Pagan Sabbats represent one of the three major sets of Pagan Holidays and Rituals of the Wolf and Raven Path of Paganism. Another set is the Esbats, or moon rituals. The third set consists of the various personal rituals that most pagans go through, such as initiation and handfasting.
The Pagan Sabbats follow a pattern called the Wheel of the Year. This represents the cycle of nature and the seasons. The eight Sabbats are spread through the Wheel of the Year, representing both the changing of the seasons and the symbolic lives of the God and Goddess.
The life of the God and Goddess are integral to an understanding of the Wheel of the Year. The God, representing the Sun, is born on Yule, after the longest night of the year. He grows in power until Litha, the Summer Solstice, then dies as the days begin to grow shorter, only to be reborn again at Yule. The Goddess acts as both Mother and Consort to the God.
Yule (Dec 20-23) - Winter Solstice, called Yule, is the longest night of the year. It is the start of winter, when the earth sleeps. We celebrate the rebirth of the Sun and the knowledge that spring will come again.
Imbolc (Feb. 2) - Even more so than Yule, Imbolc is a celebration of light. Falling halfway between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox, this is often the time when we begin to see the first signs of Spring. The Sun is reborn, and growing in power, but is not yet at its full strength.
Ostara (March 20-23) - The Vernal (or Spring) Equinox, Ostara is a celebration of burgeoning fertility. Spring has begun in full force, and the world is beginning a cycle of renewal. The egg and rabbit are both traditional symbols of Ostara.
Beltane (May 1) - Beltane, or Mayday, is a celebration of sacred union. The vast majority of plants are in flower, and for many animals this is mating season. Along with the celebration and reenactment of the sacred union of God and Goddess, Beltane rituals include Maypole dances, bonfires, and making flower wreaths and bouquets.
Litha (June 20-23) - The Summer Solstice, Litha, is the longest day of the year. It often coincides with the start of the harvest season. Many traditions believe that unlike most Sabbats, Litha is a day of work. Generally lasting from dawn to dusk, this day of work is meant to remind us of the labor of bringing in the first fruit harvests of the year.
Lammas (July 31) - Lammas is the first of the Harvest festivals. It is the time to begin to realize the results of our efforts throughout the year. Traditional foods this time of year include berries and bread made from the first grain harvest.
Mabon (Sept 20-23) - Autumnal (Fall) Equinox, Mabon is the Second Harvest festival. Most of the harvest is in and counted; the people know what they will have to survive through winter. With the first signs of winter beginning to show, people are beginning to finish their tasks for the year.
Samhain (Oct 31) - Samhain marks the end of the harvest for the year. The barriers between the worlds of the living and the dead are thinner than at any other time of the year. Samhain is a time to celebrate and remember those who have passed on from this world.
While Pagan Sabbats celebrate the solar cycle, Esbats celebrate the lunar cycle. The Esbats are celebrated at the full moon and, in some traditions, the new moon. The Pagan Holidays on the full moon are generally used for coven gatherings as well as spell work, and initiations. Covens that gather on the new moon tend to use it for quieter, more introspective rituals and for divination.
There are also many other Pagan Holidays that are marked by celebration and/or ritual. Some of these are listed below: