“Sabbat,” of course, is an imported word: from Hebrew, via Latin.

If it seems peculiar that the name for a gathering of witches should ultimately derive from the vocabulary of Judaism, bear in mind that an alternate name for the witch's sabbat was once the “synagogue of Satan.” To the witch-hunting eye, all non-Christians look alike.

(Aunt Margaret's derivation from medieval French s'ébattre, “to frolic, disport oneself” is a delightful jeu d'esprit, but not to be taken seriously as etymology.)

So, if we were looking for a natively English word for what would later be called the witch's sabbat, what would it be?

Well, in Scandinavia, at the rise of the Great Persecution, before the international term “sabbat” caught on, a meeting of witches was known as a witch-thing.

This, of course, is not thing as in “whatchamacallit,” but thing as in the Norse term althing, “meeting, assembly.”

Among Germanic-speaking populations in early medieval times, every area had a local thing, or folk-moot, which met periodically (often quarterly) to deal with regional business, while the tribe as a whole held its general assembly annually. This was known known as the all-thing.

Whether or not the Hwicce, the original Anglo-Saxon Tribe of Witches, would have used this terminology, we cannot definitively say; but it seems likely. If witch-thing means “sabbat,” then surely the “native” name for the Grand Sabbat would be the witch's all-thing.

No, I'm not proposing that we jettison sabbat and replace it with witch-thing. Purism is its own punishment, and sabbat has a nice, mysterious, witchy ring to it, after all. But—as with the names of the firedays—we're only the richer for having alternatives.

Given standard modern usage in English, the term witch-thing has something of a playful, jocular sound to it which, I have to confess, makes me like it all the more.

So maybe, in the end, we're not so far from s'ébattre after all.