the Parentalia — a new tradition for the dead

Di benedicaris vos.

The Parentalia is coming soon, the annual festival dedicated to the memories of our loved ones and our ancestors who have passed away. This is originally a Roman festival, where the heads of families and of households would observe necessary rites for the dead at their graves. For the Romans, this must have been a more personal and more necessary practice than it is to us because the Romans had a tradition concerning their dead. We once had a similar tradition, as well, as until the early 20th century it seems to me, the practice of making a mask of the deceased’s face (i.e., a death mask) was more common. For the Romans, especially those of patrician or upper-class rank, this practice was certainly more developed. In the homes of wealthy and powerful Romans, the first rooms of the house would be decorated with pedestals of these death masks. As one advanced through the house, one would metaphorically go deeper into the bloodline, depicted by a red rope that connected one death mask on a pedestal to another pedestal. Each death mask would have told a story, as well, that young Romans would have grown up to learning the successes of their ancestors, and many say that this is why upper-class Romans became so ambitious for glory in war (Harris’s War and Imperialism in Republican Rome). Some have even argued that this practice led to the growing civil strife beginning at the end of the 2nd century BCE and towards the civil wars in the 1st century BCE until the rise of Octavianus in the 40s and 30s BCE. Certainly, this tradition imprinted on the minds of all Romans the necessity of understanding and keeping good relations with the dead, and thus made the Parentalia, its subsequent holidays on the importance of the family, and the Lemuralia very important in the social and religious fabric of Rome.

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However, Sandus is not Rome. Far from it, indeed. Sandus has no need for understanding the glory of our ancestors in order to push us to imperialism or war: both are disdained by our culture and our society. Nonetheless, the Sacra Flameno is beginning work on a similar concept as the Roman thread of the family manifested by this practice of death masks. Shown above is this concept, a work in progress without the rope. In the near future, before the Parentalia begins on 13 February and ends on 21 February, red and white rope will connect the different components. Red will connect the family members and white will connect “ancestors of mind” to the dedication in the centre (representative of the person making the display, as with the head of the family in the case of the Romans). For example, the Sôgmô’s grandfathers and grandmother are displayed in this web (thus warrant the use of a red string) and Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a Sandum and Communist heroine, and Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, two Sandum and Roman heroes of the populares, represent the “ancestors of mind”. This inclusion of adding ancestors of mind may be an act of cultural appropriation, which relates negative connotations to many – even to the author -, but it is one which reflects Sandus’s multiculturalism and culturally diverse background while recognising that figures of our past and their lessons teach historical lessons to this day — that history is universal to humankind, not the property of one nation. Furthermore, this inclusion of ancestors of mind will rid of familial prestige and of the self-fulfilling prophecy of aristocratic or privileged children perpetuating arrogant behaviour. Hopefully, with the introduction of ancestors of mind into the concept of family and the inclusion of loved ones who fall outside of the family line (depicted by a late professor who was a close friend of the Sôgmô), the Sandum concept of the family will not be as narrow as the American Dream and its nuclear family.

This article will be edited to include new information in the near future, when the web of the Sôgmô’s ancestors of blood and of mind is concluded.

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