Quick Facts – Lares, Lemures and Manes of the Romans

Lares

by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

The Lares (singular: Lar) are Roman guardian spirits of deceased family members protecting their descendants and their homes.
They were included in religious holidays as though they were still alive – plates of food and drink were poured for them and they were being spoken to as if they were still alive.
On special occasions and on the holidays dedicated to them, Parentalia and Feralia (like the Disenblot held in February) they were also venerated or asked in prayer and ritual to continue blessing the house, an individual family member who needed extra protection or similar.
If a family moved the Lares were believed to move with them, so they were not bound to a particular place like most of the Germanic guardian spirits and wights for example.

LarHowever there were those kids of Lares who were guardians of a specific city, village or sacred site, the Lares Loci and Lares Publici. Shrines built to honor the Lares Publici were often erected at crossroads or near cemeteries.

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In Roman belief you can become a Lar if you lived a good and honest life.
However, if you turn to evil you might find yourself a Lemure, a spirit of evil and mischief, after death. These spirits were similar to what we know as poltergeists.

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In addition to the Lares there are the Manes, a different kind of guardian spirit. They are the deceased souls of the enemies of the Romans. In order to appease them the Romans would regularly sacrifice a goat or offer milk to special altars dedicated to their enemies’ ancestors. On religious holidays the whole village would flock to the “atonement rock” (Lapis Manalis) – a rock covering a larger cave or hole in the ground, into which the sacrifices and offerings were placed.
Likewise, when some of the men went to battle, they would offer not only to the Lares to keep their family safe while they were gone, but especially to the Manes to spare them.

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If a specific Lemur or Mana caused too much trouble the Romans took to eventually pleading their case to the Goddess of the dead, known as Lara or also Mania, in the hope she would recall these spirits to the underworld forever.

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