April Fools, Cybele and Hilaria

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
Cybele and Attis

Goddesses in the Dust: April Fools, Cybele and Hilaria

Who knew? April Fools Day has its roots in an ancient Roman festival known as Hilaria. Hilarious, right? How did that happen?

Seems as though the term Hilaria was used in a couple of contexts - to celebrate any major event, such as an anniversary or birth, or election of a new emperor. Yet is also referred to a festival honoring the goddess Cybele - the "Great Mother" - and her consort, Attis, on March 25, whose four feast days started on the spring equinox. As with many ancient agricultural festivals honoring a dying and resurrected god or goddess, Hilaria celebrated the resurrection of Attis, Cybele's consort. Two days of mourning were followed by dancing, feasting and masquerading. It's likely that one of the origins for the hijinks of April Fool's Day grew out of the final day of the festivities of Hilaria, culminating in a day of general revelry and the wearing of disguises. Other cultures hold celebrations around the time of the vernal equinox. Iranians play pranks on each other on the 13th day of  Persian New Year, which often lines up with April 1. It's historically not surprising that, after a long winter, folks are ready to burn off pent up energy, and playing jokes on one another is one way to do that.

So when you prank your favorite target today with the April Fool's joke you've been waiting to spring on them all year: 

whoopee cushion on your boss's chair

putting mustard in a Devil's food cookie and giving it to your little sister (yes, my brother and I pulled this one)

or this devilishly good prank at a fast food drive through

just remember - you're keeping a two thousand year old tradition alive!

April Fools!


  1. Oh I forgot it was April first (time flies!!!!) -- fascinating post Amanda!

  2. Then, March 25th is a most suitable day to celebrate the resurrection of Greece after shaking off Ottoman domination. It' also the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and, when in classical college run by the Sulpician Fathers, it was also their order's special fete and we had the day off.
    Long live Cybelle and Attis.

    1. how could i forget those sulpician fathers??? :))

      (i thought the assumption of the virgin mary was august 15?)

    2. Oops! I meant the Annunciation. Too many Our Ladies of.....

  3. How interesting. So many of our 'modern' traditions have their roots in ancient Greece and Rome.

  4. the last one - a perfect little something i can watch with the kids.

    i forgot it was april fool's and so now i stare back and wonder who got me on what?


  5. No April tomfoolery in the Bears' place. But nice to know the hilarious history. Thanks.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

  6. It's fun to hear the origins of this from you and to imagine whole communities sharing in pranks. I know my husband was disappointed that he forgot to prank me yesterday. The thing is, he is always pulling my leg, and after 35 years, I still fall for it (some of the time). :-)

  7. I love april fools day. my hubby tried to pull one off yesterday but he hadn't thought thru his whole story so he got caught. I'll let him know about the 6000 years - that'll crack him up

  8. Ruth and MIm - How funny to read both your husbands love to prank you on April Fools?! Would love to know what they try to pull every year......

  9. Ha, I didn't know there was a classical root to April Fool's or is this your prank?


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