|The household altar dressed for Beltane|
The most Wiccan thing about it is the red and green colour scheme. In Wicca, Beltane is associated with the colour green, especially vibrant greens, for the fresh green foliage coming into the fullness of summer, and red for fire, but also for passion, lust and sexuality. Beltane is seen as a fertility festival, and the May Pole seen as a phallic symbol. There's a really interesting ::article:: from Cailleach's Herbarium why yellow flowers and yellow birds, and possibly the colour yellow in general is a more traditional colour-scheme than the red of Wicca.
A lot of Wiccan practices surrounding notions of things like pan-European Paganism, or fertility rituals as the basis of the Wheel of the Year is based off Romanticist interpretations of folklore from the 18th and 19thC, rather than historical practices, and for a while I wanted something more 'authentic', by which I meant older and historically accurate, but the pendulum of my opinion swings, and I think that perhaps embracing these later interpretations, but understanding them as what they are - slightly fantastical re-imaginings of an earlier past by people not in possession of all the facts, and with a yearning for some mystical former golden age (that never was in actuality) is valid in its own way - Beltane may never have been some phallic festival of sex in actuality, but in a world where sex is often either demonised as sinful lust, or commercialised in objectifying hyper-sexuality, having a celebration of sexuality can be a very positive thing. These re-imaginings often sprang from a need for something that was missing in culture at the time, sometimes things that are still missing from culture now, and I don't see a problem with adapting practices to face changing needs, as long as we are honest and open about those changes, and don't try to pass off something merely old (even Gerald Gardener's work has been around for well over half a century now, and a lot of what he did was built off earlier 20thC, 19thC and even 18thC ideas) as something ancient.
[Aside: a celebration of sexuality is a good thing, however some people's idea that they're somehow entitled to sex on Beltane and you're not a good Pagan unless you're participating in some orgy to which they are invited needs challenged; you'd think this would be a rare phenomenon, but I've come across this attitude more often than I would like! Usually from older Pagans who think this is still the '60s and '70s free love scene.]
I'm still not really Wiccan any more, as I've moved away from the duotheism of Wicca and a lot of its liturgy, and I'm more of a pantheist/animist exploring notions of polytheism now, and while I like a lot of Wiccan ritual structure, I've been incorporating other elements into my practice for quite a while now. One of the great things about Paganism is that as an umbrella for many faiths, it tends to allow for a lot of personal spiritual exploration - the notion that we all have our own individual paths is quite prevalent, so there's not really a sense of orthodoxy and heresy as with some other faiths.
|Flowers from my garden|
In Wicca, the chalice is used for the Symbolic Great Rite, representing the reproductive/creative union of masculine and feminine energy, which for a lot of Wiccans will be an important aspect of Beltane, however this is not what I use mine for. Mine represents the element of water, and is also used for drinking a toast to the departing spring, and to the incoming summer. My toast is non-alcoholic as I cannot drink alcohol with my medication so am tee-total now.
|Rock-salt in a soapstone dish and tiny cauldron|
The small cauldron behind is the terracotta container from a tiny candle the equivalent of a tealight in size that I bought in a Fair Trade import shop in Wales and lit for the full moon during spring last year. It is made by ::Dalit Candles:: who are a social enterprise that employ people from the Dalit ('untouchables') in India to make the candles and their holders, and who help fund schools and hospitals in districts with severe poverty. The terracotta cauldron is a perfect size for inclusion in my travel altar, where it is also a symbol of water, and of fecundity. It was on the household altar at Beltane because the altar was otherwise crammed with candles, cherry blossoms, and other things, and it was small enough to cram in between everything else.
|Candles on the altar|
Also on my altar are some items not individually photographed; the rectangular Celtic knotwork lantern belongs to my partner Raven. I bought it for him as a Winter Solstice gift last December. I have two incense burners. One of the burners is a censer held up by a Goddess figure, made of metal and bought by Raven as a souvenir from one of his trips to Glasgow, from the independent occult retailer ::Enigma 23::. The other burner is a wooden pentacle, which is the one I use most frequently on the altar to burn incense as offerings. Neither wand not athame are present on the altar due to space; they were temporarily put on the shelf under the altar for this ritual.
|Witching corner; the altar in context|