Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Different Kind of Bean Counting & Related Unpleasantnesses

I knew there'd be another one along in short order! In ancient Rome, three alternate days of this month were known as Lemuralia (or Lemuria)-
9, 11 and 13 May. These days were dedicated to appeasing evil spirits of slain enemies, any malignant wandering spirits as well as those with no living relatives to ritually honour them. The fear was that such spirits, left unappeased, might possess (haunt, I guess), properties of the living - a kind of exorcism in advance.

During this season the temples of the gods were closed, and it was thought unlucky for women to marry on these dates, and in fact during the whole month of May; those who dared to marry were believed to die soon after.

Roman poet Ovid held that the name Lemuralia/Lemuria derived from Remuria and was established by Romulus, Rome's founder, to appease the spirit of the twin brother, Remus, he had murdered.

Traditionally what happened was this: the head of each household, at midnight, would rise from rest, wash his hands three times, then go barefooted around the house throwing black beans behind him, reciting nine times: “Haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis” meaning “I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine”. (In Japan there is a similar bean-throwing tradition during the Shinto lunar new year, Setsubun.) By the by, it appears that beans themselves, black or otherwise, hold certain mysteries, as outlined at the blog of Ayamanatara:
Black beans: The number of traditions that consider some form of legume to be sacred, cleansing, or good luck is rather astounding. In Hoodoo, you eat black eyes peas on New Year’s Day to bring good luck; red beans are carried for good luck. Eating black eyed peas for good luck at Rosh Hashana, Jewish New Year, is recorded as far back as the Babylonian Talmud. In Italy, Catholics eat fava beans on St Joseph’s Day, and when the fava bean is dried, roasted and blessed, it is considered lucky; you will even find them altars in Sicily. Colorine beans are considered lucky in Mexico. Some varieties of red beans are used as psychedelics in Central and South American traditions. Legumes in general are considered a symbol of prosperity in Japan, Germany and Brazil. Bless with beans! (My own addition - carlin peas were/are traditionally eaten in North of England counties at New Year).

Repetitions of nine: Nine is three times three...Three is the first and primary number of the tangible Divine. A lot of banishments and invocations will use a repetition of nine. It’s powerful juju.
Read on, below, and find another multiple of 3 involved (paragraph after next: - 30 men over 60.)

With the coming of Christianity those Roman bean-throwing traditions at least were modified. The practice of purifying the house of souls with beans was transformed into ossa dei morti, cookies (sometimes called fave dolci) made with almond paste, shaped to look like finger bones - which seem to me to be far more gruesome than throwing a few black beans!

The Vestal Virgins had to be in on Lemuralia too. They prepared sacred mola salsa (salted flour) from the first of the season's wheat, sprinkled it on the altar, on animal victims prior to their sacrifice, and in the sacred fire throughout the year.

A second ritual, performed on the third day, May 13th, was to throw thirty Argei, which were effigies of old men made from rushes, and thought to absorb pollution within the area, into the Tiber river from the Pons Sublicius, Rome's oldest known bridge. This ritual is thought to be a later substitute for the original live human sacrifice of thirty older men (men over 60). Hmm. No wonder Romans were afraid of malignant spirits. No doubt legions of the spirits of over-60s, thrown into the Tiber in years past, couldn't wait to haunt the homes of those Romans still in the land of the living!

The sign of "le corna," - the first and fourth fingers extended, the others turned down and the thumb closed over them, - still used against the Evil Eye in Italy, and in other contexts elsewhere, was a mystic sign used by the Romans in the festival of Lemuralia.

Around 610, Pope Boniface IV designated May 13 as All Saints Day, in honor of all martyred. All Saints Day was later moved to November 1, coinciding with regional harvest festivals, and remembering spirits of the dead.

Also on 13 May in Rome, unconnected to Lemuralia, merchants would offer up incense, and sprinkle themselves and their goods with water from the well of Mercury at the Porta Capena, in hopes of making their businesses prosper; this day was the anniversary of dedication of the Temple of Mercury in the year 495B.C


mike said...

I've long been fascinated with cultural rituals intended to disperse evil, spirits, death, et al. The celebrations are often colorful, vibrant, energy-infused, and mesmerizing.

I watch several travel shows on PBS' Create. Particularly India and Asian countries, but so many others, have festivals and celebrations almost daily. Their daily lives are infused with worshiping and ceremonial acknowledgement of spirits and the deceased. Some maintain on a daily basis, year round, alters for their ancestors. Most are driven via respect and recognition of their deceased relatives, but usually with a flair of appeasement lest the spirits are angered and return to haunt...LOL.

In typical human correlations to events, when a disaster strikes, the living obviously didn't honor their ancestors as they should have...when things are calm and safe, the ancestors have been satisfied through the livings' exemplary efforts.

It's a bit like determining whether an individual is possessed by the devil or practices witchcraft: tie a heavy rock around them...throw them into the deep end of the lake...if they survive, they are obviously possessed and saved by evil measures...if they drown, they are innocent.

Twilight said...

mike ~ All very strange isn't it?
It'd be a whole lot better of we humans had been drawn less to worrying about spirits of the dead and more about what's going on in the land of the living, and had tried harder through the centuries to perfect that side of things....because really and truly, it's all we can be 100% sure of. There must be some flaw in our DNA software - we need to be re-called for updates I think ;-)