Lare and Lase

Ciao a tutti,


Over the past few days, a theme has been made apparent to me.  Several of the discussion groups in which I participate have been discussing spirits – specifically the Lare and Lase.


Below is something I wrote for a project so I thought that I’d share it here.  Please remember that this is my work and should not be shared without proper reference.


Lare & Lasa

(c) Vincent Russo, 2012

The Lares (singular: Lar, also called Genii loci or, more archaically, Lases) were the ancient Roman deities protecting the house and family.  They were a form of household gods and included the spirits of the ancestors, patron deities, spirits of the house, and personal divinities of the heads of the family.  The ancient Romans had some VERY detailed classifications as to the specific type of Lara that a particular spirit would be classified as. Some people included the nature spirits and faeries as Lares but others referred to the Lase as spirits of nature (field and stream) as the Lase or the Lasa.  I know of several people who refer to their dead (generic) as being Lase but the Ancestors (dna dead) as Lare.

For my own use, I tend to divide how I see the spirits into 2 main categories and keep it fairly simple.

1 – The Lare and the Lasa.  The Lare are spirits that were once human, will at some point be human, are “minor-gods” or guardians manifesting in human likenesses (domestic divinities).  Both the general dead and the specific dead (Ancestors, etc.) are considered Lare.  As mentioned earlier, for me, they are the household spirits and guardians which included the spirits of the ancestors, patron deities, spirits of the house, and personal divinities of the heads of the family.

2 – The Lasa are the spirits that never were human and never will be because they are on a different evolutionary path than that of the human race.  The Lasa include the spirits or intelligent essences of places and things (a region, building, stream or lake, tree, forest, etc.) as well as all “nature spirits” that you find in classical mythology (the Good Neighbors, Elementals, and lesser Angels/Daemons).

Detailed, formal Lare practices can be found by exploring ancient Roman religion. The Romans loved their praxis and were famous for their rules, lists, and codification of practices and beliefs.

For the Romans, the Lara were divided into many different classifications.  Below, I’ve listed the nine classes that I’ve encountered most often.

Lare, Single


  • Lares Compitales — associated with crossroads, usually specific to local communities or neighborhoods (vici) and often were at main crossroads of their vici. They provided a focus for the community’s social and domestic religious life.
  • Lares Domestici — the spirit of house, the living essence of the dwelling, the guardian spirit of the home, if you wil.
  • Lares Familiares — general family guardians, the spirits of those who came before; the Beloved Dead. The Familiares were responsible for the care, welfare and prosperity of the household.
  • Lares Patrii – (of the fathers) deified ancestors or special guiding ancestral spirits. This would be the equivalent of the Mighty Dead; ancestors who have passed but have special interest and the ability to actively interact with the family and individuals.
  • Lares Permarini — the Lare who protected seafarrers and ventures having to do with the sea.
  • Lares Praestitis — Lare of the state or officially recognized by the ruling body.
  • Lares Privati – (personal) the Privati represented the personal relationships that an individual had with the Lare such as spirit allies.
  • Lares Rurales — Lare of the fields, identified as custodes agri – guardians of the fields – by Tibullus[1]
  • Lares Viales — Lare of the roads and of travellers.



From, Pompeii Art and Architecture Gallery By Dr Joanne Berry

From, Pompeii Art and Architecture Gallery By Dr Joanne Berry

From, Pompeii Art and Architecture Gallery By Dr Joanne Berry[2]

Lararium from the House of the Vetti

Lararia are shrines to the gods of the household, and are found in different shapes and forms in many Pompeian houses, ranging from simple wall-paintings to large and elaborate shrines.

Here, the lararium imitates the form of a temple. Columns support a pediment, and frame a central painting. Two dancing lares (guardians of the family, who protect the household from external threats) hold raised drinking horns. They are positioned on either side of the genius (who represents the spirit of the male head of the household), who is dressed in a toga and making a sacrifice.

Beneath them all is a serpent. Snakes are often depicted in lararia, and were considered guardian spirits of the family.

Nota Bene: In Italic-Craft, the snake also represents Persephone/Proserpina and the Underworld or the Chthonic deities, the root of Ancestor reverence.

[1] Tibullus, 1, 1, 19 – 24. See also Cicero, De Legibus, 2. 19, for reference to Lares as field-deities.

[2] Pompeii Art and Architecture Gallery By Dr Joanne Berry

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