Beware the Lemures

In ancient Rome, the people of the time believed in spirits called Lemures. They were thought to be benevolent spirits of deceased loved ones who couldn't afford a proper burial and were now restless. If one was not interred, in a tomb or cremated and placed in an urn, the soul could not cross the River Styx which is how the living passed into the world of the dead. These ghosts would come at night to terrorize the living. Although it is a term mostly used in antiquity Lemures are commonly used in tabletop RPGs as well as fantasy based characters of literature and video games.

"Mense Maio malae nubent...They wed ill who wed in May!

This was such a concern for the Romans that they celebrated Lemuria, a festival to appease these spirits. It was held on May 9, 11, and 13 and certain rituals would be performed in order to exorcize them. On the first day, the head of the household would rise at midnight barefoot, wash his hands three times, walk around throwing beans over his shoulder while reciting this line 9 times “I send these; with these beans, I redeem me and mine.” The beans were said to be offerings to the Lemures. The Vestal Virgins would prepare salted flour and sprinkle it on animals which would then be sacrificed on an altar and burned on a sacred fire on the second day. Then on the 13 of May, they would throw 30 images of old men from a bridge into the Tiber River. The whole month became known as unlucky due to the festivities and those who wed during the month could bring death upon themselves.

The Lemur's name was derived from the Lemures. They were given the title due to their nocturnal behavior and slow movements. Although their glowing eyes in the night and

their ghostly cries surely are fitting as well. No wonder why they were used in the tragedy of Faust as half undead creatures who bury Faust's body.

Written By

Stephanie Sutera

Associate Director & Photographer

Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations

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