Finally, as a novice witch or warlock, you will need to know about the times and seasons of the witches' year. These are the correct times when you will be able to recharge your magical batteries and draw down to yourself the new currents of elemental power to work your spells. The elemental power tides of the universe are marked by the movements of the stars, the sun, and the moon, but chiefly the latter two. Though these heavenly bodies are not the actual sources of the power, they are the main indicators of its ebb and flow in our universe. Whenever you wish to perform a magical act, you must work taking these power tides into consideration, in the same way a navigator of a boat times his movements to utilize the sea tides to his best advantage. Of course, you can work against the tide, but it is self-defeating for the beginner, and is best left for times of emergency or until such a time as you have reached a degree of sureness in your practice.
The sun and the moon are the two great hands of our cosmic clock. Whereas the hour hand or sun governs the seasons of the year, the moon or minute hand governs the sea tides and the hidden workings of the deep mind. As such, this heavenly body rather than the sun is the main concern of witches. In European mythology the sun has always been seen as a symbol of a male divinity, the moon a female one. However, worship of the moon as a supreme deity evolved much earlier than that of the sun. It is said among witches that in England at least the cult of the moon goddess predated the Druidic, solar religion, and that it is from this early Prytanic religion that four of the great annual witch festivals are derived.
These are the nights of October 31 (Halloween); February 2 (Candlemas); April 30 (Beltane), and August 1 (Lammas). Of these, Beltane and Halloween are the more important. The four solar fire festivals of the Druids are also observed, though to a lesser extent. These are midwinter, spring, midsummer, and autumn as marked by the solstices and equinoxes, and these together with the preceding four make eight Sabbats, or festivals, of the witches' year.
The practical import of the Sabbats is this: Halloween, Candlemas, Beltane, and Lammas mark the beginning of each quarter of the solar-tide cycle; first the tide of destruction and winter is initiated with Halloween, the feast of the dead, the first day of the witches' year. The dark tide of destruction reaches its high point at midwinter, the winter solstice. Candlemas marks the end of the reign of the King of Winter, Lord of Misrule, and the first stirrings of the bright tide of summer. At the time of the vernal equinox, the bright and dark tides stand equally balanced, with the bright tide on the increase; Beltane marks the beginning of its fullest spate, which reaches its high point at the mid-summer solstice. From here it begins to wane. The first stirrings of the dark tide are then felt at Lammas, the time of fruition and harvest when the crops are gathered in and fruits begin to ripen. At the autumnal equinox, the two tide again stand equally opposed, the bright tide waning, the dark ever increasing. At Halloween the tide of darkness again enters its full spate, and so the cycle recommences.
To farmers and those whose work is subject to the seasons the ebb and flow of the solar tide is, of course, second nature, for it influences the entire life cycle of all that grove upon the earth. But for witches, it is observed chiefly in coven activities directed at drawing down elemental group power, hence the timing of their Sabbats. The coven is seen to consist of a group mind which needs to be periodically recharged with power. This belief they hold in common with many organized religious cults, which is one of the reasons why the witch festivals often coincide with Christian or Druidic holy days.
When you organize your own coven, you should be fully aware of the import of the various Sabbats, as will be explained in the last chapter of this book. For the time being it suffices that you know when they occur and mark them off in your calendar accordingly. For all practical magical purposes, however, the phases of the moon are the most important thing for you to observe. The method of their employment is extremely simple.
Basically, there are two sides to the moon's character; when she is waxing, the bright moon; and when she is waning, dark of the moon.
All spells of a constructive nature should be performed when the moon is bright, that is, waxing to full. These would include love magic of any sort, sorcery designed to bring luck or success, fertility charms, protection, countermagic, and of course divination.
An old witch verse goes thus:
Pray to the Moon when she is round Luck with you shall then abound What you seek for shall be found In sea or sky or solid ground ...
As soon as the full moon is passed, we embark upon the dark of the moon, as the light wanes and nights get blacker. During this period you will perform all operations of a destructive or "black" nature, such as spells of attack and vengeance, binding operations (ligature) to prevent people from doing certain things, agricultural magic designed to eliminate pests or weeds, charms to cool off passions in another, and certain works of necromancy, that is, summoning ghosts of the dead.
Many witches when they form their own coven tend to, hold informal monthly or bimonthly Esbats (as opposed to Sabbats, from the French, esbattre, "to frolic") around the full or new moon, in order to have a general coffee klatch and maybe perform a collective ritual to aid one of the members or an outside friend who has requested help in someway. Whether you hold your Esbat at full or new moon, of course, depends on the nature of the spells you intend to cast.
So these then are the red-letter days on your witches' calendar. There are quite a lot of them. Thirteen full moons, thirteen new moons, and eight Sabbats. None of them are mandatory, except insofar as you need to make use of them, As a witch, however, you will find that the Sabbats are fun. and worth making an effort over, especially the Grand Sabbats of Beltane and Halloween.
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