Monday, October 5, 2015
On October 5, Romans would celebrate "mundus patet", or "the opening of the world".
According to legend, during the founding of Rome, Romulus dug a massive pit that broke through to the underworld. It was then sealed by a stone lid, called the "lapis manalis". The "mundus" was believed to provide a link to the goddess Ceres. The mundus was open only three times a year: August 24, October 5, and November 8. Although we do not know where the "mundus" was located, the Romans did. Offerings of grain, new wine, and fruits were made by throwing them into the "mundus".
Ceres was not only the guardian deity of seed-corn, but also the door-warden of the afterlife. (Indeed, during winter months, Ceres co-ruled the world with daughter Proserpina, queen-companion to Dis. Dis was the god of the afterlife, riches, fertile land, and underground mineral wealth. He was later merged with Pluto/Hades/Orcus.)
Thus, opening of the "mundus" also allowed the spirit of the dead to roam among the living. Most of the time, it was not "lawful" for the dead to move among the living; if they did so, it was only for evil intent. But "mundus patet" allowed communication with them, so that the living might learn about the future (which only the dead could know) and be assauged in their grief, while the dead might speak with the living about things left undone and to convey regrets or forgiveness to those still alive.