Dies lustricus

The dies lustricus (“naming day”) was one of the most important ceremonies in every Roman’s life.

38745568_331425397398143_3558181350181699584_oHow I like to imagine little Gaius in his swaddling uniform with his first sword.

After a Roman child was born (freeborn citizens only, it seems), the whole family waited a week or so to make sure the infant would survive the first few treacherous days of its precarious wee existence. On the eighth day after birth (baby girls) or the ninth day (baby boys), the entire family along with their close friends and domestic slaves performed a lustration (‘purification’) ceremony. If available (i.e., he wasn’t off slaughtering barbarians), the paterfamilias (“father of the family”) was charged with leading this private ritual within the home. Many of the details of the ritual are unknown (which is FABULOUS cause then I can have loads of imaginative fun), but we do know that sacrifices were made (both animal and bloodless, possibly) and everyone in the household presented the baby with little clay or metal amulets that would be strung together and worn by the baby. Basically, this charm necklace was a rattle toy.

The big moment of the whole affair was the father’s acceptance of the child as his official progeny, after which the father would announce the name that he’d chosen for the child.

nasciturus.jpgA reenactment of the happy day! (but that ain’t no eight day old baby)

Prior to the ceremony, the baby had no name, no status as a human, and was only referred to as pupus (something like ‘little baby’). Finally, the father would place the bulla (a locket on a necklace with an amulet inside, usually phallic) around the baby’s neck.

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The bulla served to ward off evil spirits and to proclaim the child a Roman citizen and therefore safe from violation. Roman children wore their protective amulets until they came of age, or for girls, when they were married off as young teenagers. The bullae of children from wealthy Roman families were often made of gold and were kept as family heirlooms.

After the ceremony, the whole family would celebrate with feasting and merriment! And wine!! 🍷🍷🍷 Here’s a link to an old but good publication with more information and a few drawings: http://www.forumromanum.org/life/johnston_4.html#97

Happy Dies lustricus!

JPK ❤️ 👶 ❤️

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