The Southern Sabbats

As the Temple of the Dark Moon is located in South Australia, we follow what we often classify as the “Southern Wheel of the Year” where the timing of the four Greater Sabbats (which are agricultural based and mark the beginning of the seasons), and the Lesser Sabbats (the equinoxes and solstices, the timing of which is determined by the relationship of the sun to the earth) relate to the Southern Hemisphere.

On the surface, the Wheel of the Year is similar in both hemispheres. The sabbats mark the cycles of sowing and reaping, the passage from winter to spring, then from summer and autumn. Through this cycle, followers of contemporary witchcraft and other earth-centric belief systems accept there are times of growth but also times of old age and death. In all things, there is wisdom to be learnt, not just in what is bright and new; there is also deep knowledge and vision in those things old and dark.

In gaining in depth knowledge of the Great Mystery contained within each season, we believe that despite the difference in timing and the fact that the Northern Hemispheric myths and folklore seem to be rather out of place in a sunburnt land such as Australia, they do hold many of the original keys with respect to understanding these Mysteries that could otherwise be forgotten.

In 2014, our High Priestess Frances Billinghurst published Dancing the Southern Wheel, a journey through the eight “traditional” sabbats from a Southern Hemispheric perspective. This book also included background to the original sabbats and seasonal observances in the Northern Hemisphere, astronomical happens in the southern skies, as well as local flora and fauna happenings and indigenous information. Throughout the book Frances has proven examples as to how these observances have been woven into the ritual context of contemporary witchcraft that the Temple of the Dark Moon aligns with.

Within contemporary witchcraft, the sabbats mark the journey of the God throughout his life cycle which is reflected in the landscape around us. Whilst the Goddess’s life cycle can also be reflected within the sabbats, and indeed her role is no less significant, her sacred cycles are usually honoured through those of the moon, the esbats.

A brief summary of the God’s life cycle follows with the dates given reflecting those which are generally observed in the Southern Hemisphere. For a more in-depth understanding of the cycle of the God, we naturally recommend you purchasing a copy of Dancing the Southern Wheel**:

Winter Solstice (also referred to as Yule): Occurring between 20 and 23 June, the God is reborn from the womb of the Great Goddess. His birth shines as a ray of hope amongst the long dark nights as it signifies the return of the light.

Imbolc: Taking place from dusk on 31 July to dawn on 1 August, Imbolc marks the slow return of spring. The newly born infant being nursed by his mother, the Great Goddess. Evidence of his return to earth can be seen as life also starts appearing again.

Spring Equinox (also referred to as Ostara or Eostre):  Occurring between 20 and 23 September, the God is now discovering the rising tide of life within himself. He becomes Lord of the Greenwood as nature bursts forth and flourishes at a rapid rate.

Bealtaine: Taking place from dusk on 31 October to dawn on 1 November, the light half of the year commences as the sacred union between the God and the Great Goddess is celebrated.

Summer Solstice: Occurring between 20 and 23 December, the power of the God is at its peak as he takes on his mantle as the Sun King. He realises too that from this point onwards his demise will occur – but such is the cycle of life.

Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas): Taking place from dusk on 31 January to dawn on 1 February, this sabbat marks the beginning of autumn. In preparing for his journey into the Underworld, there are affairs to set in order. The first harvest is celebrated in recognition of the energy given freely by the God.

Autumn Equinox: Occurring between 20 and 23 March, the God makes the ultimate sacrifice for continued life on garth in that his own life is cut down in the form of John Barleycorn. This is the second harvest and to some, the most important. As the God journeys into the Underworld, the inner Mysteries start to reveal themselves.

Samhain: Taking place from dusk on 30 April to dawn 1 May, the commencement of the dark half of the year has begun. In the lore contained within contemporary witchcraft, the God journeys into the Underworld where he becomes initiated into the inner Mysteries in readying himself for his rebirth.

The best way to fully understand the Wheel of the Year is to make observations over a course of at least 12 months, noting animal and insect patterns, plant growth (in particular native if possible), the height and strength of the sun as it makes its daily journey across the sky, as well as the moon. Note when and what plants/trees blossom, how vocal or busy birds become at the beginning of Spring, and what species of birds feed where. All these observances help you attune to your own natural environment better than simply reading pages from a book whose author probably lives on the other side of the world.

**If you reside in Australia and would like to purchase a copy of Dancing the Southern Wheel then email Frances for details.

All rights reserved, Temple of the Dark Moon (2018)