Once every four weeks, when the Moon turns Full and lights up the night sky, Wiccans honor the Goddess. These celebrations are called Esbats, and are considered by some to be the “second Wheel of the Year.” They are the counterparts to the eight Sabbats, which mark the Sun’s journey through the seasons and focus on the God and his contribution to the life cycles found on Earth.
At the Esbats, the Moon is the focus as covens come together to hold rituals, commune with the Triple Goddess, and work magic under her divine light. Solitary practitioners also observe the Esbats, joining their energy with the millions of others around the world who are all gazing up at the same celestial body.
Magic and the Triple Goddess
As with Sabbats, the details of Esbat celebrations vary widely from tradition to tradition, coven to coven, and individual to individual. However, the Goddess is always at the center, in one or another of her many aspects. Many Wiccans like to align the focus of their Esbats with the time of year the Full Moon is occurring in. This means they might honor a Maiden aspect during Spring Esbats, such as Diana, and a Crone aspect during Autumn and Winter, such as Hecate.
Alternatively, if there’s a specific magical goal being worked for during your Full Moon ritual, a goddess aligned with that goal may be chosen. For example, Aphrodite may be called upon for magic related to abundance. However, many covens are devoted to just one aspect of the Goddess throughout the year.
Ritual magic is often part of Esbat proceedings, and may even be the main event. Covens and circles might work for the benefit of one or more of their members, for everyone in the group, for their wider community, or even for the world. Solitary Wiccans may work Full Moon spells for more personal goals, but might also send out larger intentions for peace or the healing of the environment. Generally speaking, Full Moon magic is best worked for bringing about positive results, such as prosperity, a joyful home, loving relationships, and physical well-being.
Of course, there are always exceptions to generalities, especially when it comes to Wicca. Not all Wiccans worship ancient deities as aspects of the Goddess. Many simply honor the Goddess as an unnamed presence, or use a consistent name for her within their tradition. Furthermore, not everyone works magic as part of esbat rituals either. Plenty see these special nights as occasions to simply give thanks for the blessings they already enjoy in their lives and to spend some quiet time in meditation and reflection.
The rarest esbat: Blue Moons
There are either 12 or 13 Esbats per solar year, depending on how the lunar cycles line up with our modern Gregorian calendar. Once every two-and-a-half years or so, two Full Moons will occur within the same calendar month. The second of these two is called a Blue Moon, and is considered to have a rare energetic quality, even more powerful than a typical Full Moon. Wiccans may hold special Blue Moon rituals and celebrations on these occasions.
An alternative approach to Esbats: New Moons
In all actuality, not every Wiccan tradition celebrates its Esbats at the Full Moon. Some covens choose to meet at the New Moon instead, considering the beginning of the lunar cycle to be the most ideal time to honor the Goddess. And many Witches like to observe the Moon with at least some small ritual at the start of each quarter of the cycle, marking the waxing and waning Half Moons as well as the Full and the New. Technically, each of these activities would be considered an Esbat, since the word really refers to any ritual that honors the Goddess in her association with the Moon.
The Woman in the Moon
We’ve all heard it told that if you look up at the Full Moon, you’ll spot a man’s face smiling back at you. Wiccans would certainly beg to differ as to the gender of that being! Truth be told, it is often quite possible to see a visage in the Moon, though the expression can change from night to night and month to month.
At the next Full Moon, make a point of gazing up at this majestic companion in the sky. Feel the energy of the Goddess all around you. What is her expression like? What might be her message to you? This is a great way to begin forging your own personal connection to the divine feminine energy that is most evident when the Moon is Full. Then you’ll be in a great place to start building your own practice of observing the Esbats.