Spiritus (Spirits)

“You are a little soul carrying about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


In Roman religion every household has its own personal spirits which protects it. The lares are the spirits of the family's ancestors. The penates are kind spirits who guard the larder. Little figurines of these spirits are kept in a small household shrine, called the lararium. The spirits are worshipped by the family on special days, with bits of food or wine sacrificed to them.

Conversely, on the days of 9-13 May, kinless and hungry ghosts who have no one to perform funeral rites for them prowl about in search of prey. These ghosts are called manes or lemures, and a special festival, the Lemuria, is invoked to get rid of them. There are stories of entire towns that forgot these rites—perhaps because they were involved in war or other events. One tale recounts that the great feast of the dead was not observed and the manes failed to receive the customary gifts. The injured spirits revenged themselves on the living and soon the city was encircled with the funeral fires of their victims.


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Spiritus (Spirits)

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