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Sabbat Herbs and Elemental Potions
The eight annual Witches' Sabbats, which collectively are known as the Wheel of the Year, are very special times for circles and solitaries alike. During these Sabbats, many Wiccan covens throughout the world gather to celebrate the season and to pay homage to the Goddess and Horned God. Potions are brewed; candles, incense and bonfires are lit; traditional Pagan foods are feasted upon; Sabbat rites are carried out; cones of power are raised; divinations and sacred dances are performed; and positive energy and love is abundant. For modern Witches, each Sabbat is a night of not only celebration, but also of togetherness, magick, growth, transformation, and thanksgiving.
Contrary to popular misconceptions perpetuated by Hollywood horror movies, folklore, and the anti-Witchcraft propaganda which stems from Christian witch hunts of the past, Witches do not celebrate their Sabbats by eating the flesh of unbaptized newborn babies, sacrificing animals or human beings, riding on broomsticks smeared with hallucinogenic flying ointments, reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards, castingcurses, selling their souls, or paying homage to the Devil — an evil entity which is no more a part of the Wiccan belief system than is the Christian's patriarchal God. To put it simply, the opposing forces of God and the Devil are the concepts of Christianity, not of Wicca or Neo-Pagan Witchcraft.
The dualism found in the religion of the Witches is not God and Devil, but Goddess and Her consort, the Horned God. These two deities are opposites in many ways, but are not representative of the forces of good and evil as are the Christian's God and Devil. Rather, they personify the female and male principles of the Divine Force and the female/male polarity of all things in nature.
Another wild notion many uninformed people have about the Sabbat is that of nude and lustful Witches engaging in bizarre sexual orgies around a blazing bonfire. There is some evidence which suggests a possible connection between the Witches' Sabbat and the orgiastic Bacchanalian and Saturnalian rites once indulged in by worshippers in ancient Greece and Rome, and it most likely was from this theory that the idea of an orgiastic Black Mass first arose.
While it is true that there are certain Wiccan traditions that choose to worship skyclad (in the nude) and some circles practice what is known as Tantric rituals, or sex magick, it is highly unlikely that full-blown orgies ever take place at authentic Witches' Sabbats — especially in modern times when sexually transmitted diseases can result in fatality. Most Witches regard sexual intimacy as a sacred and private act, and the idea of a forest clearing full of naked Sabbat celebrants getting it on is probably as far-fetched as the thought of a church full of God-fearing Christians engaging in a Sunday morning orgy.
Many covens gather for Sabbat celebrations either in a sacred outdoor space or indoors, depending upon various factors, such as weather conditions, access to worship areas, personal preferences, and so forth. Fire festivals can be held indoors utilizing candles, fireplaces, or cauldron fires if outdoor bonfires are not possible. Outdoor gatherings can be held just about anywhere. Whether it be a forest clearing, a beach, a hillside, a field of wildflowers, a suburban backyard, or even a rooftop garden in the city, the important thing is that you feel comfortable and spiritually connected to the energies of the Earth and to the magick of Mother Nature's spell.
Solitary Witches who do not belong to a coven often gather with other solitaries at Sabbat time; however, there is nothing wrong with a Witch observing a Sabbat alone at her altar as long as the spirit of the Goddess and the Horned God is within her heart. (Remember, the main purpose of a Sabbat is to honor the Old Ones and to commemorate the turning of the Wheel of the Year. It is not necessary to throw a lavish party or belong to a coven in order to do this.)
Each of the eight Sabbats possess their own traditional herbs. Many of these are used in the making of special Sabbat potions, incense, foods, and magickal teas. Some Witches also use them to create seasonal potpourris which are kept on the altar during ceremonies. Some give them as Sabbat gifts to loved ones, and others cast them into sacred fires as offerings to the ancient gods. The essential oils which correspond to these herbs are used to anoint Sabbat candles and to make magickal perfumes.
Please note: Each year the astronomical dates of the four lesser Sabbats (the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, and the Summer and Winter Solstices) change, usually by one or two days. To be sure of the exact date of each lesser Sabbat, consult an up-to-date astrological calendar or any other current calendar of days showing the exact dates (and times) of the equinoxes and solstices.
Also known by its Gaelic name, Imbolc, this Sabbat is traditionally celebrated on February 2. It was originally observed by the ancient Celts, who celebrated it as a festival marking the reawakening of the Earth from her long winter sleep.
Many Wiccans celebrate Candlemas as a Sabbat which symbolizes the transformation of the Threefold Goddess from Her aspect of the dark Crone of Winter into that of the Maiden, or Virgin, of the Spring season. Some Wiccan traditions celebrate this day of the year as the festival of the ancient Celtic goddess Brigit (or Brigid) — a deity who presided over fire, wisdom, poetry, and sacred wells, and also the arts of prophecy, divination, and healing.
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of Candlemas include angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, celandine, heather, myrrh, and all yellow flowers. As this Sabbat occurs while the Sun is in Aquarius, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
Occurring approximately on the twenty-first day of March, this Sabbat celebrates balance. It is a time when the hours of daylight are equal to the hours of night's darkness, thus symbolizing the balance of the Goddess/Moon by the Horned God/Sun.
In some Wiccan traditions the Spring Equinox is celebrated as the sacred day of Eostre — an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess who presided over fertility, and from whose name the Christian holiday of Easter is derived. Interestingly, before being observed as the resurrection day of the crucified Jesus Christ, Easter was in pre-Christian times celebrated as an erotic Pagan fertility rite!
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of the Spring Equinox include acorns, celandine, cinquefoil, crocus, daffodil, dogwood, Easter lily, honeysuckle, iris, jasmine, rose, strawberry, tansy, and violets. As the Sun enters Aries each year on the Spring (also known as Vernal) Equinox, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
Also known as May Day, this is a Sabbat that celebrates the fertility of the Earth and the sacredness of Mother Nature. Observed on the first day of May, Beltane is regarded by many Wiccan traditions as a time to celebrate the sacred union of the Goddess and Her consort, the Horned God. Others dedicate it solely to the Goddess in Her form of Maia, the ancient Roman goddess of springtime, from whose name the month of May is derived. The ancient Druids celebrated Beltane with huge feasts, the lighting of bonfires, and the sacrificing of newborn cattle to the god Belenus (after whom Beltane was named).
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of the Beltane Sabbat include almond, angelica, ash tree, bluebells, cinquefoil, daisy, frankincense, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, marigold, meadowsweet, primrose, roses, satyrion root, woodruff, and yellow cowslip. As Beltane occurs while the Sun is in Taurus, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
Occurring on approximately the twenty-first day of June, this Sabbat marks the longest day of the year and is a time for celebrating the Sun (the sacred symbol of the Goddess's consort). It is also a time of fertility rites, bonfires, frolicking fairy-folk, and fortune-telling.
In the days of the ancients, this was the time of year when the white-robed Druid priests would perform their sacred mistletoe-cutting ceremonies with a golden sickle, followed by the traditional sacrificing of two white bulls. Often, captured enemies and criminals were encased in great wicker effigies and burned alive as sacrificial offerings.
It was also the most important fire festival of the solar calendar and was celebrated with sacred flames and magickal fires.
According to occult tradition, the mysterious and magickal powers of all herbs are at their peak on this special day. Therefore, the Summer Solstice is the ideal (as well as traditional) time of year for Witches to go out into the wild and gather their various herbs for potions, spellcraft, divination, and healing.
Traditional ritual herbs and oils of this Sabbat include chamomile, cinquefoil, elder, fennel, hemp, larkspur, lavender, male fern, mugwort, pine, roses, Saint John's wort, wild thyme, wisteria, and verbena. As the Sun enters Cancer each year on the Summer Solstice, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
Also known by its Gaelic name, Lughnasadh, the Sabbat of Lammas is traditionally celebrated on the first day of August. It commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and is, for many Witches, a time for performing special harvest rites, baking homemade corn bread and berry pies, visiting sacred wells, and performing divinations.
The ancient Celts dedicated this day to their tribal god Lugh (after whom Lughnasadh is named). He was a shapeshifting divine being whose name means "Lord of Skills." The fact that he was said to have had a single eye (the "Eye of Heaven") suggests that he was also worshipped as a solar deity.
Many Wiccan traditions honor the spirit of the harvest by the ritual blessing of a new corn dolly or kirn baby (a human-shaped figure formed from the last sheaf of corn) and the sacrificial burning of the old one from the previous year. This practice is rooted in a European folk tradition dating back to pre-Christian times.
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of Lammas include acacia flowers, aloe, blackberry, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower, and wheat. As Lammas occurs while the Sun is in Leo, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
Occurring approximately on the twenty-first day of September, this Sabbat, like the Spring Equinox, is also a time of balancefor, once again, the hours of day and night are equal to each other. Many Witches regard the Autumn Equinox as a special time for thanksgiving, meditation, and introspection, as well as being the traditional time to perform Wiccan rededication and initiation ceremonies. And like the Sabbat of Lammas, the Autumn Equinox is also a festival of the harvest.
As part of their Sabbat ceremonies, many Wiccans celebrate the Goddess' transformation on this night from Her aspect of the Maiden into that of the Mother. Some invoke Her in the form of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, and perform special rites in Her honor.
An old Pagan tradition associated with the Autumn Equinox is the cooking of a special harvest loaf over a fire kindled with rowan, the most magickal of all woods. After the loaf is cooked, all members of the family eat a piece of it while walking clockwise around the fire. This is said to bring good luck, as well as good health and prosperity, to the family. The embers of the fire are then shoveled into a small cauldron or pot and used to bless the fields and ensure a plentiful crop for the following year.
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of the Autumn Equinox include acorns, asters, benzoin, ferns, honeysuckle, marigold, milkweed, mums, myrrh, oak leaves, passionflower, pine, roses, sage, Solomon's seal, and thistles. As the Sun enters Libra each year on the Autumn Equinox, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
The thirty-first of October is the most sacred and magickal day of the year for Witches and Neo-Pagans throughout the world. Also known by its more common name of Halloween, this Sabbat honors the deceased and opens the invisible door that stands between the world of the living and the world of the dead. It is a time for feasting, celebrating, spellcasting, potion-brewing, making contact with what is known as the Otherworld, and for the practice of the divinatory arts — scrying and rune-casting in particular.
As part of their Sabbat ceremonies, many Witches celebrate the Threefold Goddess's transformation on this night from Her aspect of the Mother into that of the Crone, or Dark Goddess.
In ancient Celtic times, Samhain (a word of Gaelic origin, pronounced as "sowin") marked the end of the Summer season and the beginning of Winter. (In ancient Gaul and Ireland, the year was divided into only two seasons: Summer, which began at Beltane; and Winter, which began at Samhain.) It was regarded as the Celtic New Year's Eve, and many of its old traditions continue to be celebrated in various places throughout the world.
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of this Sabbat include acorns, apples, broom, deadly nightshade (POISONOUS), dittany, ferns, flax, fumitory, heather, mandrake (POISONOUS), mullein, oak leaves, sage, and straw. As Samhain occurs while the Sun is in Scorpio, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat as well.
Celebrated approximately on the twenty-first day of December, the Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year (opposite of the Summer Solstice, which marks the longest day of the year). On this Sabbat, many Wiccans celebrate the annual rebirth of the Horned God.
In pre-Christian times, the Winter Solstice was observed annually on December 25. This date was also the birthday of the sun god Mithra, who was celebrated in ancient Rome by a Pagan festival known as Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, or Birthday of the Invincible Sun. It was not until the fourth century A.D. that the birthdate of Jesus Christ (whose actual date of birth was never recorded) was chosen to be December 25, perhaps in an attempt by the Church to Christianize the old Pagan holidays. However, as Christian-oriented as the holiday of Christmas may claim to be, nearly all of its customs are steeped richly in Pagan symbolism.
The traditional ritual herbs and oils of this Sabbat include ash tree, bay, bayberry, blessed thistle, cedar, chamomile, evergreen, frankincense, holly, juniper, mistletoe (the most sacred of all plants to the ancient Druids), moss, oak (another sacred plant to the Druids), pine cones, rosemary, and sage. As the Sun enters Capricorn each year on the Winter Solstice, all herbs under the astrological influence of this sign are sacred to this Sabbat.
The Four Elements
There are four basic elements that play an important role in the practice of Witchcraft: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These ancient elements correspond to the four cardinal points of the magick circle as well as to altar tools, the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac, the four seasons, the planets, the four Minor Arcana suits of the Tarot, and so forth.
In the Nature-honoring craft of Wicca, one of the most important aspects of nearly every ritual is the orientation to the four directions of East, South, West, and North, and the invoking of their corresponding elements, which are Air, Fire, Water, and Earth respectively. (Note: The corresponding elements given in this book are typical of most Wiccan and magickal traditions.)
Each element is personified by a low-level spiritual being called an elemental. Together, these spirits serve as the life force and are invoked by Witches for balancing energy and to assist in magickal workings.
In Wiccan rituals, elementals are traditionally called upon after the casting of the circle and prior to the invocation of theGoddess and Her consort, the Horned God. Additionally, they are given thanks and bade farewell at the end of the ritual just before the circle is uncast.
The elementals associated with the element of Air are known as Sylphs; the ones with Fire as Salamanders; the ones with Water as Undines; and the ones with Earth as Gnomes.
These spiritual beings are normally invisible to the naked human eye; however, certain individuals gifted with clairvoyant abilities have claimed to have been able to see them. It is also believed that certain animals — especially those that are the familiars of Witches — can see them as well.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Magick Potions"
Copyright © 1998 Gerina Dunwich.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Also by Gerina Dunwich,
1: Sabbat Herbs and Elemental Potions,
2: Potions and Pantheons,
3: Magickal Infusions,
4: Mandrake Potions,
5: Earth-Healing Ritual and Potion,
6: Philtres (Love Potions),
7: Tarot Meditation Teas,
8: Weird Potions, Curious Notions,
9: Rhyming Spells and Potions,
10: Healing Potions,
11: The Magick of Oils,
12: Kitchen Witchery,
13: The Magick of Fluid Condensers,
Appendix A: A Glossary of Potioncraft,
Appendix B: Where to Obtain Magickal Herbs for Potions,