Daily Ritual before the Lararium
by: M. Horatius Piscinus
Offered here is a suggested daily ritual to be performed before a lararium. All of the prayers mentioned here are taken from Latin sources, the authors being indicated. In some cases the original Latin texts were modified for the ritual.
In the morning when you rise and begin to stir about, the first thing one would do would go to the hearth and ensure the fire was still burning from the night before. In the modern world we would not keep the ancient practice of maintaining a continuous fire in the house. But you may begin your day by lighting a candle, an oil lamp (lucerna) or lighting a stove to boil water, with a greeting for Vesta, "Salva sis, Vesta mater."
Next you would go through your normal routine of cleansing; washing, brushing your teeth, shaving, et cetera. This can be performed in a formal manner in itself, according to your own tradition. But you may want to include in your normal routine a little prayer of cleansing before performing the daily ritual in front of your lararium. Dip your fingers in water and wash your hands, saying,
"Haec aqua a corpore impuritates modo simile plumbo mutando ad aurum eluat."
"May this water cleanse my body of impurities, as lead is changed to gold."
"Haec aqua a corpore impuritates eluat, ut pluvia aera purgat."
"May this water cleanse my body of impurities, as the rain cleanses the air."
The Laraium rite is then made prior to eating your morning meal.
The daily rite honors your ancestors and the gods and goddesses who are patrons of your family. One must approach them with respect and reverence, and as in all rituals, with sincere intentions. All formal rituals should begin with an offering to Janus. Place a small dish (patera) with bread before the lararium. Special bread cakes may be made for ritual offerings. Also place a bowl in front of the lararium into which you may pour a little wine.
"Jane pater, te hac strue obmovenda bonas preces precor, uti sis volens propitius mihi (liberisque meis) domo familiaeque meae."
"Father Janus, before you I make an offering of bread, I sincerely pray that you will look kindly and favorably on me (and my children), on my house, and my household." ~Cato
Wine may also be offered, pouring a libation into a bowl. After the rite is completed, the bowl should be taken outdoors and the wine poured onto the soil. If that is not possible, as it would not for some modern people living in apartments, then the wine must be drunk. Wine is sacred and should never be discarded. Even spilt wine should be sipped up rather than wiped away. A libation of wine is shared with the gods. One pours a small amount of wine from a goblet into the bowl, then takes a sip of wine from the goblet, and pours another libation:
“Jane pater, macte istace libatione pollucenda esto, macte vino inferio esto.”
“Father Janus, may you be strengthened by this libation, may you be honored by this wine.”
Any other deities you would wish to include in your ritual may be added after Janus. Simply substitute Their name above in place of Janus pater (using the vocative case). For example Minerva, may be substituted as "Minerva Sospita". You can repeat this prayer as many times as you wish, to any deity of your choosing, and should include Vesta among them. Next you should pray on behalf of your parents to the Penates:
"Di Penates meium parentum, familiai Lar pater, vobis mando, meum parentum rem bene ut tutemini."
"Divine Penates of my fathers, Lars father of my family, I commend to you the good fortune of my parents, and that you guard them well." ~Plautus
Again to the family's Lars:
"Larem (corona nostrum decoro) venerare ut nobis haec habitatio bono fausta felix fortunataque euenat."
"I venerate our Lars (by ornamenting him with this garland) so that we and our house may have good fortune, happiness, and prosperity." ~Plautus
You may now include any prayers for the day, or meditate with your ancestors. An extra offering of incense should be made when you include special requests in your prayers. If you take a morning meal before your lararium you should offer some to the Lares and ask that They share it with you (see below).
Then conclude your ritual by saying, "Di obsecro vostram fidem," which is, "Gods, may you keep your faith." Or, "Macte esto." "May You be strengthened by this (offering),” or “Blessed may it be." Or simply say, "Illicet." "Thus it is done."
Other things you may want to do with your lararium, if it is placed near your door, place a small bowl of water in front of it, and add in a pinch of salt. When you leave the house, dip your fingers in the water, touch it to your lips, then say "Invoco vos, Lares, ut me bene tutetis." Which is, "I call to you, Lars, that you might protect me well." When you return home do the same, first greeting Janus and thanking Him for watching over your house while you were away. Then greet the Lares the same way you would greet anyone of your family members.
Your lares are family members or friends you have adopted into your family and should always be accorded the same respect you would your grandparents. When you sit down for the main meal of the day you may want to set out a plate at your table for them, or even bring the images of the lares from the lararium to your table. Indeed for some festivals this should be made your practice. Any perishable food you would offer your lares should be set out nolonger than would be needed to eat it yourself. After they have taken the spiritual essence of your offering, the food should be burnt, buried, or consumed by yourself. In any event, your offerings should be disposed with consideration. In the modern world trash that is collected will be burned or buried, so placing offerings in the trash afterward can be done (not a practice I endorse), but again it should be done with some reverence and care taken. It would be perfectly alright to keep a bowl of fruit or candies at your lararium, from which you yourself may eat with due reverence, as any food or drink offering is meant to be shared. Other offerings that should be made at the lararium would include burning incense, placing cut flowers, lighting candles, and keeping found objects. A bowl should be kept near the lararium into which you place any spare change you might find, asking the lares to assist you in making your prosperity grow, and as with food offerings you may later use the coins yourself. Also small stones that attract your attention, or any other found object should be placed at your lararium so that the lares might enjoy it as well. Special offerings that can be made to your lares would be to dress their images in fine cloth and jewelry. This is a very ancient practice, one that has always been kept in my family. One ancient example I have seen is a silver statue of Venus from Antioch on which gold bracelets and a gold necklace were added.
You may wish to include other parts to your daily ritual, and these would not necessarily be made exclusively at your lararium. Wild birds (avis; pl. aves) are considered to carry the souls of ancestors (avus; pl. avi). Therefore setting out wild birdseed or casting bread may be regarded as an offering to Lares too. Janus Pater is the creator, beginning of all things, and is associated with the dawn. Thus one breaks fast in the morning with a sip of an herbal brew or other drink, greeting the sunrise with a toast and an offering to Janus. Normally this too is performed outdoors, done in the same manner as wine was offered above. Usually I will take my first cup of coffee after feeding the birds, sitting outside to watch as they arrive to accept my offering. My mother’s breakfast consisted of an egg taken in wine, a small portion of the wine poured in libation. The point is that your daily rituals should not be held exclusively to the area of your lararium, but should fill your entire day, throughout your house or apartment, and carried along with you wherever you go.
Di deaque te semper bene ament.
Marcus Horatius Piscinus