The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Sabbats of Modern Wicca
Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days
Witch-hunters’ descriptions of sabbats have no relevance to modern practice. In Wiccan parlance, Sabbat is the term for eight seasonal festivals, marking the Wheel of the Year based on the ancient Celtic calendar.
The four great fire festivals include Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa, and Samhain. Samhain marks the beginning of the dark half of the year, the descent into winter. Beltane marks the beginning of the light half. These are the two portals of the year, birth and death. (Interestingly ancient Babylonian astrology also contains portals of birth and death, corresponding respectively to the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, which correspond to the witchcraft celebrations of Midsummer’s and Yule.) Imbolc marks the quickening, the first approach of spring. Lughnasa marks the sacrifice of the harvest, the preparations for winter.
Mabon, Yule, Ostara, and Litha are frequently described as the lesser sabbats, although some traditions do consider all of equal importance. Each of the eight sabbats is discussed within its own entry.