This day marked the beginning of Ludi Megalenses, the first day of the weeklong Megalesia Mater in honor of the Goddess Cybele–generally described as Magna Mater. Her cult originated in Asia Minor and came to be centered on Mount Dindymus at Pessinus in Phyrgia, where she was know as Agdisis. Her consort was Attis, and there was a great deal of mythology that surrounded their relationship.
It was during the war with Carthage that Cybele’s cult was brought to Rome in 204 B.C., following a prophecy in the Sibylline Books and advice from the Oracle at Delphi. The prophecy stated that the invaders would be driven back if Magna Mater was brought to Rome. Soon after, her sacred black stone was brought to Rome and housed in the temple of Victoria, later to be placed in a temple on the Palatine Hill, which was dedicated to Magna Mater in 191 B.C.
The Megalesia lasted from April 4 to 10 and originally consisted of games in the Circus Maximus. It was a festival of fertility in the most primal of forums. A large pine tree representing the God Attis was adorned with white cloth and placed in the center of the temple of Cybele. The novice priests would then cut their arms and sacrifice their virility to the God. The severed portions of their manhood were dashed against the pine tree and then buried. This brutal and bloody display of adoration was considered instrumental in recalling Attis to life,k and thus the return of summer growth.