Lemuria (festival)

Lemuria (festival)

In Roman religion, the "Lemuralia" or Lemuria was a feast during which the ancient Romans performed rites to exorcise the malevolent and fearful ghosts of the dead from their homes. The unwholesome spectres of the restless dead, the "lemures" or "larvae" ["It should be noted that they do not occur in epitaphs or higher poetry," George Thaniel noted (in "Lemures and Larvae" "The American Journal of Philology" 94.2 [Summer 1973, pp. 182-187] p 182) remarking "The ordinary appellation for the dead in late Republican and early Imperial times was "Manes" or "Di Manes", although frequent use was also made of such terms as "umbrae", "immagines", "species" and others." He notes the first appearance of "lemures" in Horace, "Epistles" ii.2.209.] were propitiated with offerings of beans. On those days, the Vestals would prepare sacred "mola salsa" (salt cake) from the first ears of wheat of the season.In the Julian calendar the three days of the feast were 9, 11, and 13 May. The myth of origin of this ancient festival, according to Ovid, who derives "Lemuria" from a supposed "Remuria" [Modern linguists dismiss this connection but find the etymology of "lemures" obscure.] was that it had been instituted by Romulus to appease the spirit of Remus (Ovid, "Fasti", V.421ff; Porphyrius ). Ovid notes that at this festival it was the custom to appease or expel the evil spirits by walking barefoot and throwing black beans over the shoulder at night. It was the head of the household who was responsible for getting up at midnight and walking around the house with bare feet throwing out black beans and repeating the incantation, "With these beans I redeem me and mine" nine times. The household would then clash bronze pots while repeating, "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!" ["Manes exite paterni!" is the formula given by Ovid ("Fasti" V.443); scholars argue over how accurate Ovid was in this instance.] nine times.

Because of this annual exorcism of the noxious spirits of the dead, the whole month of May was rendered unlucky for marriages, whence the proverb "Mense Maio malae nubent" ("They wed ill who wed in May"), and thus the rush of June weddings— "because the weather is so nice"— in our own day.

On the culminating day of the "Lemuralia", May 13 in 609 or 610— the day being recorded as more significant than the year—, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and "all the martyrs", and the feast of that "dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres" has been celebrated at Rome ever since.

According to cultural historians, this ancient custom was Christianized in the feast of All Saints' Day, established in Rome first on May 13, in order to de-paganize the Roman "Lemuria." In the eighth century, as the popular observance of the "Lemuria" had faded over time, the feast of All Saints was shifted to November 1, coinciding with the similar Celtic propitiation of the spirits at Samhain. Pope Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary. [ [http://www.orlutheran.com/html/saintori.html Dr. Richard P. Bucher (Lutheran), "The Meaning and Origin of All Saints Day"] : "The Feast did not become established in the Western Church, however, until the Roman bishop Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to Christian usage as a church on May 13, 609 or 610. The Feast was observed annually on this date until the time of Bishop of Rome, Gregory III (d. 741) when its observance was shifted to Nov. 1, since on this date Gregory dedicated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter's to "All the Saints." It was Gregory IV (d. 844), who in 835 ordered the Feast of All Saints to be universally observed on Nov. 1."]

The present official Roman Catholic position is that the Roman festival was not connected with the origin of All Saints.Fact|date=December 2007

ee also




*http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Lemuralia.html Smith, William, 1875. "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities".

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