The celebrations start with an opening prayer and morning offerings comprised of a candle and portions of incense, fennel and wine, all placed on Mercury’s domestic shrine. Since it’s also the start of the month, Janus, Juno and the Family Lares are honoured as well and all of the morning offerings will be burned before lunch in a ceremony dedicated to Maia. It seems fitting that if I mark April 4th as Mercury’s birthday, His mother should be worshiped at the start of the Ludi, which is also why She’s given a portion of cheese, cinnamon and coconut milk – i.e., some of the main ingredients of a cake I’ll be giving Him down the road. In the afternoon, as I take Her offerings to a nearby hill, I’ll leave a coin in a public place to be found by whomever the Lord of Fortune desires. And after returning home, I’ll start working on the wreaths and cake. There’s no point in making those things in March, due to the obvious reason that one honours the Gods not just by giving Them a finished product, but also by making it, so the work of preparing the offerings is a tribute in itself and hence a part of the festivity.
In the morning, a new candle is given to Mercury on His domestic shrine, though no further offerings are made. The second day is dedicated mostly to indoor activities: the wreaths are finished, as is the cake for April 4th, and I take some time to study divination and other mercurial topics. The only major outdoor exception is leaving another coin in a public place and, should the weather allow, maybe some jogging.
Again, the day starts with a candle being offered to the Fleet-Footed, followed by a prayer to the Lares Viales. They’re presented with wine, wheat and four small wreaths, all of which will be placed in small containers and taken outside in the afternoon. If it doesn’t rain, I’ll use my bike to go on a long ride of no less than forty kilometres, stopping four times to erect small herms by the road and placing on top of each one of the wreaths, as well as portions of the wine and wheat that were offered in the morning. As on the other days, I’ll also leave a coin in a public place.
The big day, the fourth of the fourth month of the year! In the morning, a candle and portions of wine, incense and fennel are given to Mercury on His domestic shrine. Before lunch, there’s a formal ceremony for Him, where most of the morning offerings will be burned and a cake consecrated, a slice of which will be given to the Fleet-Footed and the rest made ritually profane so it can be consumed by me and members of my family. He’s also offered a wreath that will then be placed on His shrine and should remain there until the end of the year (I use statice flowers for that purpose). In the afternoon, a new bike ride follows (if the weather allows), with libations being made along the way and, yet again, a coin left somewhere public. Also, I’ll be buying a lottery ticket and, once I’m back home, perform some divination before wrapping up at sundown with a prayer and lighting a final candle on Mercury’s shrine.
Apart from a desire to please the mercurial deities in question, there’s a somewhat narrative dynamic to all of this, in that you start by honouring the mother (foreshadowing later offerings), study the arts of Her soon-to-be-commemorated son, worship the Lares Viales as They make way for Their Lord and, when His anniversary finally comes, you lavish Him with presents. Naturally, there are other things that can be done in His honour, like watching a comedy and creating pranks (namely on April Fools). In some of those occasions, as indeed every time I go out as part of the Ludi, I wear on my wrist a leather bracelet with a coin tied to it. It normally rests in a small bowl on Mercury’s shrine and it serves the purpose of marking outdoor activities like biking and trekking on specific days as tributes to Him. And of course, if it’s raining, small walks instead of a forty-kilometres ride will have to do the trick. If that’s the case, I’m not sure if I’ll find the necessary rocks to erect a herm, but at the very least the offerings will be left or poured next to crossroads.
No matter the weather, come rain or shine, let April start under the sign of the god who was born on a fourth day, the ram-bearing son of Maia!