Numa Tradition

Numa Pompilius was one of the legendary kings of Rome. He is listed as Romulus’s successor, and his period of rule was considered to be a mini golden, peaceful age for the Rome.  Inspired by the nymph Egeria, he created a whole order of religious rites and tradition. Some Roman traditions say he was taught by Pythagoras, but that would require some complicated time-travel since they weren’t contemporary.

Numa tradition varies from other Roman tradition in two major ways. One is that Numa did away with blood sacrifice, and the other is that he allowed for no statuary of the gods and goddesses. Numa tradition seems to have focused on having peace with one’s neighbors and living a right and moral life. These are things that resonate with me, and I am very glad to find a Roman tradition that doesn’t require blood offerings. That it is an older tradition makes it even better!

The Numa tradition does have offerings to the god/desses.

  • Mola Salsa, coarse ground emmer wheat meal mixed with pure salt
  • Bay Laurel
  • Honey
  • Milk
  • Flowers
  • Olive Oil
  • Wine

The emmer ((Triticum dicoccum) wheat is especially interesting, as it is a very archaic form of wheat.  It was used extensively by humans already on the decline and being replaced by spelt, barley and other grains by 3000 B.C.E., so if ever a grain was likely to be Proto-Indo European, emmer would probably be it.  (You can read about ancient grains  here if you like!) Beer is older than wine, but wine probably fits better in a  Mediterranean style tradition. Since I seem to be headed for a Romano-Celtic style of personal worship, I’ll save the beer for the Celtic kin. 🙂

I find it very odd in myself that I’m not comfortable with religious statuary. I spent my childhood in Roman Catholic church, with all its statuary and never felt distressed by the statures or prone to fetishizing them or idol worship. I thought as a child that Protestants who complained that Roman Catholics literally worshipped statues must be very dim-witted individuals indeed to harbor any such notions. Even when I was a kid, I understood the difference between idol worship and devotional aides. Now it’s less that I feel that representations are somehow profane and more that I feel that my worship doesn’t need such focuses. I’m sure it’s a bit peculiar to have a partly Roman inspired personal path that doesn’t include iconography of any sort. It’s nice to know that Numa and his followers would understand.

Numa tradition came and went and came back again during the long course of the pagan Roman empire. Rome was usually more about conquest than honoring Terminus, the god of boundaries and more about extravagant sacrifice and feasting than meal and salt. Even so, when the Romans felt they had got very far off track, it was to Numa and his simplicity that they returned.

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