Nibley first observes the importance of giving and hospitality. The one who gives acts, in a small way, like the gods who give life and fertility (86). This is reflected in the grain and bread dole of Rome. Those who give were considered noble and qualified for office, and were remembered or memorialized by the people. Roman giving, however, always required a gift in response, a quid pro quo (“this for that”) [Hamblin: and do ut des (“I give so you give”)]. Plunder from campaigns were distributed as part of a victory feast (86-90).
Romans had a tradition of common meals at times of games and religious festivals. Funerals also included a public funeral meal (92), along with weddings and coming-of-age ceremonies.
Nibley next examines a number of Latin technical terms associated with Roman hospitality. These include hostia, lautia, munera, tessera and client. Gifts were given related to all sorts of public and private occasions. Sacrifice was in one sense giving gifts to the gods (in return for the gifts they give us) (96).
Nibley next discusses the Roman tesserae, small tokens or tickets of admission, or for eligibility for a feast or gift. Tesserae were used as means of identification, and are related to seals in the ancient Near East (= stamping a piece of clay with your seal), and with signet rings.
[Hamblin: It is likely that the “sealing” on the forehead of temple worshippers is related to this; Ex 13:9, 16; Dt 6:8, 11:18; Isa 44:5; Ezekiel 9:4; Rev 2:17, 7:2-3, 9:4, 14:1, 22:4.]
Nibley goes on at some length about seals in the ancient Near East and Egypt. (See D. Collon, First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East (2006)) Nibley looks at reeds and arrows as forms of identification tokens. [Hamblin: this is the nucleus of Nibley’s idea about arrow divination in Since Cumorah CWHW 7:255-9.] He also examines dice as tesserae for divination (which only later became gambling–a way of determining the will of the gods on distribution of wealth) (105). Playing dice with the gods as divination (105). It is also linked in with knuckle-bone games (105). [Hamblin: I played knucklebones with wolf bones in Mongolia once!] Coins are another variation of tesserae and seals (106). Coins derive from tesserae. Coins were likewise sealed or stamped.
Nibley then discusses a number of dicing divination temples (108). [Hamblin: This practice survives in Tibet, where I had a Tibetan Buddhist monk blow on dice and throw them as a means of divination for me. He told my fortune in Tibetan, so, alas, I have no idea what he said. (Tibeti yaputu!) It could have been highly accurate. Blowing on dice for gambling derives from this rite of infusing the dice with the divinatory spirit before casting them.] Dice divination may be related to using pebbles for divination (109), and choosing lots by marked pebbles (or seals). [Hamblin: note parallels to the Urim and Thummim as divinatory rocks.] This divination occurred at New Year, when the future of the year was prophesied. These tokens are related to sortes or lots by which the will of the gods could be determined (110). He looks at the practice of scattering tokens, coins, candy or gifts as sparsiones (111).
[Hamblin: This chapter of his dissertation was expanded into his second published article, “Sparsiones” (CWHN 10:148-194) which appeared in 1945. Note also the throwing of tokens at Carnivale, and scattering rice at weddings.]
Nibley then discusses the same type of practices in India (112-113). [Hamblin: Throughout his dissertation, Nibley’s main Indian parallels are drawn from the Aśvamedha (अश्वमेध), which is described in the Yajurveda (यजुर्वेदः) 7.1-5, and the Śatapatha Brāhmana (शतपथ ब्राह्मण) 13.1-5. See S. Fuchs, The Vedic Horse Sacrifice in its Cultural-Historical Relations, (1996).]
I’ll finish discussing the rest of the chapter in the next couple of days.