Divination by numbers. The basis of numerology is the belief that numbers connect the world of humans to the structure of the universe. A superstitious fear of the number 13 is its most common expression in the West.
Western numerology was rationalized by the ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras. He assigned numbers to letters to arrive at the occult meaning of names, for example. The discovery that musical intervals can be expressed in numbers contributed to the belief in the supernatural significance of numbers. Numerology played a large part in Christian thought in the early Middle Ages.
In both Hindu and Western belief, the Sun, Moon, and planets rule one each of the numbers one to nine, connecting numerology with astrology.
Chinese numerology is based on the number of strokes in a Chinese written character. By adding up the strokes and using an ancient system called ‘Chu-Ko's spirit calculation’, one can divine the personality of a person from their written name, or discover if a name, for example of a new business, will be auspicious.
The number one in Western numerology is the number of God. It is associated with the Sun, with masculinity and power.
The number two is associated with the Moon and femininity. It also symbolizes duality.
The number three is generally considered powerful, probably because a triangle is the simplest stable figure. The Christian Trinity incorporates this idea. It represents the union of opposites to create something new. The belief that bad or good things come in threes is very old, and the number recurs in folklore and magic; for example, many formulas had to be repeated three times. It is associated with the planet Jupiter.
The number four stands for physical strength and stability. The name of God had four letters in Assyrian, Turkish, Arabic, and Egyptian. Four is associated with the planet Uranus.
The number five is considered powerful in Western magic, and is represented by the pentagram, or five-pointed star. This was a talisman against evil spirits in ancient Rome. It symbolizes the four directions plus the centre, and humanity as ruler of nature, among other things. It is
associated with the planet Mercury.
The number six symbolizes harmony between the physical and spiritual. It can be represented by two intersecting triangles. The number six is associated with the planet Venus.
The number seven is almost universally thought to be important, usually lucky. It stands for the victory of spirit over matter. Among the Hebrews, seven was the perfect number and denoted completeness. Derived from this, the whole Christian church is symbolized in the Book of Revelation by seven candlesticks, and the perfect power of the Lamb is denoted by seven horns. The use of the number was also frequent among the Greeks. The seventh son of a seventh son was in Britain believed to have psychic or magical powers. In a person's life, there was supposed to be a seven-year cycle. The number seven is associated with the planet Neptune.
The number eight stands for infinity and, in Christian belief, life after death. It is associated with the planet Saturn.
The number nine, being 3 × 3, is regarded as lucky. It represents completeness. Every ninth year in a person's life was thought to bring significant change or danger. The number nine is associated with the planet Mars.
The number 11 stands for transcendental knowledge, adversity, and strength.
The number 13 has been associated with bad luck at least since Roman times. The 13 people present at the Last Supper incorporates this idea, and it is still considered unlucky to have 13 people at a table. A coven of witches was supposed to have 13 members. The 13th day of the month is considered unlucky, especially when it falls on a Friday.
The number 22 in Western occult belief is associated with psychic powers.
The number 23 has in the 20th century been mythologized by the US writer William Burroughs. He attributed significance to it and invented a calendar with 23 days in the month. References to the number 23 are often found in the work of his followers.
The number 40 figures largely in the Bible and in Islamic writings. Muslims mourn 40 days for their dead, and consider women ceremonially unclean until 40 days after childbirth. Similarly the number 40 appears repeatedly in Muslim fiction, as in the Arabian Nights collection of tales. In Wales 40 loaves of bread and 40 dishes of butter commonly occur in records of rent paid to the bishop of Llandaff. A bard's fee for his song was 40 pence if a disciple, twice 40 pence if a master. Ships suspected of carrying infectious disease are placed under quarantine, forbidden to land passengers or cargo, for 40 days. The privileges of sanctuary lasted 40 days.