Lemuria

In Roman religion, on May 9, 11, and 13, the Lemuria or Lemuralia, the Feast of the Lemures (q.v.), was observed, during which the unwholesome and malevolent sprectres of the restless dead were propitiated. This ancient custom was Christianized in the feast of All Saints Day, established in Rome first on May 13, in order to de-paganize the Roman Lemuria. In the 8th century, as the popular observance of the Lemuria had safely faded over time, the feast of All Saints was shifted to November 1, coinciding with the similar Celtic propitiation of the spirits at Samhain. Pope Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary, not by chance, for 1 November.

See also the history of Halloween.


Lemuria is the name given by 19th century geologist Philip Sclater to a hypothetical land mass in the Indian Ocean, used in the theories of Victorian Darwinists to explain the isolation of lemurs in Madagascar and the distribution of their fossil relatives across Africa and Southeast Asia. Ernst Haeckel, a German Darwinist, used a 'Lemuria' to explain the absence of 'missing link' fossil records, claiming they were all undersea.

All such strained invocations of imaginary 'land bridges' were rendered obsolete with the modern (post 1960) understanding of plate tectonics and their effects on biogeography.

In the meantime, however, Madame Blavatsky had begun writing about Lemuria, claiming to have been shown an ancient, pre-Atlantean Book of Dzyan by the Mahatmas. Through her, 'Lemuria' took on its current air as a mystical lost continent similar to Atlantis, and began to grow from a land bridge to a huge continent spanning both the Indian and Pacific oceans. She wrote of massive, hermaphroditic, egg-laying beings with four arms and three eyes that inhabited a utopian world. Their downfall came, she wrote, when they discovered sex.

Frederick Spencer Oliver published A Dweller on Two Planets in 1894, which originated the belief that survivors from Lemuria are living in or on Mount Shasta in northern California. This belief has been repeated by such individuals as the cultist Guy Warren Ballard in the 1930s who formed the I AM Foundation.

In a section of the late Mayan period Madrid Codex that is sometimes called the Troano Codex, fanciful archaeologists in the days before Mayan glyphs had been translated thought they were able to interpret illustrations as 'records' of a continent in the Pacific, destroyed by volcanic activity. Supposedly, a similar legend has been translated from unspecified 'Sanskrit tablets' that describe a continent called Rutas.

The continent of Mu imagined by Augustus Le Plongeon (1826-1908) is possibly a permutation of ideas about what Lemuria might have been.

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Lemuria was also a festival in the Roman religion, in which the lemures, the ghosts of the dead, were appeased with offerings of beans.

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