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In Roman mythology, the larvae or lemures were the spectres or spirits of the dead; they were the malignant version of the lares. They were said to wander about at night and to torment and frighten the living.

Lemuria was a feast during which the Romans performed rites to exorcise these ghosts from their homes. On those days, the Vestals would prepare sacred salted flour cakes, from the first ears of wheat of the season.

To expel the lemurs or larvae, the head of the household would get up at midnight and walk around the house with bare feet while throwing black beans over their shoulder and 9 times repeat the incantation “Haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis (I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine).” Then the other members of the household would clash bronze pots and repeat, also 9 times, “Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!”

Because of the feast of Lemuria, the month of May has a proverb; “Mense Maio malae nubent (They wed ill who wed in May).”

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