“Libitina’s themes are death and freedom. Her symbol is fire. Libitina is the kindly natured Roman Goddess of funerals and pyres. In poetic writings, her name metaphorically equates with figurative or literal demise. Turn to her this month to ‘die’ to outmoded ideas or be freed from bad habits. Or call on her to invoke peace for the spirits in Summerland.
In Rome, Feralia was part of a weeklong festival honoring, appeasing and communicating with the spirits of dead ancestors. If there’s something you want to give to them, today is an excellent time to try this Libitina mini-ritual. Following Roman custom, toss a message or gift into a fire source, focusing on the individual for whom it’s intended. Libitina bears the energy of the gift or note safely to the desires spirit. Emotionally, this type of ritual liberates you from lingering guilt and generates a sense of closure.
Use the same ritual to rid yourself of old ideas or characteristics that fetter spiritual growth. Take any flammable object that represents this characteristic. Hold it in your hand and channel that obsolete energy into it. Toss it into a fire, saying:
‘Libitina, liberate me
as this burns, my spirit is freed.’
Turn your back to the fire and don’t look back until the symbol is completely destroyed.”
(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)
In Roman mythology, Libitina was the Goddess of death, corpses and funerals. Her name was also a synonym for death [see Horace Odes 3.30].
Libitina’s face was seldom portrayed; hardly any sacrifices were offered to Her, as they were to Orcus, Her male equivalent. Today, Her very name has sunk into such obscurity that it is seldom mentioned when the Gods and Goddesses of antiquity are reviewed. Her name was comparable to our idea of death, and She was worshipped by the ancients and often sung about by their poets. This female deity, remembered today mostly from Roman verse, was a reigning personification of Death. She was manifest as a black robed, dark winged figure who might, like an enormous bird of prey, hover above Her intended victim until the moment came to seize it. As a deity of death, Libitina was most often invoked at funerals.
She had a sanctuary in a sacred grove (perhaps on the Esquiline), where, by an ordinance of Servius Tullius, a piece of money (lucar Libitinae) was deposited whenever a death took place. Here the undertakers (libitinarii), who carried out all funeral arrangements by contract, had their offices, and everything necessary was kept for sale or hire; here all deaths were registered for statistical purposes. The word Libitina then came to be used for the business of an undertaker, funeral requisites, and (in the poets) for death itself. It is believed that the Colosseum had one gate dedicated to Libitina for all of the fallen gladiators that fought within the Colosseum.
By later antiquarians Libitina was sometimes identified with Persephone, but more commonly (partly or completely) with Venus Lubentia or Lubentina, an Italian Goddess of gardens. Some believe this is a mistake, yet the similarity of name and the fact that Venus Lubentia had a sanctuary in the grove of Libitina favored this idea. Further, Plutarch (Quaest. Rom. 23) mentions a small statue at Delphi of Aphrodite Epitymbia (A. of tombs= Venus Libitina), to which the spirits of the dead were summoned. The inconsistency of selling funeral requisites in the temple of Libitina, seeing that She is identified with Venus, is explained by him as indicating that one and the same Goddess presides over birth and death; or the association of such things with the Goddess of love and pleasure is intended to show that death is not a calamity, but rather a consummation to be desired. Libitina may, however, have been originally an earth goddess, connected with luxuriant nature and the enjoyments of life (cf.lub-et, lib-ido); then, all such deities being connected with the underworld, She also became the Goddess of death, and that side of Her character predominated in the later conceptions.