Monday, May 9, 2011

Feast of the Lemures: May 9th

Today is the first day of the of the three-day Feast of the Lemures, a Roman festival held  in honor of the Lemures, the malevolent and fearful ghosts of the dead who wander the earth on these three Spring nights.  It was celebrated in Rome every year during the month of May.  It was celebrated at night and in silence, and during three alternate days; that is, on the 9th, 11th, and the 13th of May, because even numbers were considered unlucky.  These restless spirits believed to be those who died violent or otherwise untimely deaths and were believed exist in the form of unsettled, homeless spirits of the air who envied the living and longed for homes. They were thought to be particularly active on these three days.

This time was called the Lemuria in recognition of the nocturnal household rituals practiced to drive away these spirits. 

When midnight comes and drops silence for sleep,
and dogs and dappled birds are hushed,
The man who remembers the ancient rite
and fears the gods, rises up (barefoot)
And makes a thumb sign between his closed fingers
to avoid some ghostly wraith in the quiet.
When he has washed his hands clean with fountain water,
he turns around after taking black beans,
Glances away and throws, saying: ‘These I release;
I redeem me and mine with these beans.’

According to Ovid, on the nights of the Lemuria, the head of the household  rose at midnight and walked barefoot to a basin containing clean water. He folded his fingers around his thumb and washed his hand in the water. Then, he filled his mouth with black beans and walked through the house and spat the beans out, careful not to look around. When the beans were out he would say nine times, "These I release; I redeem me and mine with these beans."  It was believed that while he was speaking the lemures would come and collect the beans. He then washed his hand again, picked up bronze household instruments, and walked through the house clanging them. When he was done he repeated nine times, "Leave ancestral spirits!  Get out!"

The myth of origin of this ancient festival was that it had been instituted by Romulus to appease the spirit of his unfortunate brother, Remus. Originally called the Remuria, this festival was celebrated at night and in silence. During this season the temples of the gods were closed because of this annual exorcism of the noxious spirits of the dead, the entire  month of May was deemed unlucky for marriages. 
Romulus, complying, called that day the Remuria,
When reverence is paid our buried ancestors.
Over time the harsh consonant at the beginning
Of the name, was altered into a soft one:
And soon the silent spirits were called Lemures too:
That’s the meaning of the word, that’s its force.
And the ancients closed the temples on these days,
As you see them shut still at the season of the dead.
It’s a time when it’s not suitable for widows or virgins
To wed: she who marries then won’t live long.

Now, on another note....

I had a quiet Mother's Day yesterday.  My sons are both away.  Hubby took his mentally challenged nephew to a movie.  He had asked me to go, but I chose to stay home and nurture me....and to light some candles on my remembrance altar and spend some time with the two special women in my life, to honor them.  Later, I did a little work on my family tree as a means of honoring the rest of my ancestors.  Then, later, I got out my Kindle and was reading a great book on Gaia, and the phone rang.  It was my youngest asking me where I was.  Home, I tell him.  So, why aren't you answering the door?  Well, to be honest, I wasn't expecting anyone, and there are just too many people around here who ring the wrong doorbell.  So, I go to the door, and there is a delivery man with the most gorgeous floral arrangement and a big balloon that says I love you, Mom.  Happy Mother's Day.  It melted my heart.

My Saturday walk turned into a rather pleasant surprise.  For awhile now, I've had some shortness of breath when I walk for any length of time.  And, between the pain of the fibro, the extra weight, and this breathing issue, it's been hard for me to do the things I once enjoyed.  But, part of the problem, too, has been that I've become a weekend shut-in.  Only on cooking weekends do I go out, and that is only because I need to do my food shopping.  And the fact is, the more you sit, the more weight you gain, the more stiff and achy you become when you try to do something.  So, each weekend I have been trying to get around, even if it is only a walk to our neighborhood CVS.

And, it seems to be working.  I noticed that not only was I not winded when I go a few blocks from home, but I also seemed to have picked up a little pep in my step.  The Walgreens I went to was one whole subway stop away, and I not only went the distance, but unlike other times, I didn't have to take the train home; this time I walked it both ways....and was still able to catch my breath when I walked in the door.


  1. Excellent news, about the weekend walking.

    Pretty new blog look here too!!!

    Gentle hugs,

  2. I guess the moral of the story is -- open the door if it is a holiday! Glad to hear your walking is paying off.

  3. I am so very proud of you Mary! I have so missed the outside. Today I made it an excuse to do sheets and rugs, they had to be hung on the line. It has been beautiful here. However the pollen has been terrible, so not good for me right now. Sounds like you had a nice Mother's Day! I have missed you my friend! Love you!