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Ch.15 The Sabbats (WMB 15.b)

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @


Chapter 15 - The Sabbats - part b

Another possible meaning postulated by Robert Graves and others is that Sabbat was derived from the Moorish term az zabat meaning ‘the powerful occasion’. As already discussed the evidence for the Moorish connection is lacking, so although this is an appealing idea, and also sounds similar to the word azerak, it is probably coincidental. We may note however that the heretical medieval Christian sect of the Waldenses were known in Spain as inzabatos, derived from the word zabat signifying a ‘shoe’.[1]

One other possible meaning of Sabbat which we should consider is as a derivative of the term Sabazia, the festival of the Thracian god Sabazius, who has been linked to the Greek god Dionysus. Michelet suggested this connection in his 1862 work La Sorcière as part of his argument for the survival of ancient pagan worship into the witch cult. Again, whilst an interesting idea, this seems far less likely than the use of the word Sabbath in its Jewish connection, which as we have shown has a great deal of supporting evidence.

In The God of the Witches Murray gave the dates of the four Sabbaths, shifting the emphasis from a weekly gathering associated incorrectly with the devil by the medieval Christian church to a quarterly festival connected with the natural cycle:

“The Sabbaths were held quarterly, on the second of February (Candlemas day), the Eve of May, the first of August (Lammas), and the Eve of November (All Hallow E’en).”

Although Murray attributed these Sabbaths to witches’ celebrations, in fact they were originally linked to druids. Robert and William Chambers recorded an early occurrence of the celebration of the four great festivals in their 1842 work, Chambers Information for the People:

“Cormac, bishop of Cashel in the tenth century, records that in his time four great fires were lighted up on the four great festivals of the druids - namely in February, May, August, and November: probably Beltane and Lammas were two of these.”

This is an extremely significant reference which seems to have been largely overlooked. The text the Chambers are referring to is in fact the late ninth century Irish Psalter of Cashel, which contained reference to the four great Sabbats being celebrated by the druids as a cycle. This then gives us a clear precedent for celebration of the cycle of the four great Sabbats more than one thousand years ago by the Irish druids.

In The Witch Cult in Western Europe, Murray actually mentioned all eight of the modern Sabbats, though she stated the Equinoxes were not celebrated in England. Nevertheless it does give a precedent for the model of the Wheel of the Year found in the evolution of the Wiccan tradition.

“The chief festivals were: in the spring, May Eve (April 30), called Roodmas or Rood Day in Britain and Walpurgis-Nacht in Germany; in the autumn, November Eve (October 31), called in Britain Allhallow Eve. Between these two came: in the winter, Candlemas (February 2); and in the summer, the Gule of August (August 1) called Lammas in Britain. To these were added the festivals of the solstitial invaders, Beltane at midsummer and Yule at midwinter; the moveable festival of Easter was also added, but the equinoxes were never observed in Britain.”

These festivals were dates kept by the peasantry, not celebrated as part of witchcraft. Although the witchcraft trial records must be viewed as questionable, what is consistent is the timing of the Sabbats to Fridays and specific Christian feasts, not a cycle of eight seasonal celebrations.

[1] History of the Waldenses, Blair, 1832

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.



My name is Sorita d'Este

and this is my website and blog!  Thanks for visiting - I hope you are finding what you are looking for!


Many years ago I dedicated myself to the pursuit of both esoteric knowledge, and an understanding of polytheism, the Gods and Nature.  I have been a full-time writer, author and publisher, specialising subjects linked to the occult, witchcraft, Paganism, mythology, ancient religions and magic - and all kinds of things in between since 2003. 


I live on a hill in Glastonbury, overlooking the marshes of Somerset,  a place of myth and legend, and a crossroad for many different religions. Here I am frequently found digging and growing, serving my fluffy rescue cat and navigating the unknown with my teenage son.  

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