Parentalia schedule

Parentalia, the ancient Roman festival in honour of the family dead, starts tomorrow, 13th of February, and lasts until the 21st, with an additional domestic feast on the 22nd called Caristia. When it comes to ancestor worship, this is the high point of the year for a cultor, but it can also be problematic in its length. What to do during those nine days between the 13th and the 21st? Go to a cemetery in every single one of them? Hit the road and visit multiple graveyards in the area? Or if you’re too busy, do it once on a day of your choosing? These and other questions have been brewing in my mind for some time, so this year, in an effort to make something different and meaningful every day, I decided to create a schedule focused on my ancestors and deities linked to the spirits of the dead. This is still at an experimental stage, but here’s what I’m considering for this year’s Parentalia:

    13th: Libations to Persephone and my ancestors;
    14th: Offerings of wine and wheat on the graves of my ancestors;
    15th: Libations to Mercury;
    16th: Offerings of wine and wheat to my ancestors who are buried far away
    17th: Libations to Hecate
    18th: Offerings of wine and wheat to drowned or lost ancestors
    19th: Libations to the Lares Alcobacenses or genii of my ancestral land
    20th: Offerings to the spirits of family pets and animals
    21st: Libations to Persephone and my ancestors

The point is to give each day a particular focus within the theme of ancestor worship and reach as many family dead as possible. There’s some logic to it, in that it starts and ends with libations to the Queen of the Underworld and my ancestors – like brackets, if you will – leaving the days in between to break it down into several groups: those buried far away, those lost at sea or elsewhere and family pets or animals, alternating with tributes to relevant gods. Depending on how it goes, I may review it completely or make a few minor changes.

Parentalia is immediately followed by Caristia on the 22nd, which is a feast of reconciliation and nurturing of family ties. For some time now, I’ve been looking at the whole season as a model for the overall structure of funeral rites: death (13th), mourning and burial or vice-versa (14-21st), celebration as the dead joins the Family Lares (22nd); death severs ties with a family member, but after the funeral and a period of transition, the ties are renewed as the deceased (or part of him/her) is welcomed by the ancestral Lar. Which is why I’m also thinking of placing a black cloth or ribbon above my Lararium between the 13th and the 21st and then replace it with a flower wreath on the 22nd. Again, all of this is still very experimental.


2 thoughts on “Parentalia schedule

  1. Sounds very good! I hope it turns out well. I’m… conflating Parentalia with Anthestêria (as I did last year), following lunar reckoning. Since the latter ends on the 13th, I thought Parentalia would fit well. Of course, this makes the whole lunar month almost all about ancestors from the 11th to the 22nd!

    • I assume that reinforces the feeling of getting things right and clean before Spring hits. That’s the feeling I’ve been getting recently and it makes sense considering typical the (pre-)new year nature of large periods of ancestor worship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s