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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The Fylgjen – Guardian Animal Spirits

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by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

In the Norse traditions the Fylgjen (Old Norse: Fylgjur = followers) are guardian spirits. The concept of Fylgjur was adopted by today’s German Heathens and Germanic Pagans, though the guardians prayed to were originall the Idisen (Old Norse: Disir. > https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/its-a-girl-thing-germanic-heroines-warriors-seers-witches-and-goddesses-part-1/ ). Every human being and every Asen and Wanen deity has at least one such guardian spirit representing the specific soul energies and personality traits of its charge and always gently guiding them back to who they truly are. These spirits usually take the form of an animal and in Scandinavia they are said to take on the shape of young females also on occasion.

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Thunar had his goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngjöstr, Freija had her cats, Ingvi-Fro his boar Gullinborsti, Heimdall his rooster Gullinkampi and his faithful horse Gullintop, Wotan his wolves Geri and Freki and his two ravens Hugin and Munin, and so forth.

It is notable that the Jöten and Thursen (giants) do not possess Fylgjen. What would they need protecting or guarding from? Also they are the forces of nature embodied and nature is endowed with an immeasurable multitude of facets and soul energies. And how would you lead nature back to itself? This, it seems, is necessary for simpler creatures but certainly not nature.

Traditionally Fylgjen would take the shape of regional animals (Germanic spirituality was irrevocably tied to land, soil, family and fate).

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Fylgjen don’t show themselves to their charges until they reveal themselves to them in the final hour of death. However, there is one exception. It was believed that they show themselves to those who possess the “second face”, people with special connections to the spirit world, Sibyllen (seers), Alruner (witches) amongst others.

If you do not possess the gift it is still possible to find out what or who your Fylgje is. According to folklore you must wrap a handkerchief around the blade of a knife three times. Hold up the knife at the ends of the handkerchief and begin thinking of or speak the names of the animals that come to mind. When the blade slips through the handkerchief and falls to the ground you know which animal represents your Fylgje – the last one you thought of.

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Other names for the Fylgjen are Forynia, Vardivil, Vardögl, Vardöiel und Vardygr, Folgie or Ham(ingja).

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