About the Sabbats
by Judy Harrow
The word "religion" means "re-connection." What has been severed? What
connections need to be re-woven? How does our particular set of
practices help us reconnect what was wrongfully and tragically torn
Each Sabbat is a multivocal symbol. Sometimes you'll see the
used to mean by definition a multivocal statement, as contrasted with
a word, phrase or picture that has one simple and commonly understood
Thus is the Wheel of the Year taken as a whole (a multivocal
Multivocal symbols mean many things -- there is no one right and true
-- but normally the set of meanings is interrelated, a cluster of
branching from some common point. The Wheel of the Year, as we
it, has associations both with the seasonal cycle of Nature and the
developmental phases of human life. Thus it connects them.
- Modern technology mediates and cushions the impact that
make on our lives. Most of us are warm in winter, cool in summer, have
steady and reliable access to light and to food. We are safer and far
comfortable, but our awareness of Nature is no longer inherent in our
We have to work much harder to stay in contact with Her. This work is
essential. Even though it's not as immediately apparent, our lives are
still wholly dependent on Hers. People and institutions that have lost
conscious awareness of that connection are daily putting Her life and
at significant risk.
- The Sabbats were originally about the changing of the
seasons. But the
seasons change differently in different bio-regions. For example, one
my friends is eloquent and adamant that the Greek festivals speak
to her than the Celtic because the seasonal cycle in Southern
is much more like it is in Greece, an alternation of dry and rainy.
in the Northeast, things are pretty similar to the way they are in
If we work with myth systems that grew up
where we live, or in a place
much like where we live, our ritual work will help us notice and stay
with the local climate and ecology. One of the core goals of geocentric
religion is to increase our conscious contact with Nature. That means
not all Protean covens will be working with the same myths or symbols,
nor even necessarily with the classic Wiccan Wheel of the Year,
although certainly all our students should be familiar with it.
Sabbats, as multivocal symbols, are not only
about the Earth's
seasonal cycle. There are cycles and changes within human lives as
Some of those are fairly universal and predictable, and so they are
the seasonal cycle, while others are more personal and idiosyncratic.
have a need for "passage rituals," in which we mark, honor and
our own changes. Partly we celebrate them when they happen: a coming of
age, a handfasting. But by also celebrating the cycle in an ongoing
by mapping the human life cycle onto the Wheel of the Year, we tell
several important things:
So, the Wheel of the Year is an effective metaphor for
life, a valid part of our psychospiritual path. The Sabbats place us on
the Earth, in the human community, and on the time-lines of our own
The seasonal cycle is inherently sacred and is also the Great Model,
framework for celebrating the longer cycle of human life. Thus we
the two, as we so desperately need to do. Although this may sound very
modern, it is identical with the very ancient Celtic understanding that
religion is about negotiating and maintaining right relationship
Land and Tribe.
- We are part of Nature. Our lives reflect the life of the
Earth, and Hers
- We are part of the human community. There is a certain
similarity in the
broad outlines of our lives, basic experiences that all or almost all
us share. So even if we are not at that particular point in our own
life, by remembering or anticipating the common passages, we
our common humanity.
- We have a chance to anticipate and prepare for changes
yet to come. Specifically,
I think that many years of celebrating Samhain cuts through the general
culture's denial of death, and allows us to enter later life with
more like equanimity.
- We have a chance to re-examine the issues of life stages
us, and perhaps to come to new insights and better integrations.