Sunday, 21 February 2021

ferālia

Marking the end of a nine-day festival honouring familial ancestors called Parentalia (dies parentales, ancestral days), as historian and poet Ovid records in his book on Fasti, Romans across the Empire were prohibited in worship of the gods and instead were to visit the tombs of their departed and lay wreaths and leave offers of violets, salt and wine-soaked bread. More elaborate votives were permitted but this was sufficient to appease the spirits and the practice was strictly enforced, lest Rome return to a time when Ferālia was neglected and restless ghosts haunted the streets. As with most Roman holidays, observance was mostly a domestic, private affair and what public rites were held are an obscured and confused accounting, the only surviving description involving a drunk woman holding seven black beans (see also) in her mouth and lighting incense over the grave of a mouse, and sewing shut the mouth of a fish—then proclaiming, “Hostiles linguas inimicaque uinximus ora,” I have gagged spiteful tongues and muzzled unfriendly mouths.