The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days
The word “sabbat” has two completely different definitions that are only tangentially related. When one hears or reads the word it is important to distinguish which meaning is intended.
Witch-hunters used the term to refer to mass gatherings of witches. Witch-hunters spun fantastic tales about what occurred at these sabbats that distort or have little, if any, relationship to true witchcraft practices.
Modern Wicca has reclaimed the word and uses it to refer to eight holy days marking the Wheel of the Year. The four major sabbats are Beltane, Lughnasa, Samhain, and Imbolc. The four minor sabbats are Mabon, Yule, Litha, and Ostara.
It is crucial to emphasize that witch-hunters’ fantasies may have had little to do with witchcraft practices of their own time. Their fantasies have nothing to do with modern witchcraft or with Wicca.
Because the two definitions are so different, they are addressed separately, in historical order.