MANES, in Roman mythology, the disembodied and immortal spirits of the dead. The word is an old adjective manis, manus, meaning " good," the opposite of which is immanis; hence the Manes, clearly a euphemistic term, are the " good people." They were looked upon as gods; hence the dedication, of great antiquity and frequent occurrence, Dims or Dis Manibus in sepulchral inscriptions, used even in Christian times. When a body was consumed on the funeral pyre, relations and friends invoked the deceased as a divinity, and the law of the Twelve Tables prescribed that therightsof thedivine Manes should be respected, and that each man should regard the dead members of his family as gods. Their home was in the bowels of the earth, from which they only emerged at certain times. It was an old Italian custom especially at the foundation of cities to dig a pit in the form of an inverted sky (hence called mundus), the lower part of which was supposed to be sacred to the gods of the underworld, including the Manes. Such a pit existed on the Palatine at Rome. It was covered by a stone called lapis manalis, representing the entrance to the lower world, which was removed three times in the year (Aug. 24, Oct. 5, Nov. 8). The Manes were then believed to issue forth, and these days were regarded as religiosi that is, all important business in public and private life was suspended. Offerings were made to propitiate the dead: libations of water, wine, warm milk, honey, oil, and the blood of sacrificial victims black sheep, pigs and oxen (suovetaurilid) was poured upon the graves; ointment and incense were offered, lamps were lighted, and the grave was adorned with garlands of flowers, especially roses and violets. Beans, eggs, lentils, salt, bread and wine, placed on the grave, formed the chief part of a meal partaken of by the mourners. There was also a public state festival in honour of the dead, called Parentalia, held from the 13th to the 21st of February, the last month of the old Roman year, the last day of the festival being called Feralia. During its continuance all the temples were shut, marriages were forbidden, and the magistrates had to appear without the insignia of their office.
There was considerable analogy between the Manes and the received idea of " souls " and there was a corresponding idea that they could be conjured up and appear as ghosts. They were also supposed to have the power of sending dreams. It is to be noticed that, unlike the Lares, the Manes are never spoken of singly.
For authorities, see LARES and PENATES.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)