Lemuria, a festival whose rites were originally designed to placate the ravenous spirits of the dead, was celebrated for thousands of years throughout the lands of the ancient Roman Empire. Some of these observances survive to this day. Every year, on May 9th, 11th and 13th, the feast of Lemuria repels angry ghosts, dispels bad luck and expels unwanted spirits.

The name Lemuria comes from the Latin word Lemure, the name for the vindictive, vampire-like ghosts also known as Larvae. There are several different types of Lemures: some are evil spirits which have never been human (more demon than ghost), others the spirits of people who lived bad or thoughtless lives, and who continue their practice of doing evil even when dead. All Lemures have certain features in common, however: They take on horrifying forms, act cruelly towards living humans, and experience ravenous hunger. Some Lemures are even believed to feed on human flesh and blood.

Ancient Romans (and the Greeks before them) believed these spirits could bring ill fortune on a family, spreading sickness, poverty, shame and even death. The Romans believed that dying without children to survive you was a curse[*], and that being buried without people linked to you by blood (or adoption) to perform the sacred rites for you, doomed you to a restless eternity between the worlds of the living and the dead.

[B. Seriton, Encyclopedia of Strange Phenomena, p. 173]

Lemures – >Mu – Lemuria

[*] See >Xanthippe.

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