Beltane, or Beltaine, Novembers' Eve (May Day in the Northern Hemisphere), Walpurgisnacht. as it is also known is almost upon us again.
Beltane is a Fire Festival, it is a Celebration of Fertility, a festival for lovers, a time for faery magic, celebration of the sexual union of the God and Goddess (wicca) and the fertility of the Earth.
It is quite possibly the most understood, shunned and condemned of all Pagan Sabbats due to it's sexual nature and celebration. You may have seen images on the Internet or potentially in the media from Beltane Fesitvals and Rituals, where naked bodies are painted red and can be seen dancing promiscuously around the fire. Rest assured that you do not need to dance naked around the fire in order to Celebrate this wonderful Sabbat, and if anyone tells you otherwise, walk away.
Sex magic (between consenting adults of course), planting of seeds in the garden, inviting faery folk to your gardens, bon fires, dancing around a Maypole and of course feasting are common happenings at Beltane.
Handfasting is extremely popular at this time of year as well, as it is the Pagan ritual of commitment between partners, or a Pagan Wedding if you will.
Beltane is also a time of working with Elementals and in particular, the Faery Folk. It is also one of the times throughout the year where the veil between the Spirit Realm and Earth Realm is at it's thinnest (the other being Samhain) so mediumship is often heightened at this time of year.
As we are a family coven we like to focus our family rituals on the Faery folk rather than the fertility side of things, at least until the children have gone to bed ;) We invite the Faeries to join us during our celebrations, make a maypole and enjoy a feast. We honor the Gods and Goddesses of Fertility and thank them for providing us with an abundance of food, and anything else we need.
Generally the Beltane Altar is adorned with a green cloth, symbols or statues of the horned God and the Mother Goddess, in our home we prefer a statue of Baphomet as he represents both sexes and the balance of energies. Flowers, bright colours, perhaps a Maypole or one of my Beltane Candles as the centrepiece. Candles, lots of candles or if possible a fire. Cauldrons or Chalices represent the Goddess and her fertile womb. Faery figurines are also appropriate for a Beltane Altar. And anything else you feel may be suitable.
The foods of Beltane often include things which represent fertility, such as fruit with seeds, breads and wine, beltane cookies, candied flowers, light Spring Soups etc.
Here is a link to a wonderful website I found with a lot of information on Beltane - http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/beltanemayday/a/AllAboutBeltane.htm