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Attuning to the Sabbats and Seasons


(Photo by Adam Sartwell - Temple of Witchcraft Grounds)

We're in the murky point between the major sabbats where we are transitioning from one energy to another. Though the sabbats themselves are supposed to be in-between points, I have to say that sometimes it the times between them that feel more between than the sabbats themselves. The sabbats have some specific customs and themes but there is no hard line for when the energies transition. You have to learn to feel them. These are the times that I feel my practice, at least the part of my spiritual practice attuned to the seasons and Earth, plods along. As I sit and write this, it is the usual humid summer, but unusually rainy here in New England, and not really feeling like the summer tide is blooming, though many of my plants are appreciating the water. And I must say the thunderstorms have been spectacular when I haven't been caught out driving in them.

One of the things that I learned long ago from an energy worker who was not particularly interested in ritual, was doing energetic attunements at, and after, the major points in the Wheel. She tended to focus upon the solar holidays, as she wasn't Pagan, but I find it works just as well if not more so, when also applied to the fire festivals. For her, it wasn't about the pageantry, or the dancing, and drumming, or incense, and oils. It was feeling the currents of energy from the Stars, Sun, and Earth in your body and using them to be in relationship with the universe, to balance and to heal. While we say that our sabbat rituals are to attune us to the cycle, they are not always effective on that point, depending on the ritual, the celebrant, and the working. I've found adding a bit of energy work to attune both as a part of the ritual, and particularly to feel the changing tides in the energy between the sabbats, effective in maintaining my balance, health, and overall well being as the world around me shifts into the next season.

The following is excerpted from my upcoming The Mysteries of the Wheel of the Year online course. In the course, we ask “What is the Wheel of the Year?” and after exploring some of the more traditions views on history, folklore, seasons, and astrology, we look to the tides and how we attune to them.


A deeper answer to “What is the Wheel of the Year?” involves the catalytic lore that changes the initiate who seeks them out. We often refer to the seasons as tides, particularly in the phrase “Yuletide.” Tides, like the seas, are forces that ebb and flow, that go out and come into our world. Witches see the patterns of the world in the cycle of many forms of tides and flow. The most obvious are the oceans themselves, and the Moon tides that govern the flow of the ocean tides. But the Wheel of the Year embodies two very important tides that govern the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives.

The first is the Tide of Light and Dark. This tide is governed by the solar holidays, and is both literal and energetic. The literal amount of sunlight shifts during the course of the year. Our relationship changes with the Sun and with shadow based upon our place within the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. But our energy levels, awareness, mood and magickal skills can ebb and flow with these tides. Modern people try to ignore it, but with the rise of seasonal disorders, or disconnection from these tides is becoming more and more apparent.

In the Mythos of the Wheel of the Year found in the deeper teachings of the Temple of Witchcraft, the horned gods rule the Solar Holidays. We look at this life force as manifesting and affecting the Creatures of Flesh and Blood, which includes both animals and humans. We see the God manifest at various times as Goat Horned, Ram Horned, Bull Horned and Stag Horned. Each set of horns, each animal lord, brings a different teaching, and shows a different face of the God of Witches. Animal react to the changes of light and temperature. Plants do as well, but the cycles of the green allies are linked to the next tide.

The second flow is the Tide of Life and Death. Because they are linked, it's easy to equate the light with life and the dark with death, and see only one flow, one tide. And in one interpretation, that is true. But by separating the flow into two currents that flow together, like strands of DNA, we can see the flow of multiple subtle patterns and as magicians and Witches, better attune and understand the mysteries. For example, Winter does not officially begin until the Winter Solstice in our modern calender, but the waning tide of the land began far earlier, leading the Celts to consider Samhain the start of Winter.

This tide is found more strongly in the agricultural holidays, the Fire Festivals, dealing with the seasons and their manifestation upon the land. We find that life and death, on a yearly cycle, affect more profoundly the Creatures of the Green. While animals can live many years, there is a more evident “death” even if its dormancy, in the life cycles of plants and trees. While many animals can die over the winter, or go through their own dormancy and hibernation, the falling, rotting and rebirth from seeds is more profound in the plant world.

The God of Witches manifests through the land and green on this tide, and is found in folklore in what people describe as the four “Jacks.” He moves with temperature and with vegetation. He is Jack Frost of the Winter, Jack of the Green in the spring, Jack Corn in the summer harvest and Jack O'Lantern at the start of waning season. (Inspired by lore in the song Four Jacks by the band Emerald Rose on thee album Archives of Ages to Come. See Three Jacks and a John Barleycorn for more information.)


                    Tide of Light and Dark                Tide of Life and Death

Yule            Dark turning to Light                      Death Tide

Imbolc        Light Tide Growing                         Death Tide, Life Rising

Ostara         Light and Dark Balanced                 Death Tide Waning, Life Growing

Beltane       Light Tide Dominant                        Life Tide

Litha           Light turning to Dark                       Life Tide

Lammas      Dark Tide Growing                          Life Tide, Death Rising

Mabon        Dark and Light Balanced                  Life Tide Waning, Death Growing

Samhain    Dark Tide Dominant                         Death Tide


The two tides work together to create themes. It is said that the solar holidays release a particular energy into the world, and the fire festivals bring the manifestation of that energy to visible appearance. These sequenced tides are best described in Walking the Tides: Seasonal Rhythms and Traditional Lore in Natural Craft by Nigel G. Pearson .

Yule releases a cleansing power manifesting at Imbolc

Ostara releases a tide of passion and growth manifesting at Beltane

Litha releases a tide of maturity and readiness manifesting at Lammas

Mabon releases a tide of decomposition and death manifesting at Samhain


Other occult traditions sum them up as


The Tide of Cleansing Winter

The Tide of Sowing Spring

The Tide of Growing Summer

The Tide of Reaping Fall

A third force is at play in this cycle, the ever present force of the Goddess, as seen as the eternal land. While she may change form and is found in the manifestations of the Earth, she does not die and resurrect. She simply changes locations, slumbering and awakening. She is the matrix of being, the foundation for these cycles to manifest. She is eternal and whole. In her most cosmic sense, she can be compared to the Ground of Being found in many traditions, but here we are most concerned with the Being that is the Planetary Being, the Earth Matrix or Mother Earth. Many call her Gaia or in the older Greek tradition, Gaea or Ge. She is found in the mountains and caves. She is in the water, the meadows, fields and the land of the forrest. This interplay between the God and Goddess, from Sun to Earth, is one of the forces that keeps the wheel turning.


(Temple of Witchcraft Beltane Celebration 2014 May Pole and Crowns for May King and May Queen)

Tuning to the Tides Exercise

Stand up and center yourself. Feel yourself like a great tree. Your spine is the trunk. Your legs and feet and the roots. Your shoulders, arms, head and hair are like the branches. Bring your awareness above you. Feel the flow the the tides of energy from Light and Dark, descending down upon you. The mix of light and dark energy will depend on the season, sabbat and time of the day. Can you attune to the downward flow of light and dark. Some perceive it as white and black, though the solar and fire colors can also be a part of it.

Then feel the flow ascending of life and death. It can feel stronger or weaker depending on the season and time. Attune to the flow of life and death. Some perceive it as green and red, like the Oak and Holly King colors.

Each season, regularly attune to these two flows, and see if you can sense the shifts as the seasons progress.

Reading the Tides Exercise

Do you have an established divination skill, such as Tarot, Runes, or Ogham. If not, you might want to investigate one of these tools and explore them through the course of the year. Near or on each Sabbat, cast divination for the incoming tides of the season, to get an understanding of what the tides will be like for you. If you are involved in a greater community and act as a priest/ess of that community, you can also do a divination for the community. I suggest a simple three card/symbol spread – 1) Immediate Future in the Sabbatic Season; 2) Middle of the Sabbatic Season; 3) the approaching Sabbat Time itself. If you wish to use a different spread, or choose a different time to read the tides, follow what works for you.


For those interested in The Mysteries of the Wheel of the Year course through the Temple of Witchcraft, please visit:

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Christopher Penczak is the co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft, a system, tradition and religious nonprofit organization focused on magickal education and building community. He is an award winning author of over twenty books, including The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, The Three Rays of Witchcraft and Ascension Magick and a co-owner of Copper Cauldron Publishing, a company dedicated to producing inspirational products of magick and art for the evolution of consciousness for individuals and the world. Based in New England, he travels internationally to teach magick and healing.


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