"Seasonal rites are virtually as old as the hills they used to be practiced on by most of humanity; and even today they are kept up in very attenuated forms by a small minority of cultists" —William G. Gray,, Seasonal Occult Rituals
^H^^k, n Wicca, the natural year is measured by eight major festivals, called Sabbats or Great Days. These special times are the equinoxes, solstices, and the four cross-quarter days that occur between them. Although most people are dimly aware of seasonal change,
Wiccans embrace the seasons with ardent enthusiasm. Festivals, both great and small, mark the beginning of winter, welcome the first breath of spring, proclaim the glory of summer, and revel in the harvest bounty.
The four major changes in the yearly cycle — winter, spring, summer, and fall—are divided into four minor, more subtle changes. For those who practice Wicca, these occasions are set aside to honor the God and Goddess, work magic, and give thanks for blessings received.
Sabbats occur approximately every six weeks. To those who practice Wicca, Sabbats are not just a change of season and weather, but rather are reflections of the life-cycle processes of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Physically as well as spiritually, we express our understanding of these principles by making use of these special times of power.
Using agriculture as our example, we view the seasons in terms of planning, planting, harvesting, and resting. In the early spring, the farmer will plan the garden, preparing to plant by late spring and early summer. In the late summer and early fall, the farmer will harvest the crops. In the late fall and winter all of nature rests and regenerates.
The Sabbats provide a natural time frame in which to work and measure personal progress. During the winter months, we think about what needs to be done or accomplished. In spring, we begin to prepare for the task at hand by formulating a plan of action and then planting the seeds of desire. During the summer months, we nurture and protect through hard work. With the coming of fall we are ready to harvest the fruits of our labors and receive the rewards for a job well done.
Many things go into making a Sabbat ritual work. Attention to proper symbolism, atmosphere, and ritual attire should be taken into consideration long before the event is to take place. Think of the Sabbat ceremony as a play you are performing for the God and Goddess. The more effort you put into the props and into your delivery of liturgy, the more influence your play will have. A properly performed ritual always makes an impression on the consciousness of those involved, as well as on the audience — be it human or divine.
One thing the solitary practitioner can do to make ritual special is to take the time to decorate. Use the standard altar arrangement described earlier. Then add seasonal decorations, flowers, ornaments, and freshly baked breads and cakes. Color coordinate candles, the altar cloth, and ribbons. If space permits, adorn the circle with flower petals, greenery, or brightly colored, braided ribbon.
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