Monday, May 23, 2011

Esbats: Full and New Moons

So in the Witchcraft tradition that I am a part of, there are 8 sabbats- major holidays in "the wheel of the year" (Imbolc, Ostara, Beltaine, Midsummer, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule). They are shared with other traditions such as British Traditional Witchcraft (Gardnerian), Alexandrian, and other neo-Wicca traditions- so you are probably familiar with them.

Additionally, there are minor holidays every month- the esbats- which are the new and full moons. These have myriad purposes: to tie us to the cycles of the planet and solar system, to help us to embody our Witchraft (we are all affected by the moon and her cycles, with most women it is just really obvious), and to do workings.

Recently, a few women and I started a small group to work on one esbat a month. Timing for April and May dictated that we meet on the full moon. However, next month, we will start meeting on the new moon, which is something that I prefer- being a devotee of Lilith and all.

What we are doing- women meeting on the esbats- is as old as the measurement of time itself. In fact, it is speculated that the moon and women's regular bleeding is what gave rise to measured time as a concept itself.

In the Jewish tradition, the new moon is a holiday called Rosh Chodesh. The new moon starts their month- the Jewish calendar, coming from the pagan Babylonian one, is very old and very pagan. It is also a women's holiday, and on this day, women do no work. It harkens back to the days of the red tent- a menstrual seclusion hut for women.

Contrary to how it is treated today, menstrual seclusion was never meant to ostracize women or deem them "impure". That is just the latest patriarchal spin from religions who overthrew or assimilated older, Goddess-based ones. No, women voluntarily secluded themselves back in the day. I know I would welcome a period of days each month where I did no work, was able to journal, dream, and create powerful Craft. Who wouldn't? For more amazing reading on menstrual ritual and how it created human culture all over the world, I would read Judy Grahn's epic, Blood, Bread, and Roses.

On the new moon, we can do workings for new beginnings, pay homage to darker Goddesses, and see clearly in divinations. I am looking forward to June!

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