Setting Up Your Beltane Altar – What To Include on Your Beltane Altar
By Patti Wigington
It’s Beltane, the Sabbat where many Wiccans and Pagans choose to celebrate the fertility of the earth. This Sabbat is about new life, fire, passion and rebirth, so there are all kinds of creative ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas — obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most.
Colors of the Season
This is a time when the earth is lush and green as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy. Use lots of greens, as well as bright spring colors — the yellow of the daffodils, forsythia and dandelions; the purples of the lilac; the blue of a spring sky or a robin’s egg. Decorate your altar with any or all of these colors in your altar cloths, candles, or colored ribbons.
The Beltane holiday is the time when, in some traditions, the male energy of the god is at its most potent. He is often portrayed with a large and erect phallus, and other symbols of his fertility include antlers, sticks, acorns, and seeds. You can include any of these on your altar. Consider adding a small Maypole centerpiece — there are few things more phallic than a pole sticking up out of the ground!
In addition to the lusty attributes of the god, the fertile womb of the goddess is honored at Beltane as well. She is the earth, warm and inviting, waiting for seeds to grow within her. Add a goddess symbol, such as a statue, cauldron, cup, or other feminine items. Any circular item, such as a wreath or ring, can be used to represent the goddess as well.
Flowers and Faeries
Beltane is the time when the earth is greening once again — as new life returns, flowers are abundant everywhere. Add a collection of early spring flowers to your altar — daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia, daisies, tulips — or consider making a floral crown to wear yourself. You may even want to pot some flowers or herbs as part of your Sabbat ritual.
In some cultures, Beltane is sacred to the Fae. If you follow a tradition that honors the Faerie realm, leave offerings on your altar for your household helpers.
Because Beltane is one of the four fire festivals in modern Pagan traditions, find a way to incorporate fire into your altar setup. Although one popular custom is to hold a bonfire outside, that may not be practical for everyone, so instead it can be in the form of candles (the more the better), or a table-top brazier of some sort. A small cast-iron cauldron placed on a heat-resistant tile makes a great place to build an indoor fire.
Other Symbols of Beltane
- May baskets
- Honey, oats, milk
- Antlers or horns
- Fruit such as cherries, mangos, pomegranates, peaches
- Swords, lances, arrows