The word "Sabbat" comes from the Greek word "sabatu" meaning "to rest". Since Sabbats are a day of rest, it is tradition that no magick is to be performed on these eight days.
The Pagan Sabbats have been observed for more than 12,000 years by various traditions. The eight Sabbats are a combination of many Pagan traditions and paths. Our Sabbats were derived from Norse, Celtic, Teutonic, Roman and Greek paths. The original festivals marked the seasons of the year for planting, tending and harvesting.
As we dedicated our lives less towards hunting and harvesting and more towards the heavens, these Sabbats became religious holidays. The Sabbats marked the planting and harvesting times, the seasons of the year, and the cycle of life lived by the God and Goddess. Samhain marks the beginning of the year for most Witches.
The eight Sabbats of Witches mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year, and each turn honors a stage in the eternal life cycle of the Goddess and the God, Diana and Pan. The God goes through the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth while the Goddess goes through the cycle of life from Maiden to Mother to Crone. Following is an explanation of the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel of the Year
Witches celebrate eight ceremonies a year. There are the four Greater Sabbats and the four Lesser Sabbats. The Greater Sabbats are:
The four Lesser Sabbats (which mark the seasons) are:
Each Sabbat's opposite festival falls directly across from it on the wheel (six months apart). For example, Yule begins the waxing year and across from it, Litha begins the waning year. Both Ostara and Mabon are days of balance, but one moves toward darkness while the other moves toward light.