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Number Symbolism

This article was written by Corrine Kenner on May 12, 2009
posted under Number Symbolism

[The following is a description of the meanings of numbers as used by Corinne Kenner.]

Zero. Most of us think of zero as a starting point from which we count our way up—or down into negative numbers. Because zero seems to precede all of the other numbers, it symbolizes the period before existence—the great void that existed before the world was created, before the Big Bang when the universe burst into existence. The circular shape of the number 0 is also a reminder of the cosmic egg, the legendary source of the universe. It suggests the outward growth of the universe from a single point in space. It also symbolizes the shape of the world, the orb of planetary motion, the wheel of the year, and the cycle of life. It’s even a reminder of the womb, the birth canal, and the cells that make up our substance.

One. One is the first number, so it symbolizes leadership. It’s an obvious symbol of unity and singularity. The number one can even be thought of as a thesis—an original statement of thought, belief, and perception, still unchallenged by other competing ideas. One also represents the source of all existence. In the Tarot, every numbered card in a Minor Arcana suit is said to originate within the ace of that suite. As such, the number one symbolizes fertility and the potential and possibility of every new beginning. That symbolism is reinforced by the graphic nature of both the Arabic numeral 1 or the Roman numeral I. Both shapes resemble phallic symbols. Even as a geometric figure, the number one is illustrated as a single point—a dot which could represent either an egg or a sperm.

Two. Twos represent duality and choices. The number two suggests pairs and combinations, as well as relationships, partnerships, and the attraction between two people. Twos also represent conversation and debate—the point and counterpoint of two opposing ideas, or the antithesis that rises up in response to almost every thesis. The nature of the number two also signifies a wide range of concepts that come in pairs: heave and earth, male and female, active and passive, conscious and unconscious, and day and night. Written as a Roman number II, the number suggests a gateway or a doorway as well as female genitalia.

Three. Threes symbolize creation—the result of two separate forces combining to create a third entity. A mother and a father produce a child together. A thesis and an antithesis combine to produce a synthesis. The number three can also represent body, mind, and spirit, or past, present, and future. Many religions believe in a holy trinity, such as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or Maiden Mother, and Crone, or the triple goddess of the New, Full, and Old Moon.

Four. Fours symbolize structure, stability, and security, because four points come together to form a solid. There are four walls in a room, and four corners to a house. There are four dimensions: width, length, height, and time. There are four cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west. There are four seasons, four winds, and four phases of the moon. There are four elements, and four corresponding suits in the Minor Arcana.

Five. Fives represent a halfway point in the profression from one to ten. In the Tarot, the five cards often symbolize a crisis: they’re the midway point, when events can either take a turn for the better or go horribly awry. Fives also symbolize the five senses, the five points on a star, the five vowels in the English alphabet. Some metaphysicians suggest that five is important because it symbolizes a fifth element—Spirit.

Six. Sixes historically symbolize the human being because man was said to be created on the sixth day. Six also symbolizes the sixth sense—psychic ability—as well as the six directions of space: left, right, forward, backward, up, and down.

Seven. Seven is a mystical, magical number. Classically, there were seven days of creation. There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear. There are seven deadly sins: envy, sloth, gluttony, wrath, pride, lust, and greed. There are seven virtues: faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence (You can see most of them in the Tarot’s Major Arcana). Alchemists had seven metals: gold, silver, iron, mercury, tin, copper, and lead. There are seven visible planets: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Thee are seven days of the week, seven notes in a musical scale, seven colors of the rainbow, and seven chakras, or energy points of the body. Because the seventh day is a day of rest, seven is the number of self-reflection and philosophy. To fully randomize your Tarot deck before a reading, shuffle it seven times.

Eight. Eights represent infinity, because they resemble the lemniscate, the sideways symbol of infinity. There are also eight points on the wheel of the year. To Christians, eight is a symbol of baptism and spiritual rebirth; many baptisteries and baptismal fonts have eight sides. Eight also represents the eternal spiral of regeneration.

Nine. Because there are nine months of pregnancy, nines symbolize selflessness, compassion, universality, humanitarianism, and spirituality.

Ten. The number ten has primal, deep-seated significance for all of us. When babies are born, parents immediately do a quick count of fingers and toes. When we learn to count as children, we use our ten fingers as tools. Ten is the number of culmination, completion, and perfection. There are also ten spheres on the Kabalistic Tree of Life and ten numbered cards in each suit of the [Tarot’s] Minor Arcana.

Eleven. Numerologists consider eleven a master number. It amplifies the power of a single "one."

Twelve. The number twelve is a reminder of other significant twelve’s—such as the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, the twelve months in a year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Thirteen. There are thirteen lunar months, or thirteen full moons, in every calendar year. Thirteen is sometimes thought to be an unlucky number because there were thirteen diners at Jesus’ last supper. In the Tarot, the Death card is number thirteen.

Twenty-Two. Twenty-two is another master number, which amplifies the power of two. Humans have twenty-two pair of chromosomes. There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, twenty-two paths on the Kabalistic Tree of Life, and twenty-two cards in the [Tarot’s] Major Arcana.

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