LEMURES

I. e., spectres or spirits of the dead, which were believed by the Romans to return to the upper world and injure the living. Some writers describe Lemures as the common name for all the spirits of the dead (Apul. de Deo Socr. p. 237, ed. Bip.; Serv. ad Aen. iii. 63; Mart. Capella, ii. § 162; Ov. Fast. v. 483), and divide all Lemures into two classes; viz. the souls of those who have been good men are said to become Lares, while those of the wicked become Larvae. But the common idea was that the Lemures and Larvae were the same (August. De Civ. Dei, ix. 11); and the Lemures are said to wander about at night as spectres, and to torment and frighten the living. (Horat. Epist. ii. 2. 209; Pers. v. 185.) In order to propitiate them, and to purify the human habitations, certain ceremonies were performed on the three nights of the 9th, 11th, and 13th of May every year. The pater familias rose at midnight, and went outside the door making certain signs with his hand to keep the spectre at a distance. He then washed his hand thrice in spring water, turned round, and took black beans into his mouth, which he afterwards threw behind him. The spectres were believed to collect these beans. After having spoken certain words without looking around, he again washed his hands, made a noise with brass basins, and called out to the spectres nine times: "be gone, you spectres of the house!" This being done, he was allowed to look round, for the spectres were rendered harmless. The days on which these rites were performed were considered unlucky, and the temples remained closed during that period. (Varro, ap. Non. p. 135; Fest. s. v. Fabam; Ov. Fast. v. 419, &c.; comp. Hartung, Die Relig. der Röm. i. p. 55, &c.)