L is for Lares and Penates Pagan Blog Post

Try Googling an image for Lares and Penates and you will get one picture over and over again from Pompeii and it isn’t even correct because it’s painting, Why? Because Lares and Penates were each family’s gods and every family had their own.

Oddly enough, because modern paganism considers it a requirement, very few cultures had altars at home. There just wasn’t room in most culture’s houses. The Romans did have them. Each family would have had a devotional space containing their family’s ancestor representatives. Even the poorest would have had some set, even slaves were allowed to keep theirs. These were usually small wax dolls of the people that were their family’s ancestors. Think of a space rather like the nativity set that some people put up in their house at Christmas and you would not be far off what a set of Lares and Penates would have looked like. Some well off people even had traveling sets of bronze in wooden boxes. They were personal to an individual family. There are no surviving sets until some very late bronze ones.

They were invited to meals and placed at the table. They were offered food and beverage and anything that fell to the floor was theirs. They looked after and protected the family and were supposed to provide guidance in times of trouble. They also attended all the family’s special events like weddings or citizenship ceremonies. When someone moved up in class or had coming of age ceremonies like a child giving up is bulla or receiving his toga. (Boy children received an amulet called a bulla nine days after birth and wore them until they became citizens {Romans had classes of citizen ship defined by the type of ring they wore starting with a ring of iron} or came of age. Girls wore lunulae until their marriage.)

One would have found the ritual tools used by the paterfamilias in ceremonies with the family, things such as a libation bowl, incense burner, incense and knife. The paterfamilias was the family priest and would have been responsible for doing the ceremonies and performing the proper libations.

As well as being household deities, there were Lares and Penates that were guardians of every city and town. Sometimes of roads and crossroads too. Lares were the more formal deities and the Penates were less formal and more tied to Vesta’s worship.

We have a set of Playmobil figures from their magical people set for our Lares and Penates on top of the entertainment center.

Sorry, I haven’t got any citations from where the info came from except to say it’s from my Latin mimeographed study notes and things I found in the library back when I studied for competition. I should copy those poor mimeographed papers. They’re fading away. For you youngun’s, memeographs are what we had before copy machines and if you were lucky you got to crank away at one for the teacher and inhale that lovely fluid that turned the paper into purple writing.

3 thoughts on “L is for Lares and Penates Pagan Blog Post

  1. Ok, that is so awesome, I am giddy. I LOVE the day to day stuff… especially as it applies to people’s spiritual beliefs. Of course, everything I read now, I see in my head scenes from “Rome”. I would love to sit and watch it with you, and have to sit there and say “yes”, “no”, “that’s way out of period” or “that’s a crock.” I’ve had a few teachers from both of my school tell me that it is “fairly” accurate, but that some of the stuff is out of period… by anywhere from 200 to 2000 years!

    I should invite my Goddess to my meals. Unfortunately, anything that falls on the floor She is going to have to wrestle my dog for, because he thinks it’s his. 🙂


  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I have to say I have memories of learning of household Gods in Latin class, but being me I could never remember names or exact details. So this is really awesome.


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