A stone, a tree, a river, a mountain, the moon and stars. Humans have from the beginning lived in a natural world populated with objects. We have named them all, as is our penchant. We’ve respected and engaged them and, by turn, ignored or destroyed them. Wave after wave of our ancestors, however, have looked upon these everyday material phenomena not as dully inanimate, but enchanted, inspirited, numinous—having powers in potentia that are beyond analytic understanding.
Numen inest, Ovid wrote in Fasti. Which is to say that the world, to those who observe differently, is a place animated by consciousness outside the human sphere, one that’s full of spirits, daemons, revenants, fairies, gods sinister and benign. For these observers, the world is less a post-Cartesian realm measured in zeroes and ones than one of unabashed enchantment that has nothing to do with sociological primitivism or organized religion. In such a world, “the sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree,” as Mircea Eliade noted. Instead, they’re venerated as“hierophanies,” entities that are wholly other, the ganz andere.
This fall, Numina: The Enchantment Issue will explore the idea that the material world of which we’re an infinitesimal part is inhabited by consciousness beyond our ken. For example, trees, we are now beginning to realize, communicate with each other through complex mycorrhizal networks. As such, forests can reasonably be understood to be carrying on conversations of their own. Who knows but that they are out there naming us, just as we named them. And what of secular relics like lucky dice, Ouija boards, and rabbits’ feet? What of Sviatoslav Richter’s plastic lobster?
Contributors will include Elizabeth Hand, Shane McCrae, Melissa Pritchard, Benjamin Percy, and many others.
Numina: The Enchantment Issue