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For many witches and pagans, it is important to follow the wheel of the year. The 8 sabbats or holidays of the wheel of the year help to keep us in tune with the natural flow of the seasons.
Learn how to say the names of these holidays to avoid any embarassing situations when speaking with other witches.
In this post, I will go over some etymology for the pagan sabbats, as well as try to help you understand how to say their names.
How To Say Yule
Yule should be fairly easy to pronounce for most people that speak English natively. It’s a part of words we use around Christmas, like “yuletide”.
How to pronounce Yule: You pronounce Yule like YOOL.
According to Wikipedia:
Yule is the modern version of the Old English words ġēol or ġēohol and ġēola or ġēoli, with the former indicating the 12-day festival of “Yule” (later: “Christmastide”) and the latter indicating the month of “Yule”, whereby ǣrra ġēola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġēola referred to the period after Yule (January).
Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic *jeχʷla-, and are cognate with Gothic 𐌾𐌹𐌿𐌻𐌴𐌹𐍃 (jiuleis); Old Norse, Icelandic, Faroese and Norwegian Nynorsk jól, jol, ýlir; Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian Bokmål jul.
The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European cognates outside the Germanic group, too.
The noun Yuletide is first attested from around 1475.
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How To Say Imbolc
Etymologically, Imbolc or Imbolg is mysterious.
The most common guess at the meaning is that it comes from the Old Irish i mbolc, meaning “in the belly”, and refers to the pregnancy of ewes.
Eric P. Hamp believes it may come from Proto-Indo-European, and could stem from “milk” and “cleansing”.
The earliest mention of this sabbat comes from Irish literature from the 10th century.
At that time, poems related this time of year to ewe’s milk and purification.
How to pronounce Imbolc or Imbolg: You pronounce this holiday like IM-BOHLK or IM-BOHLG (/ˈɪmbɑlk/, /ɪˈmɑlɡ/).
This holiday is also known as Candlemas or St. Brighid’s Day.
How To Say Ostara
Ostara, you will find, is one of the most hotly contested parts of Paganism.
Much of what we know about the holiday and its associated goddess comes from Saint Bede, a monk from Wearmouth-Jarrow in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria who died May 26, 735 AD.
Scholars argue about how much he knew of the authentic pagan tradition in his area, but his writings are the classical source for the conversion of English pagans to Christianity from 597–681 AD.
As with any pagan traditions received from Christians, it’s hard to know how much of his work is accurate.
The Christians at the time had every reason to depict paganism in a negative light, to lie about traditional faiths to make them seem more barbaric than Christianity.
Still, in many cases, these sources are all we have as evidence for traditional faiths and ancient traditions.
One thing that I find compelling about Bede’s work is that he generally minimized his coverage of paganism. For this reason, it would be against Bede’s character to invent goddesses like Eostre / Ostara.
For that reason among others, this blog post is going to assume that Bede’s writings are honest representations of the pagan religion as he knew it and was told about it by his contemporaries, and not a fabrication meant to depict pagans as evil or backwards.
If you are interested in learning more about Bede, I encourage you to check my sources at the bottom of this post, most especially this one.
It might also be related to the goddess Ashtorah or Asherah, who was the ancient wife of the Semitic god El.
Asherah was a mother goddess, and she even leaves her mark in the Old Testament of the Bible with the mentions of Asherah poles that were erected as signs of fertility.
Clearly, this is an ancient goddess and holiday that goes far back to the very beginnings of human religious thought.
Bede writes that Eostre rites and festivals were directly replaced by the Paschal season of Christian Easter by the time of his writings.
The name “Eastre” or “Eostre” comes from the proto indo-european root “aus/eas” meaning “to shine” and “the east” (since the sun shines from the east). Our word “east” clearly derives from this root. Likewise, the word Austria comes from the same indo-european root since it is the kingdom of the east or the “austra”. The Catholic Church does not formally call the feast “Easter” but rather “Pascha” – a word derived from the Aramaic word for “Passover”. Only English and Germanic lands use the term related to “Easter”.THE HISTORY OF WORD USAGE AND ITS MEANINGS IN THE CONTEXT
How to pronounce Ostara: AH-STAR-AH
How to pronounce Eostre:
How To Say Beltane
Beltane is a holiday that celebrates the beginning of summer. It probably literally means “blazing fire”.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
Some erroneously claim the name is related to the god Baal, but there is no basis for that assertion.
According to Encyclopedia Brittcanica:
Beltane is first mentioned in a glossary attributed to Cormac, bishop of Cashel and king of Munster, who was killed in 908. Cormac describes how cattle were driven between two bonfires on Beltane as a magical means of protecting them from disease before they were led into summer pastures—a custom still observed in Ireland in the 19th century. Other festivities included Maypole dances and cutting of green boughs and flowers.
How to pronounce Beltane: BEL-TAY-N (/ˈbeltān/).
How To Say Litha
This holiday has been so important to humans that it is still practiced in many cultures to this day.
Feasts for saints occur on this day, and cultural festivals are still common to celebrate Midsummer.
Germanic neopagans call their summer solstice festival Litha, which is part of the reconstructed Germanic calendar used by some Germanic Neopagans and takes its name from Bede’s De temporum ratione that provides Anglo-Saxon names for the months roughly corresponding to June and July as sē ǣrra līþa and sē æfterra līþa (the “early Litha month” and the “later Litha month”) with an intercalary month of līþa appearing after sē æfterra līþa on leap years.
How to say Litha: LEE-THUH or LIH-THUH
Learn about the pagan holiday Litha. Why do we celebrate this holiday?
How To Say Lughnasadh Or Lammas
Lughnasadh is the first harvest festival in the wheel of the year, and celebrates the bounty of summer.
The word Lughnasadh comes from the Old Irish combination of Lug (the god Lugh) and násad (an assembly).
In Modern Irish, Lúnasa is still the name for the month of August.
Lugh is celebrated during this festival with feasts and fires.
In Old English hlafmæsse means Loaf Mass. This is a time celebrated by baking loaves of bread.
This feast also took on a relationship to lambs over time.
Lammas is traditionally the name of a Christian holiday, but it takes place at the same time as Lughnasadh and so some pagans use this term as well.
How to say lughnasadh: LOO-NAH-SAH (/ˈluːnəsə/)
How to say Lammas: LAH-MUH-Z (\ ˈla-məs \)
What is Lammas? How do you celebrate the first harvest festival?
Learn more about this beautiful pagan festival and why YOU should celebrate it.
How To Say Mabon
Etymologically, Mabon as a name is derived from the Common Brittonic and Gaulish deity name Maponos “Great Son”, from the Proto-Celtic root *makwo- “son”.
According to The Witchipedia:
The name Mabon for this holiday was first assigned in the 1970s by Aiden Kelly. There is no historical evidence for its use as a name for any holiday by any ancient peoples. However, the name Mabon does appear in history and literature attached to people. Mabon ap Modron appears as a character in the Arthurian legends and there are Celtic influenced Pagans who believe that he represents a God of harvest and rebirth. He is related to the God Maponos. Mabon is also the name of a Cornish Saint. The name “Mabon” is said to mean “Great Son”.
Other names for this festival include Harvest Home and the Feast of the Ingathering.
This holiday takes place at the Autumnal equinox and is the second of the 3 harvest festivals.
How to say Mabon: MAH-BON or MAY-BON
How To Say Samhain
Samhain is pronounced in a way that is a little confusing for many witches.
You have have heard it pronounced the way it is spelled in movies and TV shows, or even online by real witches.
How to pronounce Samhain: Samhain is pronounced SAH-WEN, SOW-IN or /ˈsouən/.
The word Samhain comes from Old Irish, but the etymology goes further back into Proto-Indo-European.
In Old Irish, it means “summer’s end”.
In PIE, the etymology is *semo- (“summer”).
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- Samhain – New World Encyclopedia. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Samhain
- samhain | Origin and meaning of samhain by Online Etymology Dictionary. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/samhain
- Samhain. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain
- Yule | Definition of Yule by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com also meaning of Yule. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/yule
- Yule. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
- What’s The Difference Between “Yule” And “Christmas”?. (2018). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://www.dictionary.com/e/yuletide/
- Imbolc. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imbolc#:~:text=The%20etymology%20of%20Imbolc%2FImbolg,referring%20to%20a%20ritual%20cleansing.
- Imbolc – Wiktionary. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Imbolc
- Imbolc. (2020). Retrieved 5 August 2020, from https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/imbolc
- S, S. (2020). THE HISTORY OF WORD USAGE AND ITS MEANINGS IN THE CONTEXT (The Ufa centre of foreign languages training) (pp. 18-21). Scientific Light. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from http://www.slg-journal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/SL_35.pdf#page=20
- Cusack, C. (2007). The Goddess Eostre:Bede’s Text and Contemporary Pagan Tradition(s). Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, 9(1). doi:10.1558/pome.v9i1.22
- Witczak, K. T. and Kaczor, I. 1995. Linguistic Evidence for the Indo-European Pantheon,in: J. Rybowska, K. T. Witczak (eds.), Collectanea Philologica II in honorem Annae Mariae Komornicka, 1995, http://bazhum.muzhp.pl/media/files/Collectanea_Philologica/Collectanea_Philologica-r1995-t2/Collectanea_Philologica-r1995-t2-s265-278/Collectanea_Philologica-r1995-t2-s265-278.pdf
- beltane | Origin and meaning of beltane by Online Etymology Dictionary. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/beltane
- Beltane | ancient Celtic festival. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Beltane
- Horns, R. (2014). The Ancient Nature of Midsummer. Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey/2014/06/the-ancient-nature-of-midsummer/
- Midsummer. (2017). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer
- The History of Litha, the Pagan Summer Solstice Celebration. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.learnreligions.com/history-of-summer-solstice-holiday-litha-2562244
- Lughnasadh. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lughnasadh
- Lughnasadh | Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals/lughnasadh
- Lughnasadh – Ozark Pagan Mamma. (2015). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://tressabelle.wordpress.com/tag/lughnasadh/
- lammas | Origin and meaning of lammas by Online Etymology Dictionary. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.etymonline.com/word/lammas
- Lammas. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lammas
- Crossroads, W. (2015). Lammas: Where Did It Come From?. Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/energymagic/2015/07/lammas-where-did-it-come-from/
- Mabon ap Modron. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabon_ap_Modron#:~:text=2.2%20Other%20Appearances-,Etymology,Celtic%20*m%C4%81t%C4%ABr%20%22mother%22.
- Wheel of the Year. (2020). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_the_Year#Autumn_Equinox_(Mabon)
- Mabon – The Witchipedia. (2016). Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://witchipedia.com/festivals/mabon/
- Crossroads, W. (2015). Mabon: Where Did It Come From?. Retrieved 6 August 2020, from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/energymagic/2015/09/mabon/