Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2017 Sabbats Almanac

Llewellyn's 2017 Sabbat AlmanacThe Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac was started in 2009 and is published annually. The book is divided into eight sections, one for each Sabbat, starting at Samhain 2016 and ending with Mabon 2017. There are seven articles within each Sabbat’s section that repeat: an introduction, Cosmic Sway, the Old Ways, Feasts and Treats, Crafty Crafts, All One Family, and a ritual. This is consistent throughout all the Sabbats Almanac books, though occasionally the features are swapped out. For example, for the 2018 Almanac, All One Family has been taken out, and a plant feature has replaced it. Even though it’s rather late for this review, I marked more pages in this edition than the 2016 and 2018 volumes combined, so it’s still well worth picking up. Each section is about 30 pages long; I read each after the previous Sabbat has ended to get new ideas to add to my own coven’s celebration.

Aside from the Cosmic Sway section, which discusses particular cosmic timing, this Sabbats Almanac can be read any time. Because the Cosmic Sway section has essentially ‘expired’ by now, I’m leaving it out of the review, though I will say that I found the articles really useful at the time. The recipes in Feasts and Treats usually use meat in some way; there are multiple recipes provided, but since I’m vegetarian I don’t think I’ve ever used a recipe from a Sabbats Almanac. The Old Ways sections are always brief (about 3 pages) and go into Polish, Slavic, Russian, and Lithuanian traditions. I always really enjoy this section, but writing that under each Sabbat heading would be repetitious. Below are the highlights of each section, organized by Sabbat.

Samhain

The introduction to this section, “Macabre Magick and Masquerade” by Melanie Marquis (so much alliteration!), is really interesting, specifically talking about the evolution of the Halloween costume over the years. I’m always interested in learning more about history and the way things have changed, and this article focuses a lot on the “masquerade” aspects of the season. The “Magic Divination Witch Bottle” by Mickie Mueller in Crafty Crafts would be a really fun craft to make with older witchlings. The All One Family story is about the author raising a teenaged witch and was very sweet, plus it has a ritual idea to perform with a teen witchling. Finally, the Samhain ritual, “Thirteen Wishes” by Melanie Marquis, has a few too many supplies required for me to do the full ritual, but the second half is great, and I added it to my own Book of Shadows for future use.

Yule

I especially appreciate that the introduction article for this section is “Alban Arthan: The Midwinter Solstice” by Kristoffer Hughes, which focuses on the Druid perspective. This article discusses quite a bit of linguistics, as well as what the season means. The Crafty Crafts section by Mickie Mueller is a variation of the bird feeder that so many pagans create around Yule, turning them into cute yet practical ornaments. Continuing with the Alban Arthan theme, “Yule: The Midwinter Ritual” by Kristoffer Hughes focuses on Welsh traditions, and presents a spin on a traditional ritual that could be done solo or with a coven. It requires some props, but it’s not overly elaborate, which I like.

Imbolc

I always struggle at Imbolc, I wish it would be amazing and perfect since I work with Brigid, but I seem to fizzle out more years than not. This section’s Crafty Crafts offering by Mickie Mueller is a really simple and lovely idea for “Imbolc Fire and Ice Lanterns” that can be made with household ingredients. I absolutely want to try it, assuming Florida cooperates enough for it to be cold on Imbolc next year. All One Family by Dallas Jennifer Cobb gives you a simple idea to do with your witchling that doesn’t take any preparation (with teenagers you really have to strike when the iron of interest is hot).

Ostara

This section opens with the article “Ostara: Seeds of Possibility” by Michael Furie, and the opening lines immediately went into my coven’s Ostara ceremony, they were that good. This article is all-around helpful, discussing the season, the equinox, astrological timing, and my favorite: the story of Bride (Brigid) and the Cailleach. I loved Furie’s version of the story so much I put it in my Book of Shadows. The All One Family section by Dallas Jennifer Cobb provides a ritual for your teenaged witch to “burn injustice,” which I think they’ll love, and incorporates the story of Persephone. It also talks about the word “virgin” which we hear all the time when reading about goddesses, what I learned here is that the term is not sexual, but is used to mean someone who was not under the care/control of a man aka independant.

Beltane

“Beltane: Protecting the Flocks” by Elizabeth Barrette opens the section and discusses the traditional purpose of Beltane as well as the theme of purification. The article also has a very helpful list of sacred plants and a list of possible uses that I really enjoyed. Not a lot else in this section resonated with me except the “Beltane Ritual for Protection” by the same author. I flagged the whole ritual for potential use, something that doesn’t occur often for me. It’s an excellent ritual that can be done with little to no modification, the setup is a bit elaborate, but is also easy to simplify.

Litha/Midsummer

The only recipes that I flagged are in this section, one is a black iced tea punch recipe by Linda Raedisch that sounded very refreshing. Plus, beverages are almost an afterthought at our feasts, so this is great to have at the ready. The other recipe is rice pudding with raspberries, which sounds light and delicious. All One Family by Dallas Jennifer Cobb gives ideas for encouraging your teen to write gratitude lists, a practice that I feel silly doing, but think is really positive, too.

Lammas/Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is another struggle for me, I think I’ve missed it more than any other Sabbat (just being honest!), so I didn’t connect all that well to this section. The “Lammas Ritual” by JD Hortwort is slightly elaborate in its wording, but quite good. Best of all, it doesn’t require a large amount of items, which is always appreciated. I missed Lughnasadh 2017 (of course), but I will likely base our coven’s 2018 ritual off of this one.

Mabon

All One Family by Dallas Jennifer Cobb is once again excellent and Mabon’s theme is facing your fears. The short ritual is meant to be done with your teenager, but it could be easily adapted to a solitary or coven. “Mabon Ritual: Honor the Shadows” by Stacy Porter also deserves a mention. It’s a bit theatrical and has a few too many props for me, but I think it could be a really wonderful solitary ritual with a few small changes.

Conclusion

Dallas Jennifer Cobb’s All One Family feature really ended up being the rockstar of the 2017 Sabbats Almanac, which makes me even sadder to see it eliminated in the 2018 version. The rituals are the most important part, in my opinion, because year after year in a coven, or as a solitary, you can easily get stuck in the rut of doing the same ritual again and again.

The 2017 Sabbats Almanac provides more than a few really excellent rituals, which I was extremely impressed by. I would recommended this book for any pagan or pagan witch who wants to add a little variety to their Wheel of the Year. Even though it’s out of date, I still recommend getting a copy, it’s really that good.

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