The lares were in the beliefs of ancient Romans, good spirits of the dead. Lares were believed to take up occupancy in households, cities, or regions, and to act as protectors. There also were lares for the public in general. The household lares were members of a family, and the most important spirit was that of the founder of the family. Lares were worshipped privately along with penates (household guardian deities) and manes, a category which included both ancestral spirits and underworld deities. Food offerings were made to them at every meal. As household and ancestral spirits, the lares are similar to the ancestral spirits of the dead in Shinto. As spirits of the dead, they are similar to the Djinn, the Demonic children of Lilith and the Devil. See MANES. larvae In ancient Rome, evil spirits which sought to harm and frighten the living. Larvae usually were associated with lemures, the evil spirits of the dead. See Lemures.
The Night Watchmen
Also known as: Lases (Etruscan); Lassi
Feast: 23 December, the Larentalia
Lares are guardian spirits. Lares is plural but that’s fitting because they virtually always manifest in pairs. (The singular is Lar.) They are household spirits who protect family, home, land and the family’s property. (Once upon a time, Lares protected family slaves.) The meaning of their name is unknown and their exact nature is also mysterious. Are they protective land spirits who, by extension, became family guardians as more and more houses were built on land or are they protective, benevolent ancestor spirits who, by extension, guarded a family’s entire property including land?
Lares may be the children of Lara and Mercury. They may be paternal ancestors, too. Lares are completely benevolent and never harmful, at least not towards those they protect. Lares are found inside the home, on the property they protect and also at crossroads. They make their home with the family they protect, usually dwelling by the hearth or beside the chimney. Family kept altars to them in their home, usually featuring statues of the Lares. Shrines were also erected at crossroads. These shrines were usually open in all directions so that the Lares could travel as needed.
The Lares and the Manes, spirits of the dead, are entwined: whether or not they are the same or different types of spirits is subject to heated debate. Lara is the mother of the Lares while Mania leads the Manes. However, many believe Mania and Lara to be two names for one spirit, hence the confusion regarding the spirits they rule.
Manifestation: Lares usually come in pairs, either in human form or as snakes.
Iconography: Lares are usually depicted as two young men with a watch dog; if depicted in serpentine form, then they may be crowned.
Sacred animal: Dog; snake
Altar: Lares are venerated and propitiated inside at the hearth and outside at crossroads.
See also: Ancestor; Lara; Manes; Mania
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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