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The Feralia was the last of the three Roman festivals honoring the dead.

"And the grave must be honoured. Appease your fathers' Spirits, and bring little gifts to the tombs you built. Their shades ask little, piety they prefer to costly offerings: no greedy deities haunt the Stygian depths. A tile wreathed round with garlands offered is enough, A scattering of meal, and a few grains of salt, and bread soaked in wine, and loose violets: Set them on a brick left in the middle of the path... and hide the gods, closing those revealing temple doors, Let the altars be free of incense, the hearths without fire. Now ghostly spirits and the entombed dead wander, Now the shadow feeds on the nourishment that's offered. But it only lasts till there are no more days in the month Than the feet that my metres possess. This day they call the Feralia because they bear [ferunt] Offerings to the dead: the last day to propitiate the shades." - Ovid[1]

The Feralia ended the Parentalia, and is held in honor of Iuppiter Feretrius and the infernal powers. "Feretrius" is one of Iuppiter's titles, and in this capacity Iuppiter was called upon to witness the signing of contracts and marriages. An oath was taken that asked Iuppiter to strike down the person if they swore the oath falsely. Spirits (manes) of the dead were said to hover above graves on this day, and provisions were put out for them. Some sources believe that the Roman contact with the Celtic observances of a feast of the dead combined to create the foundations of the holiday we now celebrate as All Hallows' Eve, or Hallowe'en. February 21st is the last day of the Roman year in which to placate ghosts; February 22nd the living are appeased. February 21st the temples would be opened at noon, and the time of religious devotion, the "tempus religiosum", came to a close. Magistrates would lay down their insignia of office and offer up prayers on behalf of the State.

Republican calendars are marked with "FP" for this day, but after Augustus they are marked simply "F", for fastus. The mysterious meaning of "FP" may have its roots in the observance of the Feralia as a fastus (or feria) publicus during the Republic; Because the actual rites involved in the observance of the Feralia can only be guessed at, we do not know why this change was made.


  1. Fasti II

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