engarian (engarian) wrote,

Lemuria - An Unusual Roman Holiday

Today is the first day of the three days of Lemuria. General searching for Lemuria usually brings up the mythical land that sank below the oceans, similar in basic scope to the Atlantis myth. But the Romans celebrated Lemuria on May 9, 11 and 13. Yes - three non-contiguous days. How unusual. But the entire holiday is unusual.

Roman celebrants performed a variety of appeasing acts and rituals to exorcise those dead who were evil or malevolent from their homes. In essence, an early version of Ghost Hunters. The Romans would propitiate the dead with offerings of beans. Beans? Well, given the response of some intestinal tracts to the eating of such legumes, perhaps it is understandable after all - LOL.

The Vestal Virgins would also prepare a sacred salted flour cake called mola salsa (shades of Lembas for those of my f-list) which used the first ears of wheat of the season. Ovid claimed that you should walk backwards throwing black beans over your shoulder. At night - actually, at midnight. The owner of the house (undoubtedly to avoid appearing too ridiculous to his neighbors) would arise at midnight, gather his bowl of beans, and walk backwards around his house throwing beans over his shoulder and murmuring (or declaring if he didn't care what the neighbors thought) "I send these, with these beans I redeem me and mine (haec ego mitto, his redimo meque moesque fabis)" nine times. Not just once, but NINE times. Additionally, his household would clang bronze pots and call out "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!" nine times. Like ghosts couldn't get the entire idea after a single shout, they had to have it pounded into their aetheric brains via nine repetitions. OY!

So, because the three days of Lemuria were so loud and clattering as well as those ghosts whizzing all around trying to find new places of residence, the month of May was considered to be a month of ill omen for marriages. No wonder since the honeymoon would be interrupted by beans, clanging pots, and chanting household servants! On the final day of Lemuria (May 13) in 610, the Parthenon was consecrated to the Saints by Pope Boniface IV and the celebration of All Saints Day took over for Lemuria. Eventually that was moved to a different calendar date, but still linked with the dead. Enjoy throwing your beans around tonight.
Tags: celebration, holidays

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