The summer solstice is the longest day and the shortest night of the year . The Earth tilted on its axis presents the maximum of its northern hemisphere to the solar rays. With the Sun at its zenith, this position symbolizes the victory of light, the forces of the day, the Masculine or Yang. Thus, what has been initiated into the spring equinox comes to full maturity.
Our ancestors have a broader understanding of natural phenomena than ours, and this day has been sacred since the dawn of time, all civilizations combined. The Egyptians honored Ra, the Romans glorified Janus - god of initiation to mysteries, the Celts celebrated the Oak King, the Christians celebrated Saint John. The summer solstice and its six-month cycle are called the "path of the ancestors" and relate to individual knowledge. Man regenerates himself psychically by refocusing on himself to reflect on his place in the order of the world.
In pagan traditions, bonfires and rounds celebrated the solar power allowing the emergence of life from matter and the beginning of the generous harvest season. We therefore associate with it the symbols of strength, vitality and abundance. It seems that we are receptive and connected to nature on this day and that we can then contact all of our inner power, the fire illuminating the way and driving out the evil spirits that might lurk there.
Some rites also complete these celebrations by associating the element Water, because if the summer solstice signs the apogee of the Sun, it also announces its coming decline slowly but surely yielding its place to the Feminine or Yin. It is also on this date that the astrological sign of Cancer begins, symbol of Feminine, motherhood, home, introspection, but also intuition, the Moon being also associated with it.
Throughout the year, witches and sorcerers engage in celebrations, and some of them are more important than others. These celebrations, reputed to be conducive to the practice of rituals, bear the name of Sabbats, when the cult is dedicated to the Sun, and Esbats, when it is dedicated to the Moon.
There are eight of them. Four are called minors and mark the entry into the four seasons. They are related to astronomical events and the corresponding dates therefore vary slightly to one or two days, from one year to the next: Yule, winter solstice ; Ostara, spring equinox ; Litha, summer solstice and Mabon, autumn equinox.
The four called major Sabbats are not related to astronomical events and it is over time that tradition has linked them to calendar dates: Samhain, 1st November, date considered as the first day of the new year ; Imbolc, 1st February ; Beltane, 1st May and Lughnasadh, 1st August.
They are celebrated on the Full Moon nights and are therefore 12 or 13 a year. Here are some of their denominations:
In future articles, I will return in more detail on each Sabbat and Esbat.