(Motto of Wisconsin)
(pron = noo-men, loo-men)
Divine energy, light.
Comment: This motto of Wisconsin is elsewhere translated “God and Light”. I
will not make comment on the motto of Wisconsin, but on the varying meaning of
the words. For the ancient Romans, numen did not mean “God”. That is a
later, Christinization, and change in the meaning, of the Latin word. Numen
refers to a way of viewing things that is all but lost to us in American
culture. Numen refers to the energy that the Romans found in everything. They
were like other ancients: the Celts to the north of Rome, and the Greeks to the
East, Africans to the south, each in their own way. Numen was that divine
energy, that quality that infused rocks and water, the earth herself which for
the Romans was a divine being, lightening, wind, trees—oh especially trees, and
all animals, particularly when animals moved with observable patterns.
The ancient Roman knew to look and watch and listen for the energy, the numen,
in things. The ancient Roman knew that this energy was powerful, and that the
best approach was to work with the energy, to honor it, and to avoid working
arrogantly with it. This energy could support life, and the farmer and
fisherman knew it. This energy could bring one’s life to an end if crossed, as
the sailor knew. So, the real “light” was not some Being out on a cloud, or a
mountain, or in heaven. Light came from realizing the ever present power in
all things, working together all the time, in everyone, everywhere. Light was
honor and respect for this power, and never taking it for granted.
As we in this nation struggle to find a way to help our suffering brothers and
sisters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, we struggle in a great deal of
darkness. We have not paid close enough attention to each other, nor to the
numen in the sea, in the river, in the delta, in the wind and in the wave.
After the tragedy, we can begin to do so. Numen also exists in every human
being, and many are hurting now. And when rebuilding comes, light will be in
respecting the numen in the earth, and working with it.
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day is now available on the web.