Vialia or honouring Mercury of by-ways

For a couple of years now, I’ve been pondering on creating a celebration close to January 1st dedicated to Mercury and the Lares Viales. The basic idea was simple: as the New Year starts, I should offer my prayers and gifts to the god and wights of pathways and ask for their blessing for the twelve-months road ahead of me.

Having and almost year-long devotion to Mercury, the idea has finally been put into practice. And bit accidently, actually, because this month’s first Wednesday – that is today – is also the 4th, which is a very mercurial number (Mercury’s Day is actually the forth of he week). It’s not a very common coincidence: the last time it happened was in May and it won’t happen again until April, July, and then… September 2013. So, in a way, it’s auspicious in that it’s also the starting month of 2012. And it’s a perfect combination for a first time at a celebration that I will henceforth hold at every January 4th. I called it Vialia, from the Latin word for pathway – via – as in Lares Viales or wights of the roads.

Breakfast with a god
In the morning, after waking up, washing up, and morning prayers, I made an offering of incense to Mercury and decorated His clay altar with a bead wreath. I then arranged another altar set with His image and prepared my breakfast, which included a bowl of strawberries and spelt cakes that was presented to Mercury along with a portion of wheat, a candle, more incense, and a flower wreath. Thus, my first meal of the day had Mercury as the guest of honour and breakfast company. Before eating the strawberries and cakes, I took a few and set them aside to later leave at the public altar in Belém, along with the portion of wheat and the wreath.

Animal adoption
I’ve been eyeing financial animal adoption for a while and decided to start today, as a gesture in honour of Mercury, with the symbolic bonus of choosing foxes, namely a red and a Darwin’s. I’ll take the adoption kit for the former, which means I’ll be able to keep a few mementos from this first Vialia, but the donation for the latter will go entirely to conservation programmes, if nothing else because Darwin’s fox is critically endangered, while the red one is not. Now, you may ask what does this animal have to do with Mercury, especially since He’s linked to cattle and watch dogs, while foxes are predators that may attack herds and hens. Yet dogs are not naturally a shepherds sidekick, but fulfil that role after having been tamed, bred, and trained for it. Before that they were wolves, wild canines like a fox, but with a greater aggressive potential. But perhaps more importantly, foxes are liminal and cunning animals, in that they move through different worlds – wild, rural, urban, and their boundaries – and have a trickster’s nature. Which is very appropriate for a god who’s Himself a trickster who moves between realms. And, being a liminal animal, it’s also a good badge for travellers and diplomats, both of which cross borders and may require a good dose of wit and cunning. The fox may not have an historical precedent in Greek or Roman traditions as a hermetic/mercurial animal, but the link makes sense and so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t arise as a modern symbol of Mercury.

Of course, dealing with tricksters means that you’ll have to deal with their sense of humour, too, and be ready for shortcomings. In this case, a World Wildlife Fund webpage that failed to submit my adoptions. Ironic, isn’t it? Guess I’ll have to wait a few days before trying again.

At the public altar
At the altar to Mercury in Belém, I laid the flower wreath, two strawberries, two spelt cakes, and four handfuls of wheat, which I spread clockwise with a few words to the god. I also took out of my bag the set of oracular pebbles I created and drew three of them after asking Mercury for His advice for the New year. What I got may be connected with my thesis, but time will tell.

Along the way to and from Belém, I left a few coins as offerings to the Lares Viales. On vases, garden pillars, and hidden in public benches. Some may be found and taken by pass-byers, which has its beauty, since you’re putting them “on the road” and the coins will move from one hand to another.


3 thoughts on “Vialia or honouring Mercury of by-ways

  1. Sounds absolutely lovely. I wish I had read this earlier! I’ve been meaning to hold a devotion to Hermes/Mercure on the first Wednesday of the year. Alas, ’tis already Thursday here. :/

  2. Pingback: Welcome, 2015! | Under Two Trees

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