Friday, April 09, 2010

lemures

Nocturnal wanderers who won't accept the fact that they're dead and so torment the living.

2 comments:

Bobberann said...

What's the origin of the word? Le murre, as in the Gallic? Has it anything to do with Lemuria, a fabled land of nod and nod again, then wink?

Jay said...

Lemuria was invented by an English zoologist to explain the similarities between primates in India and those on Madagasgar, home of the lemurs. (Sunken continents were all the rage before continental drift was surmised.)

The lemurs themselves were named for lemures because 1. they are nocturnal; 2. they look spooky; 3. they have a ghostly howl; and 4. because the Malagasy people believed them to be spirits of their dead ancestors.

The concept of the lemure is, of course, as old as the hills, but the word comes from Roman mythology. Being party animals, the Romans had a holiday for every day of the year. May 9, 11 & 13 were the days - nights, actually - set aside to placate the lemures. You had to walk along at midnight, throwing black beans behind you. You weren't to look back at the lemures coming out to eat the beans, though, or they'd stay indefinitely. Why black beans? I have no idea.

There will be a quiz.