Lemuria

And the ancients closed the temples on these days,

As you see them shut still at the season of the dead.

its a time not suitable for widows or virgins to wed;

She who marries won’t live long.

Ovid, Fasti

Lemuria was an ancient Roman festival which occurred on the odd May numbered days of 9,11 and the 13th, as even numbered days were considered unlucky. This was a time when Roman homes were besieged with their spectral ancestors and steps needed to be taken to appease and exorcise them. Yes, The Beans are once again involved with all manner of high strangeness – want to know more? Start with The Evils of Beans – Part I. 

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Back to Lemuria. According to Ovid the whole thing started when Romulus killed brother Remus, (you know, the twins who escaped being buried alive and were raised by a she-wolf?) and the ghost of Remus showed up all bloodstained and angry at the foot of Romulus’ bed. As a way to appease Remus-Ghost, the feast of Remuria was created and was later, renamed Lemuria, taken from the word Lemures. Lemures were believed to be restless or vengeful souls of the dead, who did not receive the proper burial rites. 

In order to banish the lemures, the family patriarch would rise at midnight and wash his hands in water three times. Barefoot, he would walk through the house, tossing beans over his shoulder or spitting them out in various places repeating, “I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine.” Meanwhile, the rest of the family banged on pots and pans, to frighten the lemurs away calling out, “Ghosts of my ancestors, be gone!” 

In result, Romans regarded the entire month of May to be unlucky and it was especially unwise to marry. Those brides who did, would die soon after. 

 

Resources

W. Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic, 1899

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One Response to Lemuria

  1. Pingback: Joanne Ella Parsons » May 2014

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