Numen, pl. numina, (“an influence perceptible by mind but not by senses,”) is a Latin term for a potential, guiding the course of events in a particular place or in the whole world, used in Roman philosophical and religious thought. 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 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.
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 Polynesiaand southeast Asia.