Esbats are Wiccan rituals that celebrate the phases of the moon. You can also practice witchcraft during an esbat to work with the moonís energy. Traditionally, witchcraft practiced by the cycles of the moon should bring results within one full moon cycle Ė that is, in one month. But the universe works on its own timetable, so the one-month time frame doesnít always happen. If your efforts seem to be taking longer to achieve results, be patient, keep trying, match your action to the appropriate phase of the moon, and have faith.
For best results, try to schedule your esbat within the time range at night that the moon is present. This sounds too obvious to mention, especially since the full moon rises at sunset and gives you the entire night to work with it. But consider the new moon. Its greatest potency is at night when it has first risen. This means starting your ritual right at dawn when the new moon has appeared but is not yet overwhelmed by the approaching sun.
However, you might be glad to know that you donít have to be too precise about the timing of moon magic. Each moon phase offers its energy across a three-night spread: the night before, the night of, and the night after its precise astronomical moment of existence. Some witches believe that the full moon is so powerful that its energy flows across a seven-day period: three nights before, the night of, and three nights after. Know that the Goddess in her three aspects of Maiden, Mother, and Crone breathes life into the phases of the moon as follows:
The Crone rules the new moon, reminding us that all endings contain beginnings.
The new moon is also called the dark of the moon because the earth stands between it and the sun, casting earth-shadow upon the moon and making it invisible to our eyes. It rises at sunrise and sets at sunset, and is at its strongest right before dawn. This time is a threshold between releasing the old and inviting the new. You can give the banishing spells that you have been working on through the waning moon one extra push on this night. Or you can start a summoning spell as you look ahead to the next cycle of moon phases. Things to do include banishing, summoning, cleansing, divination, initiation, self-dedication to a new path, decluttering, soul searching, and consecration.
The Maiden oversees the entire waxing moon phase: waxing crescent, first quarter, and waxing gibbous moon.
Waxing Crescent Moon
This begins with the first sliver of moon visible in the sky after the new moon, which is known as Dianaís Bow after the virgin goddess of the hunt. Some witches do ritual that night to honor Dianaís Bow. Otherwise, there is no esbat performed during this week, but it is a time of growth and nurturing new projects. You know you are looking at a waxing crescent moon when it curves to the right as a bow would if you were shooting right-handed.
First Quarter Moon
The first quarter moon rises at noon and sets at midnight, and is at its strongest between sunset and midnight. Treat the night of the first quarter moon as a pivot point. You may have worked summoning magic on the esbat of the new moon. Tonight look into your heart for evidence of your spellís success. Is anything happening? If so, you could do a ritual to help you accept, balance, and commit to the new energies entering your life. If not, you might perform a supplementary summoning ritual to take advantage of tonightís increased energy.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
There is no esbat performed during this week, but it is a time of growth and balancing the new energies in your life.
The Mother is the full moon, showing a different face for each of twelve (or thirteen) full moons.
The full moon moves opposite to the sun, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise, and it is at its strongest at midnight. Now is the time to celebrate the Goddess in her aspect as the Mother. Many witches practice Drawing down the Moon, which is when you stand in full moonlight and invite the Goddess to fill you with her energy.
You can give thanks for the completion of the previous monthís spells, or you can use the extra power burst of the full moon to fuel your current spells to completion. The night of the full moon is also a threshold between waxing and waning phases, and so you can practice witchcraft that summons or banishes on this night.
Each full moon of the twelve that occur during the year has its own personality (see Wiccan Names of the Twelve Full Moons in Related Links below). You can enhance your spells that much more if your spellís type and purpose match the specific energies of each full moon.
The Crone governs the entire waning moon phase: waning gibbous, last quarter, and waning balsamic moon.
Waning Gibbous Moon
There is no esbat performed during this week, but it is a time of banishing and letting go. If you reserved the night of the full moon for celebration and thanksgiving rather than practicing witchcraft, and you wish to do a banishing ritual, now is the time.
The last quarter moon rises at midnight and sets at noon, and is at its strongest between midnight and dawn. Again, treat this night as a pivot point. You may have worked banishing magic on the esbat of the full moon or right afterward. Tonight look into your heart for evidence of your spellís success. Is anything happening? If so, you could do a cleansing ritual to purify yourself and get ready for your new beginning. If not, you can use the energy increase of tonightís moon to fuel a supplementary spell of banishing.
Waning Balsamic Moon
There is no esbat performed during this week, which is a time of emptiness, cleansing, and protection spells. Remember to couple banishing spells with protection spells because nature abhors a vacuum. It is the natural tendency of the energies that permeate the universe to seek out and try to fill the nearest void. You donít want that to be you in your state of purity and emptiness after you have banished old energies but before you have had the chance to invite in new energies of your choosing. Some witches use the time of the balsamic moon to work black magic under the patronage of the Goddess Hecate. Others feel that you should work no magic but should rest and meditate instead. I leave it up to you.
Curious about the different faces shown by the Goddess for each full moon of the year? See my article Wiccan Names of the Twelve Full Moons
Want to read more about the three aspects of the Goddess? See my article What Is the Wiccan Triple Goddess?