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09 May 2006 @ 11:57 am
MAY 9...  

Feast of the Lemures

In Roman religion, the Feast of the Lemures, called 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 and malevolent specters of the restless dead (lemures) 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 was that it had been instituted by Romulus to appease the spirit of Remus (Ovid, Fasti, verse 473ff.). 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!" nine times.

Because of this annual exorcism of the restless malevolent 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 the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since.

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 8th century, as the popular observance of the Lemuria had safely 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, not by chance, for 1 November.
The idea that this festival was the origin of that of All Saints, which was moved later to November 1, has now been abandoned by Roman Catholics, though not by cultural historians.

See also the history of Halloween, and Larvae. For a similar Japanese custom, see Setsubun.
lomelinde_sama on May 9th, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC)
Weeeeee ! Watch the historian in me rejoicing !

Although the month of may sucks to get married in France because there are so many WWII commemorations and national holidays, on top of what is probably this more ancient custom !
Markboywondermark on May 9th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
YAY! A fellow historian! I love stuff like this, D!
lomelinde_sama on May 10th, 2006 07:23 am (UTC)
I used to love Ancient History in college, but my teachers always sucked at teaching. Hence why I ended up doing a contemporry history post-graduate degree.
Mark: flower lotusboywondermark on May 10th, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
It's the ancient history I love too, D!
Ben / KC_Risen Phoenix!: Goddesskc_risenphoenix on May 9th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
Totally fascinating... Thanks. I used to post stuff like this. Are you pagan, Mark? And have we already discussed this?
Mark: Jesus calledboywondermark on May 9th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
My younger sis is Wiccan and I think of myself as a free-thinking Christian! LOL...very vague, I know! I can definately appreciate all other religions and I consider myself strongly anti-fundie! :)
Ben / KC_Risen Phoenix!kc_risenphoenix on May 9th, 2006 11:33 pm (UTC)
I am stealing another one of your icons!

I sorta think of my self as a Christ-Follower-Buddhist-Pagan-New-Thought person. Christ-Follower rather than Christian as your icon suggests!
Mark: angel rainbowboywondermark on May 10th, 2006 01:22 am (UTC)
I think we see things the same way, sweetie! Enjoy the icon!! :)
St. Rougarou: redricegogoangelgunboy on May 10th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC)
i'm picturing ovid with his stylus poised over his waxed tablet, scratching away by the light of a tiny, extremely pornographic lamp, making the whole thing about beans up and giggling to himself...

<3 ovidius publius naso....
Markboywondermark on May 10th, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
LOL! I love it!! Those Romans are are such jokers!