|Practices and beliefs|
In ancient Roman religion, the indigitamenta were lists of deities kept by the College of Pontiffs to assure that the correct divine names were invoked for public prayers. These lists or books probably described the nature of the various deities who might be called on under particular circumstances, with specifics about the sequence of invocation. The earliest indigitamenta, like many other aspects of Roman religion, were attributed to Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome.
The books of the Pontiffs are known only through scattered passages preserved throughout Latin literature. Varro is assumed to have drawn on direct knowledge of the lists in writing his now-fragmentary theological books, which were used as a reference by the Church Fathers for their mocking catalogues of minor deities. As William Warde Fowler noted,
the good Fathers tumbled the whole collection about sadly in their search for material for their mockery, having no historical or scientific object in view; with the result that it now resembles the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope, and can no longer be re-arranged on the original Varronian plan.
Georg Wissowa, however, asserted that Varro's lists were not indigitamenta, but di certi, gods whose function could still be identified with certainty, since by the late Republic some of the most archaic deities of the Roman pantheon were not widely cultivated and understood. Another likely source for the patristic catalogues is the lost work De indigitamentis of Granius Flaccus, Varro's contemporary.
W.H. Roscher collated the standard modern list of indigitamenta, though other scholars may differ with him on some points.
It is unclear whether the written indigitamenta contained complete prayer formularies, or simply an index of names. If formulas of invocation, the indigitamenta were probably precationum carmina, chants or hymns of address. Paulus defines them as incantamenta, incantations, and indicia, signs or intimations.
A further point of uncertainty is whether these names represent distinct minor entities, or epithets pertaining to an aspect of a major deity's sphere of influence, that is, an indigitation, or name intended to "fix" or focalize the action of the god so invoked. If the former, the indigitamenta might be described as indexing "significant names which bespoke a specialized divine function," for which the German term Sondergötter is sometimes used; for instance, Vagitanus gives the newborn its first cry (vagitus). If the indigitamenta record invocational epithets, however, an otherwise obscure deity such as Robigus, the red god of wheat rust, should perhaps be understood as an indigitation of Mars, red god of war and agriculture; Maia, "a deity known apparently only to the priests and the learned," would be according to Macrobius an indigitation of the Bona Dea. Roscher, however, does not consider Robigus and Maia to have been part of the indigitamenta.
Many of the indigitamenta are involved in the cycle of conception, birth, and child development (marked BCh); see List of Roman birth and childhood deities. Several appear in a list of twelve helper gods of Ceres as an agricultural goddess or are named elsewhere as having specialized agricultural functions (Ag). Gods not appearing on either of those lists are described briefly here, or are more fully described in their own articles as linked.