Thursday, November 20, 2008


Larry from Traverse City, Michigan, came across the word numinous. Usually, it means characterized by a sense of supernatural presence. Some people will feel that aura or spiritual force in a church, some in a natural setting of beauty, and some in the presence of fine art. Many theologians and psychologists use the word numinous to express that which is transcendent, wholly other, and just out of reach, though its presence is felt.

It is a derivative of numen, the presiding divinity of a place or, in a secular sense, creative energy or genius. It came to us through Latin and Greek verbs meaning to nod. The idea seems to be that when in the presence of a god expressing its will, the duty of a human is simply to nod assent.

Related words are kramat, a Muslim holy place or place of pilgrimage [from the Malay word meaning numinous] and reiki, the spiritual life force, or vital spiritual energy, said to reside in all living things [from a Chinese word meaning numinous atmosphere].

SIDEBAR: Numinous: Spiritual Poetry

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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