Originally our ancestors only celebrated the Greater Sabbats, Imbolg, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. These sabbats are considered to be the fire festivals and correspond to the center, or fifteen degrees, of the fixed astrological signs of the zodiac, Scorpio, Aquarius, Taurus and Leo. These are also seen as the time of the high tides. The herders were probably the first ones to come into tune with this cycle because of animal reproduction.
The Lesser sabbats, Yule, Ostara, Midsummer, and Mabon, came later and were probably first celebrated by the people who worked the land, or in other words, the crops growing seasons -- Ostara planting, Midsummer growing, Mabon harvesting, and Yule, a time to rest. Astrogically these sabbats occur when the zodiac moves from mutable to cardinal.
CLICK ON EACH SABBAT FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Celtic Witches' New Year, and the third and final harvest. At Samhain, the old God dies and is returned to the Land of the Dead to await rebirth at Yule. The Crone Goddess goes into mourning, leaving her people in temporary darkness.
Yule: Winter Solstice
The longest night of the year when the Sun is farthest from the Earth. Yule is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the God. This is a time of rebirth, when candles are lit to welcome the God who is the returning sun of the winter solstice. At this time, the Holly King (God of the waning year) is vanquished by the Oak King (God of the Waxing Year). At Yule, the two god-themes of death and rebirth coincide.
The slumbering Earth is beginning to awaken. Imbolg is a time when we worship the Goddess in her maiden aspect. She is the bride awaiting the return of the Sun God. The God is a spirited youth.
Ostara: Spring Equinox
Sping has arrived and the day and night are balanced. Ostara is the vernal equinox, when the God and Goddess walk the fields, causing the animals to reproduce. Some traditions view this as a time of courtship between the God and Goddess. Ostara is the German Goddess of fertility and rebirth, but also of enchantment, innocence and dawn.
A time to celebrate new life in all its forms. At Beltane, the God and Goddess are united in sacred marriage and the relationship is consummated.
Midsummer: Summer Solstice
The longest day and the zenith of the Sun's power. At Midsummer, the Mother Goddess is heavily pregnant and the God is at the peak of his manhood. This is the second time the Oak King and the Holly King do battle. This time, the Holly King is victorious.
The first harvest. Lammas, or Lughnasadh, marks the time when the Goddess is honored as the mother who has given birth to bounty. The God is honored as the Father of Prosperity.
Mabon: Autumnal Equinox
The Witches' Thanksgiving and the second harvest. Day and night are of equal length, looking forward to the days' shortening. The Autumn Equinox is the time of the descent of the Goddess into the Underworld. We also bid farewell to the Harvest Lord who was slain at Lammas. Welsh legend brings us the story of Mabon, who dwells, a happy captive, in Modron's magickal Otherworld -- his mother's womb. Only in this way can he be reborn.
The sun wheel at the top of this page provided by