Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Feralia

FeraliaFeralia is the ancient Roman festival to the Manes (spirits of the dead). The festival is was (is) celebrated on February 21st. This day marked the end of Parentalia, a nine-day festival (13–21 February) honoring the dead ancestors. Roman citizens were instructed to bring offerings to the tombs of their dead ancestors which consisted of at least "an arrangement of wreaths, a sprinkling of grain and a bit of salt, bread soaked in wine and violets scattered about.

As concerns public rites nothing of them survives, however on this day as described by Ovid, an old drunken woman (anus ebria) sits in a circle with other girls performing rites in the name of the mute goddess Tacita  who is identified with the nymph Lara or Larunda. The ritual consists of the old woman placing three bits of incense, with three of her fingers, beneath a threshold where a mouse is unknowingly buried. She then rolls seven black beans in her mouth, and smears the head of a fish with pitch, impaling it with a bronze needle, and roasting it in a fire. After she formally declaims the purpose of her actions, as customary in Greco-Roman magic ritual, saying "I have gagged spiteful tongues and muzzled unfriendly mouths" (Hostiles linguas inimicaque uinximus ora)  she departs intoxicated. It is implied through Ovid's choice of words, "hostiles linguas" and "inimicaque ora", that the ritual is intended to curb gossip or ill-intent.

To bring new life to this ancient custom, I intend to leave floral offerings, along with the other items mentioned above, at my altar. My family are all states away from me in various burial places. I will also use the Ovid description as a guide to perform a blessing prayer to ward off ill-will from my enemies while asking for protection against the negative words said against me. Feralia is a perfect pagan tradition to reincorporate back into our 21st Century lives.

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