In many religions, such as the Greeks, the number 12 is considered holy and sacred for many generations. There are 12 main gods in Greek mythology, Odin had 12 sons in Norse mythology, 12 disicples of Christ in Christinaity, and 12 Imams in the Islam religion.

So why exactly is the number 12 considered sacred and holy by many religions?

Note: This answer by naltipar has inspired my question. He has said this, which deems my question unanswered as of now:

I have found no reference (and I believe there isn't any) as to why it is deemed a special number, apart from the fact that it had many mathematical properties, such as being the first number with six divisors.

  • 1
    12 Sumerian Great Gods and 12 zodiac constellations.
    – kenorb
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 17:12
  • The moon month cuts the year into thirteen , but maybe early man had a month error in gauging the repetition of seasons, and once arithmetic developed 12 was a better base .
    – anna v
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 18:48
  • As well as 12 mysterious symbols (including star) appearing on cylinder seal VA/243.
    – kenorb
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 16:48
  • I think this is how gods divided their sky segments by grouping the stars into 12 constellations (for example Taurus), so each constellation could be named after major gods (The Pantheon of Twelve).
    – kenorb
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 16:56
  • I wanted to say with this, that there was only a mathematical aspect of why it was considered a great number, but not any other meaning, which people worshipped 12 for.
    – anon
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 10:30

5 Answers 5


According to Kabbalah mysticism, The Tree of Life is the developed symbol which can be used as a full model of reality, using the tree to depict a map of Creation.

A Tree of Life consist 10 sephiroth (11th is hidden) and 22 paths (22 Hebrew letters) - 3 horizontal, 7 vertical and 12 diagonals.

A Tree of Life with 10 sephiroth and 22 paths - 3 horizontal, 7 vertical. 12 diagonals. This version appears as a diagram in R. Moses Cordovero's Pardes Rimonim, and is the preferred form in modern Jewish Kabbalah.

Source and image credits: The Tree of Life at Hermetic Kaballah

In Renaissance occult philosophy, Cornelius Agrippa provides tables of correspondences ("scales") for all the numbers up to twelve.

There are close relationship to the ancient hermetic notion of sympathies and harmonic connection via a higher world of the divine essences.

These are the dimensions of Creation and the fundamental building blocks of our reality.

We can divide them into the following groups:


  1. Time (Physical motion).
  2. Feeling (Emotional motion).
  3. Thought (Mental motion).


  1. Spherical separation (Sphere).
  2. Circular separation (Diameter).
  3. Linear separation (Radius).

Energy (All matter is energy):

  1. Electric energy (the building block of physical matter).
  2. Magnetic energy (the primal field of the universe).
  3. Etheric energy (Life energy, traditionally referred as Prana or Chi).

Consciousness of the Creator:

  1. Infinite Universes.
  2. Mother Creator principle.
  3. Father Creator principle.

Our life on Earth functions within first 3 by 3 matrix (9 intertwined dimensions).

Source: The 12 dimensions of Creation.


The number twelve is considered holy by many religions and in many circumstances. Usually, it's never argued why it is such an important number, but it's present in many holy texts, accompanying important figures. Since the quote in the question is mine, I'd like to insist that there is not clear evidence as to why it is an important number from a religious aspect. Yes, once can judge from the multiple occurrences that it is an important number, but the mythological texts never go into details as to why it is so.

It's usually explained in a mathematical essence. The number 10 is quite important nowadays due to the use of the decimal system. Since the use of the Duodecimal and Sexagesimal systems was widespread at the time, 12 was considered to have an important meaning on a mathematical aspect.

That said, it is wrong to treat the number 12 as... 12.


  • 10 in the duodecimal system
  • C in the hexadecimal system
  • 1100 in the binary system

and so on. We should rather focus on properties which are independent of the numerical system.

  • First number with six divisors
  • 12 hours a day, 12 hours a night, 12 months etc (actually attributed to the use of the duodecimal system)
  • Considered a divine number by mathematicians such as Pythagoras.
  • 12 hours in a day is somewhat arbitrary, but 12 months in a year is a natural phenomenon. The year is defined by the translational motion of the Earth, and the month is defined by the phases of the moon.
    – Marcel
    Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 21:08

This seems to be the answer as 12 is honored mathematically and religiously. In terms of math, it seems to be involved in lots of combinations as shown:

The numbers 1,2 and 3 are all prime numbers and are symbolic of creation through the holy trinity. The number 12 would be reduced in numerology as 1+2=3, which means that the number 12 is also symbolic of the trinity. According to the rules of music vibration, we know that octaves of the fundamental vibration are created through multiplication or division from the number two. Two times twelve is 24 and half of 12 is 6. It is interesting to note that all prime numbers greater than 3 (the original trinity of prime numbers) are properties of the number six. The formula for creating prime numbers is 6n + 1where n is any number and + 1 is symbolic of unity or the original cause. For example: 6*2 = 12 and 12 – 1 is 11 and 12 + 1 is 13 and 11 and 13 are prime numbers. 6 *3 is 18 and 18 – 1 is 17 and 18 + 1 is 19 and both 17 and 19 are prime numbers.

Religiously, it is known as the symbolic of the creation of the universe as it represents the division or fractionating of unity (God) into twelve individual distinct vibrations or tones. Of course, there is more to the number 12 in the religious way, but there is simply too much.

Source: Sacred Science

  • 1
    Although 12 is an interesting mathematical number, the other observations are a bit dubious. A quick scan of the author's homepage makes him look like bit of a numerology quack. For instance, the 1+2=3 observation requires using a base 10 system, which is not necessarily the most "natural" base to use. Commented May 1, 2015 at 0:25
  • @congusbongus the base 10 remains the most commonly used base even among people who didn't exchange with each other at first because it makes sense to use your fingers to count. If men had 8 fingers base 8 would probably be more common
    – meneldal
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 1:13
  • @meneldal I just realized this: In primitive hunting cultures, when counting/signaling "one", "two" "many" , one and two can be the two hands, fist closed. Extra numbers could be a finger for each extra moose/enemy. And that makes twelve .
    – anna v
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 3:09
  • @annav The usual inference for why base-12 counting systems arose is that you can use the thumb of your hand to count the 4x3 = 12 phalange segments on the other four fingers of that hand.
    – senshin
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 14:58
  • @senshin it was just a flash idea, I have not read it anywhere. I was thinking of hunters ( i.e. distance and communicating).
    – anna v
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 16:45

One thing that I think is missing here is that there are twelve months in the year. The year is a solar measure, how long it takes the Earth to go around the Sun, while the month is a lunar measure, how long it takes for the Moon to go about its phases. So the number 12 is related to the comensuration of solar and lunar cycles. This is a fact of nature that precedes any mythology. It explains why there are twelve signs in the zodiac, for example.

According to Wikipedia, in ancient Egypt the civil year comprised exactly 365 days, divided into 12 months of 30 days each and an intercalary month of five days.

Again according to Wikipedia, in ancient Mesopotamia the Babylonian calendar was a lunisolar calendar with years consisting of 12 lunar months, each beginning when a new crescent moon was first sighted low on the western horizon at sunset, plus an intercalary month inserted as needed by decree.

  • There have not always been 12 months in a year. For example, the Roman calendar had 10 months until extras were added. Besides, there are 13 lunar cycles in a year, not 12.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 11:24
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    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 11:24
  • @Chenmunka The roman calendar came much, much later than the egyptian and babylonian calendars. It had 10 months, for a while (eventually they came around to the more natural 12 as well), but that is not relevant because I am not talking of civil months but astronomical months. Each lunar cycle has 29,5 days and there are 12.3 lunar cycles in a year.
    – Marcel
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 14:25

The 12 is a holy number, because, according to Sitchin interpretation of Sumerian mythology, this is how gods grouped the stars in each sky segment into constellations (known as the twelve zodiac constellations) and named them after their own leaders (The Pantheon of Twelve, e.g. Taurus, etc.).

To them (gods) this number, twelve, was a basic number to be applied in all celestial matters affecting the Bond Heaven-Earth.

[...] they grouped the stars in each sky segment into constellations. p.49


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