For the academic journal, see Numen (journal).
"Numina" redirects here. For the musician, see Jesse Sola.
Not to be confused with Noumena.
Marcus Aurelius (head covered),
sacrificing at the Temple of Jupiter
Practices and beliefs
List of Roman deities,
Twelve major gods,
Glossary of ancient Roman religion,
Ancient Greek religion,
Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism,
Numen, pl. numina, is a Latin term for "divinity", or a "divine presence", "divine will" (etymologically, the word means "a nod of the head", here referring to a deity as it were "nodding", or making its will or its presence known). Numen was also used in the imperial cult of ancient Rome, to refer to the guardian-spirit, 'godhead' or divine power of a living emperor--in other words, a means of worshiping a living emperor without literally calling him a god.
Numen is also used by sociologists to refer to the idea of magical power residing in an object, particularly when writing about ideas in the western tradition. When used in this sense, numen is nearly synonymous with mana. However, some authors reserve use of mana for ideas about magic from Polynesia and southeast Asia.
Ancient Roman cult:
According to H. J. Rose:
The literal meaning is simply "a nod", or more accurately, for it is a passive formation, "that which is produced by nodding", just as flamen is "that which is produced by blowing", i.e., a gust of wind. It came to mean "the product or expression of power" -- not, be it noted, power itself.
Thus, numen (divinity) is not personified (although it can be a personal attribute) and should be distinguished from deus (god).
The supposition that a numious presence in the natural world supposed in the earliest layers of Italic religion, as it were an "animistic" element left over in historical Roman religion and especially in the etymology of Latin theonyms, has often been popularly implied, but was criticised as "mostly a scholarly fiction" by McGeough (2004).
The cult of Augustus was promoted by Tiberius, who dedicated the Ara Numinis Augusti. In this context, a distinction can be made between the terms numen and genius.
The phrase "numen eris caeloque redux mirabere regna" appears on line 129 of the poem Metrum in Genesin, attributed to Hilary of Arles.
Cicero uses the term to signify the "active power" of a Roman god.Virgil uses the plural form of numen in the Aeneid: magna numina precari, translated as "prayed to the great gods." By simulacra numinum the historian Tacitus refers to the "statues of the active powers."Pliny the younger speaks of the numen historiae to mean the divine power of history.Lucretius uses the expression numen mentis, or "bidding of the mind."
The expression Numen inest appears in Ovid's Fasti (III, 296) and has been translated as 'There is a spirit here'. Its interpretation, and in particular the exact sense of numen has been discussed extensively in the literature.
In modern times, the term (referring to the Christian God) has been used in various expressions:
Innocue vivito, numen adest (Live blameless; God is here.) was the motto of Linnaeus, taken from Ovid's Ars Amatoria (I, 640).,
Nil sine numine is the state motto of Colorado. Its origin could be the phrase "...non haec sine numine devum eveniunt" (...these things do not come to pass without the will of Heaven) from Virgil's Aeneid (II, 777).,
Numen lumen (God is the light) is the motto of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Elon University.,
More recently, the term numen appears three times (142.23, 162.13, 282.21) in Joyce's Finnegans Wake.,
Analogies to numina in other societies:
ashe in Yoruba mythology,
Kami in Japanese Shinto,
mana in Polynesian mythology,
maban in Australian Aboriginal mythology,
manetuwak in Lenape mythology,
shekhinah in Semitic mythology,
sila, inua in Inuit mythology,
teotl in Aztec mythology,
wod in Anglo-Saxon mythology,
väki in Baltic-Finnic mythology
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