Within Wicca and Paganism, there is a strong emphasis upon reverencing Nature and paying attention to the seasonal shift and changes that take place, and for many good reasons. One of which is the profound impact that doing so can have on our daily lives.
Acknowledging the ebb and flow of the energies of the Natural World harmonizes you with those energies, increasing your conscious awareness of your connection with it All (because you’re never truly not connected, it’s just that sometimes we become so distracted, so preoccupied with life that we forget the Here and Now and lose sight of our connection with everything around us.) This creates a sense of stability and balance within our lives; we walk our path with our feet planted a little more firmly.
But a huge part of aligning yourself with Nature through Sabbat celebrations entails celebrating them in a way that is appropriate to where you live. It involves acknowledging the shift that takes place in your environment. This is not to say you shouldn’t acknowledge the traditions and customs that your ancestors and/or particular religious practice have associated with that Sabbat. Quite the contrary, for these acknowledgments strengthen our ties to family and community; they are vital to creating a sense of oneness with those around us and those who have come before us. It is these communal bonds and the shared experiences with Nature that were often the origination for these celebrations in the first place. A major focus of Yule celebrations may be on the return of the Sun and the lengthening days, but isn’t it possible that a major contributing factor in the creation of this holiday was that after being shut in for nearly two months, people were in need of a celebration or else they’d go crazy, that they needed to remind themselves that they were joined together by the bonds of family and community in this struggle to last the Winter, and that through those bonds and their shared sacrifices they would all survive. The returning Sun echoed this promise.
Rather, just as our ancestors’ customs came about from their experiences with the Natural World, so too should our experiences with the Natural World form the basis of our holiday celebrations. For example, a common theme of Imbolc is to celebrate the melting snow. But, if you live somewhere that hasn’t been held hostage by ice and snow for the past few months, it doesn’t really make sense to focus your Sabbat celebration upon this theme.
Another thing that should be a major contributing factor in how one celebrates the Sabbats is to keep in mind what is appropriate for you and your family. An obvious example is that if a Sabbat happens to fall on a Wednesday, but you won’t be able to celebrate until Saturday then by all means, celebrate on Saturday. It’s far better that you have a relaxed and thoughtful celebration than one that is rushed, a little stressful, and crammed into a few spare minutes before leaving for work.
Remember, too, that oftentimes it is the simple gestures that are the most meaningful. An elaborate ritual involving dozens of candles, lasting well into the night followed by a grand feast of roast lamb may seem like a perfect way to celebrate Imbolc, but your young children and vegetarian spouse may better appreciate a simple meal followed by a short candle lit walk about the backyard. This more humble approach may prove better at impressing the meaning behind the Sabbat upon everyone involved, too, especially if we are truly basing our practices upon those of our ancestors. Supplies at this time would have been low with little (if anything) to be gathered outside to supplement. Any feasting would have been modest and consist primarily of what remained of the previous harvest.
Keeping this in mind, the why behind how we celebrate the Sabbats can only ensure that our hearts and minds will be in the right place and that, regardless of how we do end up celebrating the Sabbats, it will be perfect for that holiday and for us.
Within the realms of Wicca and Witchcraft, these are fairly common words. But, the ease of which they’re tossed around so lightly within the “intro” books makes me wonder if perhaps the true depth and intent isn’t being lost. From what I gather speaking with many people just starting off on this branch of their path, my suspicions are confirmed.
Somehow the sacred aspect has been lost and the term now implies nothing more than a space, either a space in which one has their altar or simply a space where they store their supplies and tools. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when the purpose of an altar seems to have become nothing more than a place to store tools rather than the sacred place dedicated to the worship of one’s God(s) that it is truly supposed to be. Somehow, and almost seemingly quite deliberate, the sacredness is being stripped out of our spirituality and the mystery is being forgotten.
So, what is Sacred Space? Quite literally, it is any place that is considered sacred or has been made to be such. This is often maintained through repeated affirmations of the locations sacredness, i.e. frequent worship of local spirits or other Deities to which the space has been dedicated, or other such forms of spiritual expression and reverence.
One of the unique aspects of Wicca and many expressions of Neo-Paganism that is truly of benefit to us is that because we view all the Earth as sacred (either due to a belief of a connection that we all share that includes the natural world or due to a belief that all the physical is an expression or manifestation of the Divine, i.e. pantheism,) our Sacred Space isn’t confined to any rules or delineation. There are no specifications for elaborate buildings, no requirements for directional alignment or internal allotment. Rather, our Sacred Space is wherever we create it, whenever we need it, with whatever we deem essential. It needn’t be in a set, permanent location and doesn’t have to include an altar. It is a place where you do your sacred work that you create as necessary
As such, on one occasion, our Sacred Space may be found inside a basement, with an ornate altar setup including every magickal tool one could imagine and life size statuary of the Gods being honored, the next it may be a simple forest clearing with the only tools being one’s breath and intention. Another time, Sacred Space may be entirely internal, a “space” we create in our minds on the commute to work to give thanks for the gorgeous weather and prepare for the day ahead.
However, there is something to be said about using the same physical location frequently as one’s Sacred Space, for truly, that place is rendered Sacred. There is a subtle change that occurs in the energy of the place. Often, this can even be felt by those of differing faiths and practices (after all, how many of us have entered a Church or Mosque and felt the power of that place, the sense of awe it inspires, the feeling of peace, even though we may believe differently than those who gather there to worship?) Often, too, the place may become attractive to various energetic beings. For example, a forest that is frequently used to host rituals may become truly enchanted, with heightened occurrences of faerie sightings and such. The place has a feeling of calm, of wonder, and lights within us a childlike sense of awe and amazement. These are the defining traits of Sacred Space, not the ornamental trappings, but the way in which that space is used and the way it makes us feel.
There almost always seems to be a little confusion as to these two terms. Often, too, they seem to be used interchangeably -which only adds to the confusion!
So, let's see if we can't set some things straight.
It’s something that the majority of us miss when we begin to practice Magick, and that is that the only distinction there is between the “magickal world” and the “mundane” is that which we create in our own minds. Magick is life; it is the act of living. And as anyone who has practiced for a while can attest to, trying to distinguish magick as a separate aspect of our lives quickly becomes impossible.
At the most fundamental level, the world in which we live is nothing more than energy. Everything, every last bit, you, me, that computer you’re sitting at, that tree outside your window: it’s all energy. And there are no distinctions: everything is connected.
It is these two basic principles that make magick possible. And because of these two basic principles, it is possible for anyone to work magick: it is our birthright as energetic beings who perceive themselves as being separate from it all. This view of separateness, of disconnection, is what grants us the ability to work magick; it is what allows one to consciously create changes within the world that may have otherwise seemed impossible or, at least, highly unlikely.
So, truly, all one needs in order to work magick is the ability to focus. Without being able to maintain concentration for any period of time, one cannot work magick, it is simply not possible. One must be able to recognize energy, to sense the variances of energy, the subtle differences that make things unique within the physical world. Once one is able to recognize this energy, be it in a tree, a rock, plant, or one’s own body, it is possible to then harness that energy, to manipulate it to a goal. From there, the possibilities are endless.
Magick can then be used to one’s benefit whenever and wherever the need becomes apparent. It needn’t be relegated to the Night or certain specific Days of Power. Working magick is as simple as taking a breath and holding a thought, and, as such, you may notice the most interesting things begin to happen once you truly realize there is no distinction, that living and magick really are one and the same.
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the Lunar Phases, though the Dark Moon is a very powerful and strong aspect, this energy is not well suited to magickal workings. At this time the force of the Moon’s energy is lessened so attempts to utilize it to one’s goal rarely pan out.
However, though the energy is less, the effects are still just as great: the diminished amount and momentary absence causes its own sort of reaction, greatly different from that of its counter the Full Moon. These effects can be felt, on the one hand, as a feeling of restlessness and unease, anticipation and expectation. But on the other hand, the effects of the Dark Moon can manifest in us as tenuous emotions, heightened aggravation, and general impatience.
It is during the Waning Moon, as the Lady grows smaller, that we are confronted by the energy of the Crone. But, come the Dark Moon, the Hag turns Her face away, and we are left to confront our shared destiny; the Dark Moon is a reminder of endings, of release, and of death.
This is an in between time, a time of transition and change, of leaving one aspect behind us and preparing to enter another.
Beneath a Dark Moon our Lady takes pause and so, too, should we. Now is the time for reflection and careful consideration, now is the time to turn inwards and confront the shadows.