8

I was reading Why 7? on SFF, and it got me thinking. I know that there are plenty of occurrences of the number 7 (see for example Wikipedia), some for quite a long time, for example the seven deadly sins of Christianity.

In popular (western) culture, it is the number the most often associated to some supernatural power. There is a question here on the importance attached to 7 in mythology and religion.

What I'm interested in, is why is the number seven so common in mythology? Is there a reason why many different cultures, religions, and folklore put a high importance in the number seven?


Though related, the other question Why is 7 important in mythology and religion? focuses on the meaning of the 7, whereas I am more interested in the origin of its importance and occurrence.

  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Why is 7 important in mythology and religion? – C. M. Weimer Nov 2 '15 at 14:39
  • @C.M.Weimer, see the edit. – clem steredenn Nov 2 '15 at 15:18
  • 2
    I do see there is a difference in the focus of the two questions, but the way they have been worded makes this seem a duplicate. I've edited both posts in an attempt to establish a distinction, hopefully this hasn't affected either of you's intended question. – Semaphore Nov 3 '15 at 4:08
  • @Semaphore, I think the edit are ok. At least, as far as my question is concerned. – clem steredenn Nov 3 '15 at 6:34
  • I would look at the information about Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, "she of 7 points". – JRW Nov 8 '15 at 18:03
7

I'd say the likeliest early source for the significance of the number 7 is the seven visible "planets" (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).

There's textual evidence of systematic observation of these going back at least as far as the Babylonians (ca. 2000 BCE).

Even before that, it seems likely that the ancients were aware of these "wandering stars".

|improve this answer|||||
  • Combined with a moon cycle.. hm... why not. I'd need to check when were those "identified"... – clem steredenn Nov 2 '15 at 15:21
  • 1
    I think this answer would be improved if you also remarked a bit on how ancient knowledge of those bodies were, how long they've been known for etc. – Semaphore Nov 3 '15 at 4:11
  • I wasn't sure how pedantic I should get, thanks for the feedback ;-) – Stefanya42 Nov 3 '15 at 16:31
3

I've wondered about this very thing myself. I like the 'planetary' answer, but perhaps the answer is simpler. Primitives knew to break up the 28 days of a lunar month into quarters -- cf. early English sennight and fortnight. A regular cycle of time-keeping based on the 'magic' number seven is remarkably convenient -- more so than one based on the numbers two, four, or fourteen. Perhaps the natural, cyclic use of a magic number is what eventually turned it into a sacred number -- cf. creation in Genesis.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.