As February marks the last month in the ancient Roman calendar, the Romans spent their time setting themselves in accord with the world. The 9-day festival of Parentalia begins on 13 February and culminates in the day of Feralia, which began at sundown on the 21st. Parentalia was a sacred time to commune with the ancestors, specifically the private family ancestors, as the name indicates.
The Vestal Virgins opened the holidays with a public ritual, but after that Rome retreated behind closed doors to honor their dead family members. Government shut down. Commerce was much reduced. You could not get married or bring petition to the courts. It was a time out of time.
Much like all festivals of the dead, the Romans believed their deceased were present with them and needed sustenance for their 9-day sojourn in the mortal world. A great deal of energy was spent preparing food for the dead and lavishing beautiful decorations on the family sarcophagus. It was a time of solemn feasting.
And yet in the middle of all this, there came the riotous fertility festival of Lupercalia. Ostensibly honoring the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, the ritual activity of Lupercalia had little to do with any aspect of Roman history and a great deal to do with the goat gods.
And as such it was a time of chaos…
come to me out of expansive time smooth this troubled brow with ethereal fingers drape your spectral shadow over these fear-hunched shoulders come to me out of worlds beyond world let me taste liminal remembrance sounding ghostly echoes by hearth-light come to me out of winter darkness for i shall be your lighthouse with candles in western windows and cats to chase away the gnawing hunger come to me my own blood and bones be again in this seemingly solid world blaze these broken paths so that i might follow come to me my own soul shepherd with coin to pay the ferryman and boots to bear me over clouds come to me my own dear memory for i am so cold in this world without you
©Elizabeth Anker 2022