark. It is the autumn equinox when the days continue to grow shorter and the dark begins to take over the light. With the nights becoming longer, the power of the God is waning.
As the second of the three harvest festivals of the year, Mabon is also known as the witches’ thanksgiving. We give thanks to the God and Goddess for all the bounty and sacrifices they have made for us. On this Sabbat we have friends and family over for a meal of thanksgiving. Foods that are in season at this time of year make great dishes for the feast. Enjoy bread, corn, squash, other autumn vegetables. Don’t forget wine, beer, and mead.
Some witches pour some blackberry wine on the ground as a sacrifice to the Gods. This ritual gives us hope of keeping the God alive until Samhain, when the God makes the willing sacrifice to keep us alive.
What did you do for Mabon this year? Share your experiences of the day with me here in the comments.
Merry Meet. As we talked about in the last post, this is a blog for the neophyte. So we will start at the beginning.
What is Wicca?
Wicca, also known as Witchcraft, has been practiced throughout history. Some practices of Wicca or Witchcraft have their roots as far back as the stone age. This is why it is also known as the Old Religion. It’s also known as “the Craft.”
Wiccans honor the cycles of the Earth and Sky. We honor the seasons and the cycles of life and death. We perform Sabbats to honor these cycles. The Sabbats express the life cycle in the seasons, and the turning of the year.
The term “turning of the year” comes from the way we look at a year. We see it as a cycle or a circle. Never beginning, never ending, it’s an ever-turning wheel. This is why we believe in reincarnation. It will be clearer when we look at the different Sabbats and the roles they play in the life cycle.
As I said before, the cycles of the year are marked by the Sabbats. We as Wiccans strive to attune ourselves to these cycles at the Sabbats:
Yule (Approximately Dec 22, Winter Solstice)
Imbolc (Approximately Feb 1 or 2nd)
Ostara (Approximately March 22nd, Spring Equinox)
Beltane (May 1st)
Litha (Approximately June 22nd Summer Solstice)
Lammas (August 1st)
Mabon (Approximately Sept. 22nd Fall Equinox)
Samain (Oct 31st)
Now knowing a little about what Wicca, we will discuss how to practice Wicca in my next post.