Numa Tradition: Foods not for Sacrifice

Wine grapes.

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Pliny says in his Natural History that Numa decreed that fish without scales should not be served up at the Festivals of the Gods because of matters of frugality. Seafood was expensive in Rome, exotic seafood even more so. Pliny also says that wine was restricted from funeral pyres for similar reasons. This seems to hold true to the idea of the Numa tradition being accessible to anyone. No fancy and expensive items needed, just sincerity of devotion.

This is not to say that any old thing will do. Numa went on to list  conditions of wine that would make it unacceptable for sacrifice: made by diseased workers, got from unpruned vines or vines that had been exposed to lightning or a corpse, wine that had been cut with water, wine made from “must husks” (that is 3rd pressing or more). So it’s important to offer the Dii Immortales clean, well-made wine if not terrifically expensive wine. Other sources suggest that libation wine was flavored with myrrh, but myrrh was fairly expensive in Roman times and so doesn’t fit well with the Numa tradition of simplicity and humble offerings. Cicero says that Plato says much the same thing– that the Gods like simple, clean offerings.

None of this is very much like Kosher or Halal or Buddhist dietary restrictions, as it says nothing about what people should eat, only about what one should or should not offer the Dii Immortales. Most of my offering happens at my Lararium anyhow, which isn’t about Dii Immortales but about household Gods. M. Horatius Piscinus pointed out that while some homemade dandelion wine wouldn’t fit the Numa regulations for libations for the Dii Immortales, it could be a perfectly fine offering for one’s Lares and Penates.  So none of this is “one size fits all” anyhow, and can be very situational.

Perhaps you live by the coast and want to offer to Neptune. As Livia pointed out in the same thread, various sea foods are a natural offering to Neptune. If one takes into consideration that the original prohibition was more about avoiding overly luxurious offerings, the limitation on exotic seafood might not apply if it’s not particularly expensive where you live and is appropriate for other reasons.  Just remember that Numa and Cicero and Plato and Pliny say that rich offerings are no way to bribe your way into the Gods’ favor.



  1. May 19, 2011 at 3:51 am

    […] Numa Tradition: Foods not for Sacrifice ( […]

  2. June 22, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    […] Numa Tradition: Foods not for Sacrifice ( […]

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