The Esbats; Lunar Celebrations For Witches
Last Updated: July 25, 2023
“Any excuse for bread and booze.”
This is something you’ll hear me say for any witch’s holiday or even an esbat. But what am I talking about? Who knows what one is, genuinely? And how can we celebrate it, because it sounds like witchy fun?
Bread and booze are not just for any holiday, really. I’m being dramatic. For witches, bread and alcohol (specifically cake and ale) are used during an Esbat as a way to celebrate the moon and its energy. An Esbat is a ritual gathering held at least once per lunar cycle, usually coinciding with full moons or new moons. During this time, honouring deities, divination and lunar magick are all key themes. Read on hun to learn more!
What Does Esbat Mean?
It comes from the French for s’esbattre or ébat meaning to frolic and amuse oneself. The anthropologist Margaret Murray’s use of French witch trials sources esbat on supposed Witches’ Sabbaths in her attempts to understand and explore the Witch Cults in Western Europe.
It’s usually in reference to a coven meeting, or a group of witches gathering, for a ritual either aligned with witch’s holidays or for gathering close to the full moon/new moon phase. Doreen Valiente dispensed with the idea that it wasn’t just Full Moon gatherings that people got together; other important dates were needed in recognition too.
Traditionally in Gardner’s Wicca religion, it’s a time for honoring The Goddess and feminine aspects, but it is also a time for cake and ale – something that you will have seen in the form of bread & wine in most Post-Pagan rituals and religions. It can be a time for big initiations, like the Great Rite of Wicca, but it can also be for larger spellwork that needs more energetic input, and it can be (but isn’t decidedly so) great for sex magick.
Esbats are generally used for magickal workings; often times these involve things such as divination, scrying, spell work and prayer work. As with any ritual, it is important to set up an appropriate space and intention. The specific rituals that take place during the Esbat are up to the will of the coven or practitioners.
Esbats provide an opportunity for witches and Wiccans to come together and honor their gods in a communal setting, to talk, to heal and to learn. It allows a chance to connect with deities and each other on a deeper level.
Who Can Celebrate An Esbat?
So you’ll do a quick google and come across Wicca specifically saying it’s their celebration only – but people have been celebrating moon phases for as long as there has been community. Any spiritual practice, including those practiced by solitary practitioners, can benefit from the energy of the full moon’s cycle.
So anyone with a relationship to the Moon (or any other celestial body for that matter) can celebrate an Esbat. It is important to remember however that each person’s tradition and way of honoring will be different; it is up to individuals to decide what works for you and your witchcraft practice.
Esbats also provide an opportunity for witches and Wiccans to come together and share stories, spells, wisdom, ideas, and experiences with each other in a safer space. It is an important part of building community within the larger pagan community. So even if you don’t have a coven or circle you could make this a good time to visit a pagan moot or mind-body-spirit market to meet likeminded folks.
What Are The Different Esbat Celebrations (for the Moons)?
There are generally eight main witch holidays (pagan festivals) that correspond to the solar calendar, and 13 esbats that align with the lunar calendar. The specific esbats may vary depending on the tradition or individual practice, but here is a list of the 13 esbats commonly recognized by modern witches:
- Esbat of the Ice Moon (January): This esbat celebrates the first full moon of the year and signifies new beginnings and personal growth, represented by the colour purple. Some witchcraft you could try for this period would be setting intentions and goals for the year ahead, and/or doing a self-reflection ritual.
- Esbat of the Storm Moon (February): This esbat acknowledges the approaching spring and is associated with transformation, cleansing, and inspiration. Some witchcraft you could try for this period includes cleansing and purifying rituals, and/or invoking deities associated with transformation or cleansing such as Freyja or Brighid.
- Esbat of the Chaste Moon (March): This esbat emphasizes balance and fertility, as it occurs during the early stages of spring. Some witchcraft practices you could focus on would be fertility spells, love spells or rituals for self-love and/or honoring deities associated with childbirth such as Juno, Rhea or Eileithyia.
- Esbat of the Seed Moon (April): This esbat celebrates the abundance and fertility of nature as plants begin to grow and bloom. Some witchcraft practices that could be done during this period are planting seed magick, rituals for invoking the aid of nature spirits, and/or tending to your spiritual garden (e.g. your soul).
- Esbat of the Hare Moon (May): This esbat honors the energy of the fertility and growth of the Earth during the height of spring. The kind of witchcraft practices you could look into for this period would be rituals and spells for abundance, creative inspiration, or invoking the aid of deities associated with fertility such as Demeter or Ceres.
- Esbat of the Dyad Moon (June): This esbat focuses on duality and the balance between light and dark, masculine and feminine, and other opposing forces. It is represented by the deities in everything from the Sun to the green fields. Some kinds of witchcraft you could try for this period include divination and lunar magick, focusing also on meditations in the sun and balancing rituals.
- Esbat of the Mead Moon (July): This esbat symbolizes the energy of celebration, joy, and social connection during the summer season. When it comes to having a party, now is as good a time to get together as any! This esbat is a great time for hosting rituals, casting circles and doing some social magick.
- Esbat of the Wort Moon (August): This esbat highlights the healing and transformative properties of plants and herbs. Honouring deities like Hekate, or Circe, and connecting with the plants and herbs in your local area is important. You could also do some magick involving healing or self-care such as grounding spells with herbal magick. I have a whole series on the website of herbs for different correspondences!
- Esbat of the Barley Moon (September): This esbat celebrates the abundance of the harvest season and is a time of gratitude and reflection. Gratitude rituals and offerings to the gods and goddesses are usually performed during this period. You could also do some magickal workings such as spells for abundance or invoking deities associated with harvest and autumn such as Persephone or Inanna.
- Esbat of the Blood Moon (October): This esbat is associated with mystery, intuition, and the thinning of the veil between the physical and spiritual realms. Spirit connection is really strong as this time, so it’s a great opportunity to do some divination, psychic work or rituals for connecting with deceased loved ones.
- Esbat of the Snow Moon (November): This esbat represents introspection, inner work, and spiritual growth as the year approaches its end. Shadow work, meditation and dream work are all great to focus on during this period. It is also a great time for personal goal setting or manifesting rituals.
- Esbat of the Oak Moon (December): This esbat acknowledges the power and wisdom of the ancient oak tree and represents endurance and strength. It is an auspicious time for honouring ancestors, connecting with your spiritual guides, and the wisdom they provide. You could also focus on spells associated with strength, courage and protection
- Esbat of the Wine Moon (occasionally occurs before Blood Moon): A Blue Moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. When it occurs, it is seen as a time of heightened magical energy and intention-setting. Some witchcraft practices associated with a Blue Moon include spirit connection, divination, and rituals for making wishes or manifesting our intent.
These names and associations can vary among different practices, and some witches may have their own unique esbat celebrations based on personal preferences or tradition. If you’re looking for some inspiration for each of the esbats, why not try some of the following ideas for incorporating moon celebration into your own practice?
- Create a Moon altar: Set up a dedicated space in your home to honor the moon’s energy. Decorate it with lunar symbols, crystals, candles, and personal items that hold significance to you. It could be as simple a decorating a journal with moon stickers, and writing about your experience for the esbat.
- Moonlight meditation: Find a comfortable outdoor spot, such as a garden or a balcony or communal park space, where you can bask in the moonlight safely, also known as “moonbathing”. Practice mindfulness, meditation, or simply reflect on your intentions and goals. Take a blanket too, as I wouldn’t want you catching a cold.
- Moon phase rituals: Tailor your rituals based on the specific phase of the moon during each esbat you’re celebrating (remembering it’s not just for Full or Dark phases only). For example, during the waxing moon, you can focus on stuff like manifestation and growth, while during the waning moon, you can release what no longer serves you.
- Moonlit walks or hikes: Take a leisurely walk or hike during the full moon, connecting with nature and absorbing the moon’s energy. This can be done alone or with a group of like-minded individuals, and keep an eye out for constellations, nocturnal wildlife, and meteorite showers.
- Divination and tarot: Use the energy of the esbats to enhance your divination practices. Perform tarot or oracle readings, scrying, or any other form of divination that resonates with you. There is even a method of moon divination called Selenomancy, which is specifically associated with the moon’s energy and cycles.
- Moon-themed potluck: Organize a gathering with fellow witches and friends where everyone brings a dish inspired by the moon or lunar energy. You can have Moon Pies, celestial-inspired cupcakes, or create a Moon-themed charcuterie board with crescent-shaped fruits and cheeses.
- Lunar dance party: Host a dance party under the moonlight, either in your backyard or at a LGBTQIA+friendly venue. Create a playlist with uplifting and mystical music genres such as electronic dance music (EDM), ambient, or ethereal pop. Some artists to consider include Björk, FKA twigs, Aurora, Sylvan Esso, or Grimes. I massively love Fever Ray and In This Moment, so they’d be perfect for Dark Moon esbats.
- Moonlit crafting sessions: Gather with friends to engage in lunar-themed crafts and DIY projects. Create moon phase wall hangings, design intention candles, or make moonstone-inspired jewelry. This can be a great opportunity to share skills and create magickal items together.
- Celestial movie night: Host a movie night featuring films with magical or lunar themes. Consider movies like “Practical Magic,” “Stardust,” “The Craft,” “Moon,” or “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Create a cozy atmosphere with blankets, pillows, and snacks like star-shaped cookies or popcorn seasoned with moon dust (edible glitter). Bonus fun is to dress up in your fave 90’s whimsigoth outfit! They loved a celestial print back then.
- Lunar poetry or spoken word night: Organize an open mic night where people can share moon-inspired poetry, spoken word performances, or personal stories related to their spiritual journeys. Encourage inclusivity and a safer space for LGBTQIA+ voices to be heard.
- Moonlight yoga or meditation: Arrange a yoga or meditation session outdoors under the moonlight. Incorporate lunar-inspired poses or focus on cultivating a sense of serenity and connection with the moon’s energy. Play ambient or solfeggio frequencies music during the practice, or use nature sounds around you for a “Silent Selene” time.
- Moon journaling and art: Set aside time during each esbat to reflect on your experiences and emotions. Keep a moon journal where you can write down your intentions, dreams, or simply express your thoughts. Enhance your journaling practice with lunar-themed art, such as creating moon phase collages or painting moonlit landscapes.
These suggestions are just a starting point tbh. With so much energy and potential available each month during these esbats, you can explore endless ways to expand your practice and learn new things about yourself. If you are the person who starts organizing moots or coven meets, choose music, food, and activities that genuinely resonate with you and your community – not what you think you should be doing, or what other people seem to do. The key is to create an inclusive and supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their individuality and celebrating their spirituality. To do this, all you have to do is ask.
Enjoy Esbat discovery, and until next time xox
Whether for a seasonal festival or a celebration of one of the many deities, there is something special about connecting with our past and honouring traditions in our own way. The power of these ancient festivals continues to be celebrated today by modern witches, pagans, druids and spiritualists around the world.
What is secular witchcraft? It is a form of witchcraft that does not draw upon any religious beliefs.
What is divination witchcraft? Who is a divination witch? As a form of witchcraft that has been respected for centuries, read in full here.
Here I share with you multiple different methods of divination that you may find deepen your understanding of self and community.