Why these cross-quarter days are significant, whether you are in the Southern or Northern Hemisphere and what you can use the energy of these seasonal turning points for.
To witches, the cycle of nature emulates the cycle of life. Our souls incarnate into our physical bodies, we live our lives through experience, learn soul lessons and via death we transition back into soul state.
Nature’s cycles are similar; sunrise, daylight, sunset. The new moon waxes to full moon, then wanes to dark moon. All things are flowing and in motion. Nothing is permanent.
Originally a Babylonian word, ‘Sabbat’ was used to designate the quarter-days of the lunar cycle (Full, New, First and Last Quarter) thus occurring about every seven days.
Minor Sabbats (or quarter days) are the two solstices and two equinoxes since they “quarter” the year.
Major Sabbats (or cross-quarter days) bisect the four quarters of the solstices and equinoxes and fall around the mid-point (peak) of each quarter. This makes them power-days due to the climax of nature’s energy before its decline, similar to full moon energy which peaks then wanes.
In our modern technology driven world, these days Sabbats are mostly calendar reminders to explore what is happening around us in nature and to contemplate how the flow of seasonal energies impact on us; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
It is a time for reflecting on what we have achieved or for projecting what we would still like to achieve. When you connect with nature you instantly connect to the present moment.
Winter Night (Samhain)
Samhain (often pronounced differently due to Gaelic dialects, one way is sow-in with the “ow” sounding like it does in “glow”).
My personal name of preference for this festival is Winter Night, as I am not of Celtic heritage. It is often bundled into Halloween, All Saints’ Day, Old Hallow’s Eve etc. festivities, which is technically not the same celebration.
• In the Southern Hemisphere Samhain falls from sunset 30 April to midnight 1 May.
• In the Northern Hemisphere Samhain falls from sunset 31 October to midnight 1 November.
The nights are lengthened and we realise darkness comes before light; life appears in the darkness of the womb.
This fire festival is the gateway to the dark half of the year (a.k.a. time of the little Sun), holding the bright half in gestation as the seeds lie in apparent death underground although the forces of growth are always at work invisibly.
The passing into the darkness is the first step in the renewal of life and so this Sabbat marks the transition from the current old solar year to the coming new solar year at the Winter Solstice. (Not to be confused with the new astrological year that occurs when the Sun enters the Aries point annually).
The Earth’s surface changes appearance at this time, the fertile part of her retreat to the Otherworld to begin the creative work of the new yearly cycle.
All that flowered is dying and seeds fall to the ground to wait for the heat and light to stir life within them again. Plants appear dormant, sap runs slower. Sounds and appearance of wildlife decreases.
There is stagnation, death and decay. The Fae move to their winter quarters and the veil between our world and the Otherworld is thinner, so communication with ancestral spirits and the Fae realm is easier.
These are all aspects of the same multiform provider and nurturer on whom we all depend, who must, replenish through alternating periods of action and repose, and who touches darkness and death to find the source of true renewal. The mood is one of remembrance, harvest and reflection.
Suggested Plant Allies: mugwort, garlic, sage, thyme, allspice, cypress, elemi, frankincense, basil, yarrow, ylang-ylang, clove, pumpkins, apples, pomegranates.
Suggested Crystal Helpers: all black stones (especially jet and obsidian), dark amethyst, dark blue stones such as lapis and sodalite, smoky quartz and brown jasper.
• In the Northern Hemisphere, Beltaine falls from sunset 30 April to midnight 1 May.
• In the Southern Hemisphere, Beltaine falls from sunset on 31 October to midnight on 1 November.
Beltaine is also called Walpurgisnacht, and there are a variety of spelling variations such as Bhealltainn and Beltane. The festival’s name is derived from a word meaning balefire because balefires were traditionally lit at dusk for this fire festival as it is the gateway to the light half of the year (a.k.a. time of the Big Sun).
Beltaine is primarily a fertility festival, concerned with the return of full-blown potency evident in the surroundings. The days are long, the Sun is hot and showering us with energy, flowers are in full bloom, seeds come to fruition, fruit is ripening, trees have thick foliage and nights are sultry.
Heavenly Sun energy descends and Earthly energy peaks. Union (the Great Rite) between Earth and Sky results in unbridled life force. You can feel the bounty and passion of the sights, aromas and sensations of the Earth’s flourishing. The mood is playful, carefree and one of celebration. The Fae are very active, their powers are growing and will reach their height at the Summer Solstice.
Fire of course is purifying in nature, so aside from the celebration of Life and pleasures of the physical senses, you can symbolically raze all negativity from yourself and your space, leaving you inspired and free of stresses to make room for what you now wish to cultivate and see through to fruition.
Ashes from the Beltaine balefire would be scattered over the fields to bless and protect them, modern science has discovered rich nitrogen in ashes which is beneficial for developing crops.
Suggested Plant Allies: primrose, hawthorn, angelica, rosemary, clover, frankincense, ivy, marigold, honeysuckle, passion flower, rose, tuberose, vanilla, orchid, oats
Suggested Crystal Helpers: sapphire, bloodstone, milky quartz, amber, clear quartz, golden tiger’s eye, citrine, topaz