The Sabbat Rituals

Items 4, 5 and 6 have already been dealt with; all that remains to be discussed are your regular coven rituals, which will form the main bulk of your Book of Shadows.

The witches' year, like the regular variety, is divided into four seasons - winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Each season was characterized originally by a Sabbat, nowadays two Sabbats. They are more of an either/or nature, however, the first representing the beginning of the season, and the second, the height. In the past, their observance differed with location. For instance, in some parts of Europe, Beltane was celebrated as the summer festival, while in others, midsummer was accorded the same honour instead, with identical symbolism. Of the two varieties, however, the so-called great Sabbats of Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, and Hallows appear to be the older, antedating the solstices and equinoxes which sprang directly from the advent of a more sophisticated astronomical science, characteristic of the Druids.

But nowadays all eight appear on the witches' calendar,and you can take your choice which you will celebrate. Of course, most witches celebrate the grand Sabbats of Hallows and Beltane, if not all four. Some ardent practitioners even fit all eight in, but they are generally performed more on the scale of Esbats than Sabbats.

Ideally, a Sabbat should be held in a place hallowed by tradition; a spot sacred to the old gods, many of which exist still in Britain, the name usually being well-disguised under that of a Christian saint or the like. Often you will find a church has been deliberately built on the spot. This is one of the reasons for the traditional practice of witches' Sabbats being conducted in a churchyard, possibly even in the church itself as in the instance of the North Berwick witches in sixteenth-century Scotland.

A "Druidic" dolmen, barrow, or stone circle, which have always been thought of as gates to the other world, places still frequented by elven folk and the old gods, are also held to be ideal.

However, as a modem witch, maybe living in a land like the United States where traditional holy places, Amerindian in this case, are few and far between, you will probably have to content yourself, as most others do, with following the more general advice outlined in Scots 1665 edition of The Discouverie of Witchcraft, namely, that the place chosen be "dark and lonely; either in Woods or Deserts, or in a place where three wayes meets, or amongst mines of Castles, Abbies, Monasteries, etc. or upon the Seashore when the Moon shines clear, or else in some large Parlour ... "

Any unfrequented crossroad, hilltop, or woody grove can, in fact, be used, the first locale being traditionally sacred to both Hermes and Hecate, the second and third to all ancient rural deities; the farther away from man and all his works, the better. However, as a last resort, your living room or den will suffice.

The general outline for your Sabbat will be presented in the following pages, with any innovation germane to your chosen coven orientation being woven into the traditional framework.

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