The 13 Esbats

While the eight Sabbats on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year mark the Sun’s path through the seasons, The Moon is the focus of Esbats – where the Triple Goddess is honored.

Waxing phase = Maiden
Full phase = Mother
Waning phase = Crone

There are 13 lunar cycles in a calendar year, peaking at each Full Moon: Wolf Moon (January), Snow Moon (February), Hare Moon (March), Seed Moon (April), Flower Moon (May), Mead Moon (June), Herb Moon (July), Barley Moon (August), Harvest Moon (September), Hunter’s Moon (October), Mourning Moon (November), Oak Moon (December), and a Blue Moon. Blue Moons occur when there are two Full Moons within a solar month, which happens about every 32 months.

Although the Celtic Tree Calendar corresponds to Full Moons, Esbats can be celebrated at any phase of the Moon; although since Esbats honor the Moon festivities should be conducted during nighttime hours. The Celtic Tree Calendar is based on the ogham alphabet and its association with trees, for the Celts believed different kinds of trees served different mystical purposes that helped them through their lives.

Birch (Beth) Moon
Dec 24 – Jan 20
Able to grow where many trees cannot, Birch is often found in groves. It was used to make May Poles and to start the fires at Beltane (May 1st). Birch is associated with purification and protection and brooms were often made from birch twigs.
Rowan (Luis) Moon
Jan 21 – Feb 17
“The Lady of the Mountain” belongs to the rose family. Druids considered it to be one of the most sacred of trees, and the Vikings made runes out of rowan which they would then wear around their necks for protection against sorcery and the evil eye. For similar reasons, rowan trees were often planted near gates and doorways, above doorways, and in barns. Symbolizing new beginnings, it was one of the nine sacred trees burned in Beltan fires.

According to Irish mythology, the first woman was created from the rowan tree.

Ash (Nion) Moon
Feb 18 – Mar 17
Prized for its strength and healing properties, the ash tree belongs to the olive family.

In Ireland the ash is considered one of the “trilogy of sacred trees” (along with oak and hawthorn). Irish mythology showed it had power over water and was often planted near sacred springs (‘cloothe wells’). St. Patrick used a stick made from ash to drive the snakes from Ireland.

Alder (Fearn) Moon
Mar 18 – Apr 14
Alder is a member of the birch family and metaphysically represents a balance between male and female energies. The Druids not only associated it with courage, but also linked it to death and resurrection.

In parts of Ireland it was considered a crime to cut down an alder tree, possibly because its wood turns from white to blood-red (due to the color of its sap) when felled. Irish mythology holds that the first human was created from the alder tree.

Willow (Saille) Moon
Apr 15 – May 12
Willow is sacred to the Celts, as well as the ancient Greeks. In Greek mythology it is associated with the Goddesses of the Underworld: Hekate, Circe, Persephone, and Hera. In Celtic mythology willow is connected to the death goddesses: Badb, Cailleach Bheur, Morrigan, and Rhiannon. Placing willow inside and outside a dwelling protects against the evil eye, and wearing willow leaves will protect one from jealousy.

I use White Willow Bark as a natural pain and inflammation reliever. It contains salicin which converts into salicylic acid (aspirin) when oxidized in the body.

Hawthorne (Huathe) Moon
May 13 – Jun 9
Hawthorne is known in Ireland as the “fairy tree”. Even today, it is considered extremely bad luck to cut one down, remove branches, or (except at Beltane) even hang things upon it.
Oak (Duir) Moon
Jun 10 – Jul 7
The “King of the Forest” is another tree sacred to the Druids. It is revered for its strength and longevity. Even when struck by lightening oak will continue to thrive. It is connected to the movements of the planet Mars.

An oak was thought to be one of the Five Magic Trees of Ireland.

Holly (Tinne) Moon
Jul 8 – Aug 4
Celtic mythology holds that holly was the evergreen twin of the oak – while the oak governed the light half of the year holly controlled the dark, wintry months. Like the oak it is lightening-resistant. The Druids believed holly possessed protective qualities which could guard against evil spirits and witchcraft. Although cuttings were permitted, it is unlucky to chop down a holly tree.

Except to birds (where they serve as a winter food source), the berries are poisonous.

Hazel (Coll) Moon
Aug 5 – Sep 1
Hazel is the tree found at the center of the Underworld (World’s End). In Celtic mythology nine magical hazel trees hung over the sacred Well of Wisdom, dropping their nuts into the well. The water of the Well flows into streams where the (now magical) nuts are eaten by the Salmon of Wisdom. Therefore, those who consume either the (magical) nuts or the fish are said to gain prophetic abilities.

In Ireland, the hazel tree is guarded by Bile Ratha.

Vine (Muin) Moon
Sep 2 – Sep 29
Vine is one of the sacred woods used in Beltane fires and represented joy and happiness, which is why it’s known as “The Tree of Joy”. Both the bramble vine (which is native to Northern Europe) and the grape vine represent the Vine on the Celtic Tree Calendar.

Grape vines reached the shores of Ireland about 2000 years ago when the Romans introduced wine and Viking traders would bring the drink to the Emerald Isle. It was the monasteries who began cultivating grapes vines in both Ireland and the British Isles.

Ivy (Gort) Moon
Sep 30 – Oct 27
The Druids believed ivy to be quite powerful – and sinister. It is a symbol of strength and determination.

In old Ireland ivy was thought to provide protection from evil when growing on or near a dwelling. However, if it should die or fall down misfortune would fall upon those that dwelt within.

Reed (Ngetal)
Oct 28 – Nov 23
Reed gained its reputation as a protective tree from its use as a thatch for rooftops. For this reason, it’s been made into talismans and charms to protect the wearer from evil. Druids also used it to craft writing implements and paper. In Celtic mythology, the reed is associated with Brigid and St. Brigid’s crosses are still traditionally woven from reed.
Elder (Ruis) Moon
Nov 24 – Dec 22
Elderflower wine is consumed at Beltane celebrations, while elderberry wine is drunk at Samhain (to promote divination. (I love Elderflower liqueur.) During the spread of Christianity elder became associated with witches.

A sacred tree in Ireland, it was forbidden to cut an elder tree down.

December 23rd is an extra day, signifying the “Day of Creation”, and is not ruled by any tree.

What Witches Do: The Esbats
The Sacred Tree Calendar of the Celtic People
What does your Celtic Tree Astrology say about you?

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