Celebrate Lemuralia

Thursday night/Friday Morning this week marks the celebration of the annual clearing out of the dead and old energies, according to the Roman calendar, known as Lemuralia. Why not take the opportunity to exorcise your own demons?

According to Ovid, this is done by having the head of the household walk barefoot through the house at midnight, and throw black beans over his or her shoulder. While doing this they say, nine times, “I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine.” Everyone else in the household then beats bronze pots together while chanting, also nine times, “Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!”

That might seem like a bit much, especially in the eyes (and ears) of your neighbors. Let’s dissect this ritual so you can see what its components are.

  • Head of the household: Who speaks for your household? Whomever is seen as owning the home or being the spokesperson should be the one performing the main part of this rite. If all of the adults, or even all of the residents in your household speak equally for the household, then all of them should be participating as main actors. It’s a matter of ownership. When I do a cleansing & protection on a home, everyone who lives there has to agree and have buy in, or it’s less effective.
  • Barefoot: Some traditions dictate that you walk on sacred ground only in your bare feet. This may also be a matter of connecting firmly and consciously with the ground, or dropping all pretense. I pretty much always do ritual in bare feet, but it is specified here.
  • 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!
  • Midnight: Between midnight and 3am is when the veil is considered to be at it’s thinnest in the daily cycle, so this is an appropriate time to ask (or tell) the folks on the other side of that veil to leave.
  • May 9th: This is within 2 days, at least this year, of Astrological Beltane, one of the two times of the year when the veil is also at its thinnest.
  • Banging on pots & pans: noise is a pretty traditional method of banishing unwanted ghosties, from Tibet to Europe to the New World.
  • Repetitions of nine: Nine is three times three (gee, thanks for the remedial math lesson!).  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.
  • The Greek Chorus following the head of the household around: They are his support and they “have his back.” Anyone who is not a spokesperson for the household should assume this role, or you can all take turns.

Knowing all of this, you might create your own ritual to the same effect. There are ways of banishing the dead that don’t involve noise, such as holy water or burning sage. Heck, everybody sitting down to a midnight feast of beans, with some ritual chanting and flinging of holy water might be enough to accomplish your goal! I would love to hear how you end up adapting the tradition, though. Leave me a comment…

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