The Esbats: A Wiccan Celebration
As followers of a nature based path, Wiccans and witches celebrate the Wheel of the Year--or the fluctuating tide of the seasons. The Wheel consists of eight Sabbats (pronounced SOH-bots) and thirteen Esbats (pronounced ESS-bots). While the Sabbats are the “big” festivities documenting pivotal changes in the environment, the Esbats are a somewhat “smaller” celebration that generally marks the full moons that make up the Wiccan calendar. The moon is symbolic of the Goddess, or the feminine force of creation that governs over our emotions, familial connections, relationships, and nurturance--so when Mother Moon is at her peak, the energy of the Goddess emanates in full force.
Covens or solitary practitioners often gather for every full Moon. Depending on the coven or individual’s schedule, some may choose to gather instead at the new Moon or perhaps even both. During my time leading an informal magic circle, I often asked my fellow witches to meet for both the new and full Moon. As the beginning of a new cycle, the new Moon provided a subtle time energetically for us to set intentions with a clear mind. At the full moon, our intentions came to a head as we drew in the energy of this celebration to bolster our personal strength and confidence going forward.
Esbats honor the Goddess as she is associated with the Moon, focusing on her loving wisdom and nurturing guidance. While the Moon is linked with the female deity, some practitioners may also honor their God at this time as well. Often a particular aspect of the Goddess is focused on for each Esbat. This is dependent largely in part on the God/Goddess that is worshipped by a group or individual, as well as the seasonal attributions of that time. For instance, July’s Blessing Moon marks a period of time in which all of life is in bloom--some may honor the Celtic God Lugh, who holds the power of the harvest and late summer storms. Celebrations can also be tailored to the astrological influence of the cosmos during the Esbat, as some practitioners feel that there is a large influence on the flow of life as dictated by the heavens.
Regardless of the way an Esbat ritual is performed, there will exist a common thread of healing. Magic is worked with the Moon for the sake of personal healing, as well as with one's community and maybe even the world at large. In these rituals we are offering to the Moon everything that no longer serves us--asking that in the place of these burdens we be blessed instead with light and love.
There are many ways to celebrate the Esbats depending on the style of one’s practice or what other elements they’d like to include. For a simple Esbat ritual, you’d need:
- A smudging stick -- a bundle of herbs used to purify a space and one’s energy. Most often, white sage is used.
- Altar space -- This doesn’t have to be a fancy shrine to the God and Goddess. This can be a simple table or even a cloth on the floor. The only thing it needs to be is a safe space where you can practice sacred work.
- Moon or seasonal decorations, crystals for the altar (optional)
- A candle -- While usually preferred to be white, any color can do so long as your intentions are in the right place. If you’d like, you can carve this with symbols relevant to the Moon or the seasons.
- A bowl of water
To begin, it’s important that you cleanse yourself, the space that you’re working in, as well as any items that you may be incorporating into the ritual. This will clear any energies that may be working against your intentions and bring in positive influences from the moon. Beginning at your feet and working your way to your head, circle the lit bundle of white sage around yourself in a counterclockwise motion while saying,
I offer this blessed and pure smoke to the Moon. May this smoke cleanse me of all that no longer serves me. May it cast aside my doubts and fears so that I may have more space within for the light of the Moon and the love of the Moon.
The counterclockwise motion aids in release and letting go. Once completed, you’ll circle the sage in a clockwise motion starting with your head and working your way back down to your feet while saying,
May this smoke fill me with the light of the Moon. May it bless me with the love of the Moon. May I be filled with hope, wisdom, and nurturance. May I have enough space within my heart to embrace the positive energy of the Moon.
Once completed, you can begin work on cleansing your materials as well as the space you’re working in. Again, you’ll want to start in a counterclockwise motion before working your way to a clockwise motion. You can tweak the above messages to fit each purpose.
Next, you’ll want to cast the circle and draw the quarters. What this means is you’ll acknowledge each cardinal direction and welcome in the elements to aid in the rite that is being performed. This is done by starting in a clockwise motion beginning facing North. For your reference, North is associated with Earth; East is associated with Air; South is associated with Fire; and West is associated with Water.
Hail to the guardians of the watchtower of [direction], the keepers of [element]. I honor you in this shared space. May you bless me with your guiding energy.
You’ll want your altar where you can face both it and the Moon. If you can’t be outside for this, that’s perfectly fine.The bowl of water and your candle will be the focal pieces of this space, while around it you may put whatever items that you think would be a good fit for the energy of the time. Personally, I like to use a few choice crystals and perhaps arrange them in a grid pattern around the middle. Facing the altar and with your head pointed up towards the moon or the sky, raise your arms and say aloud,
Mother Moon, keeper of the night and guardian of the stars,
She who moves the ocean’s tides and the flow of women,
And exists changed in form yet ever unchanging--
Mother may you bless me tonight with your guidance.
Please bless me with your warmth and your love.
Embrace me in your glow and help me to grow.
Light your candle. With eyes closed, feel the Moon as she is in that moment. Let yourself be receptive to her response. Feel the warmth of your life and all that you have. When you feel full of this experience, take the bowl of water in your hands and offer it to the moon, saying,
Gracious Mother Moon, Goddess of the eve,
Rich in ever present wisdom and guidance,
I revere you tonight and bask in your might.
May you bless me tonight with your love,
May you watch over me and inspire my progress.
In the coming days, may you please protect me
And guide me towards all that serves me.
May we honor the light in one another.
Again, take a moment for reflection here and think back on all that you have to be grateful for. Imagine what you'd like to achieve over the course of the next moon cycle, what you would like to be healed, and offer that energy up to the Moon.
When done, you can end the ritual here. Some people may choose to perform a Drawing Down of the Moon or the rite of Cakes and Ale. If you'd like, however, you can snuff out your candle, thank the Moon, and close your circle. In a counterclockwise fashion starting at North, thank each direction and its element for joining you in this space to undo the magical barrier you've created. The Moon water you've created can be used as nourishment for yourself or any plant life you may have.
Over the next few weeks, be mindful of the Moon’s fluctuations and your own. Notice what ways your intentions are being supported. During the Esbats seeds are planted for our optimal growth; its exciting and invigorating to watch as these aspects of ourselves grow.