its

Discussion in 'English Only' started by novice_81, Nov 17, 2011.

  1. novice_81 Senior Member

    Sweden
    Polish
    Hi

    May Day was the date the Romans honored the Lares, or household and family guardians. Wreaths were hung before their altars, incense burned and the family attuned to its spiritual essence. (Scott Cunningham/The Magical Household)

    What does "its" refer to? Lares? Altars? May Day?
     
  2. Jose C. New Member

    Spanish - Spain
    I believe it's referring to the burning incense.

    It can't refer to Lares or May Day, as they are in a separate sentence. It surely doesn't refer to "wreaths" or "altars", as they're plural. That leaves us with just the burning incense.
     
  3. novice_81 Senior Member

    Sweden
    Polish
    I think, you're right. Thanks.
     
  4. TacoNight Senior Member

    France
    English - USA
    In fact, I think the word "its" probably refers to "family" (also singular).
     
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    Lares is plural too, so that's out. May Day is possible, but it's rather too far away, and there are two good candidates closer to hand: family and incense. I don't actually know which is meant. Both make reasonable sense. Did the family attune to its (own) spiritual essence? I don't think incense has a spiritual essence, though it may aid in the appreciation of something that has.

    The sentence is unclear in another way. Is it three parallel passives with the repeated verb omitted, or are the second and third clauses active/middle?

    (1) Wreaths were hung before their altars, incense [was] burned and the family [was] attuned to its spiritual essence.
    (2) Wreaths were hung before their altars, incense burned [up] and the family attuned [itself] to its spiritual essence.
     
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I can only see it as referring to Mars Day:
    the Lares,
    household family guardians.
    wreaths
    altars,


    are all plural and thus the possessive pronoun would be "their"

    This leaves the family, which is neutral and has no spiritual essence or "incense". I would disregard incense as the whole passage is a description of Mars Day.
     
  7. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    It is obviously "family". The traditional Roman religion was family-oriented. It included giving honor to ancestors, attending to the family hearth as a symbol of the family's life (and thus the importance of the Vestal virgins, who tended to the national hearth ), and worshipping deities who were not universal deities, but particular deities of this or that household (that is, the Lares.) In addition to the Lares, other family-specific household deities included the Penates, and the Genius of the paterfamilias. For a Roman, there was indeed a "spiritual essence" for a family, and this sentence notes that it was brought particularly to mind for a Roman household on May Day.
     

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