There are many ways Pagans determine when to perform rituals for sabbats and lunar rites. Some Pagans celebrate on the closest weekend, some celebrate the sabbats on the nearest full or new moon, some celebrate the day of while others will celebrate the eve of, some will use local conditions, and others use popular timing as determined by astronomy. This article will focus on this last method of popular astronomy.
The greater sabbat dates are fixed, which mean they don’t change. Generally, the are celebrated on the first of the corresponding month. Although another method is to use the date when a sabbat is at fifteen degrees of its fixed sign (Samhain – Scorpio, Imbolc – Aquarius, Beltane – Taurus, Lughnasadh – Leo). Now on to the lesser sabbats; the solstices and equinoxes. Although popular culture will have you believe that the equinoxes are the dates of equal daylight and nighttime, this is not exactly true. An equinox is actually determined by the date the sun intersects the equator. The time of equal lightness and darkness for your area would be determined by local sunrise and sunset information. As for the solstices, these occur specifically when the axis of the earth is tilted farthest from the Sun or nearest to the Sun. So solstices might not be the longest day or night, but are one of them. The lesser sabbats also correspond to zero degrees of its cardinal sign (Yule – Capricorn, Ostara – Aries, Litha – Cancer, Mabon – Libra), however the dates associated with the festivals no longer correspond to these constellations.
Esbats are not as complicated, for the most part. The biggest complication is based on differing time zones. The most accurate way to determine when an esbat is, is to find the information for your specific time zone or convert it to your specific time zone. This sometimes results in having full moons in two separate areas on different dates. (The same thing will happen with the lesser sabbats.) Although this is a minor complication, it adds up. Let’s talk about blue moons. There are two definitions of a blue moon astronomically speaking. The popular definition says that a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. However, the older and more accurate definition states that a blue moon is the third full moon in a quarter of a year that has four full moons. An example of a quarter of a year would be from the spring equinox to the summer solstice. A quarter would normally have three full moons, but if a particular quarter has a fourth full moon that quarter would be determined to have a blue moon.
Depending on which definition you use, a blue moon will occur in 2007 or 2008. Using the older definition, a blue moon will occur on May 20, 2008 at 2:11 am GMT. Most people don’t use this definition however, so we are left with a larger problem. Depending on your location, using the modern definition, there will be a blue moon in either May, June, or July in 2007. In North and South America however, the blue moon will be in May.
All in all, none of this matters. You should always celebrate on a day and time you are comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate or determine when you should celebrate. The main purpose of this article was to explain how dates are determined, and why sometimes people don’t consider the same date to be a particular feast day.
Starcrafts – The Timing of the Sabbats
Solstice – Wikipedia
Equinox – Wikipedia
Blue Moon – Wikipedia
Blue Moon – four Full Moons in a season
The Blue Moon of 2007
North American Time Zones and GMT