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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ancient Roman religion

Bacchian rite, from the Villa of the Mysteries

Main doctrines

Polytheism & numen
Imperial cult · Festivals


Temples · Funerals
Votive offerings · Animal sacrifice

Apollo · Ceres · Diana · Juno
Jupiter · Mars · Mercury · Minerva
Neptune · Venus · Vesta · Vulcan

Other major deities

Divus Augustus · Divus Julius · Fortuna
The Lares · Quirinus · Pluto · Sol Invictus

Lesser deities

Adranus · Averrunci · Averruncus
Bellona · Bona Dea · Bromius
Caelus · Castor and Pollux · Clitunno
Cupid · Dis Pater · Faunus · Glycon
Inuus · Lupercus


Sibylline Books · Sibylline oracles
Aeneid · Metamorphoses
The Golden Ass

See also

Decline and persecution
Nova Roma
Greek polytheism

Numen ("presence", plural numina) is a Latin term for the power of either a deity or a spirit that is present in places and objects, in the Roman religion. The many names for Italic gods may obscure this sense of a numinous presence in all the seemingly mundane actions of the natural world.

The word was also used for 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 (which was a problem under the Roman system).

The word 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.

Note that etymologically the Latin word numen originally and literally meant "nodding". It has the sense of inherent vitality and presiding, and was also associated with the terms for "command" or "divine majesty". The importance of nodding, in relation to commands and divine majesty, stems from the belief that Jupiter, the king and ruler of the gods of Olympus in Roman mythology, when he made a final and unquestionable decision, nodded his head, thereby enacting his ruling.

Due to its use as a central term in Roman religion, Numen is also the name of one of most important academic journals in the field of History of Religions.


Similar cultural concepts

The concept of a life-energy inherent in all living beings seems to be a fairly universal archetype, and appears in numerous ancient religions and systems of metaphysics.

Analogies to numina in other societies:

Also related are the philosophical concepts of

Popular culture

  • In the novel Contact by Carl Sagan, the term 'numinous' comes up in a discussion between Ellie Arroway and Ken der Heer regarding the differences between science and religion.
  • In the original World of Darkness game system, 'numina' were minor psychic or magical abilities held by otherwise ordinary humans, as well as various supernatural powers used by other beings that didn't fall into a specific category. In the new World of Darkness, 'numina' and 'numen' refer exclusively to the powers of ghosts and other spirits.
  • In the essay Photos-chocs, published in Mythologies, Roland Barthes uses "numen" to describe qualities of some historical paintings or photographs: “Numen is history petrified, eternalized, trapped, for one finally holds it immobile, chained beneath a prolonged gaze”.

See also


External links

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