Cemetery Lights – “Lemuralia”

Day 7 of 7 Days of Roman Founders. Our final track in this series on the reception of Rome’s foundation myth comes from the Rhode Island black metal project Cemetery Lights. This title track to their 2018 EP Lemuralia is based on the poet Ovid’s account (in the Fasti) of the origin of the Roman Lemuralia festival. The festival is held in May, where the paterfamilias (head of the household) would conduct a midnight ritual to appease and ward off the malevolent spirits of the dead. Ovid roots the tradition in the founding of Rome itself, a foundation christened by the blood of Remus at his brother’s hands. Naturally, Remus’ resentful ghost might bring bad luck, so Romulus instituted a ritual to exorcise (at the very least) his guilt. The rite was conducted by throwing beans over one’s shoulder and chanting nine times the verse “haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis.” This translates to “I offer these; with these beans I redeem myself and my own.” It is possible that the Lemuralia gave rise to the later Christian tradition of All Saint’s Day, one whose eve (Halloween) the spirits of the dead roamed free in search of “treats” to appease them. Lately, these are more likely jelly beans than the kind the Romans offered, but the possible continuity is compelling.

Cemetery Light’s first full-length, The Underworld, will be released in October.

Our homage in May 
The month of our fathers 
To the memory of fell Remus

Slain in contention 
His spirit was grieved 
To demand a rite of honor

In the dead of the night 
The head of home purifies 
Black beans cast with averted sight 
And chants nine times

These I cast, with these beans I redeem me and mine

Ghost of my fathers, go forth

A hand outstretched 
With thumb barred over 
Fingers two and three

Glut on beans 
The clashing of brass 
Does cause the spirits flee

In the dead of the night 
The head of home purifies 
Black beans cast with averted sight 
Thus completes the annual rite

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