Dear Fellow Students: Whether you've just started ENG251 (World Literature) or are a master of early literary works, when you read our early study pieces of Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible, you'll notice something a little different - the importance of numerical references. I was intrigued by the use of numerology, particularly references to the number seven (7).
In Gilgamesh, seven is mentioned in the 'gate of seven bolts', crossing seven mountains to reach the Cedar Forest, felling seven cedars to Humbaba's lair, sleeping for seven nights at Utnapishtim's. In the Hebrew Bible passages, creation of the world took place in seven days (if you include the day of rest), Job had seven sons, and the Pharaoh's dreams in Joseph were of seven cattle, seven ears of corn, and seven years of prosperity and drought!
My curiosity got the better of me so I tapped into the Internet and did some research on this topic. Here's what I found ... I started with a few searched on "numerology". Unfortunately most results were links to gambling or astrology sites. Problem? I was using the wrong terminology! What I should have been searching for was "gematria". Gematria is "the calculation of the numerical equivalence of letters, words, or phrases, and, on that basis, gaining, insight into interrelation of different concepts and exploring the interrelationship between words and ideas." This definition comes from a website dedicated to Hebrew numerology
that explains how each letter in the alphabet is assigned a numerical value. Although this is a religious site, the definition of gematria changes little from one site to the next. If you want to find out more about gematria, I'd recommend a visit to this site.
Now that I knew what to look for, there was no turning back! Following is a list of websites that I found on related topics. I've included some personal comments, including my thoughts on the information each site contains and the relevance to our course of study. The first part of this list contains links to sites explaining the occurrence on the number seven (7), my pet interest. Other links include references to Pythagoras and Nostradamus, early scientists and philosophers who used numerology in their work. Lastly, where would be without our skeptics?
"Numbers - Symbolism and Properties" contains a very detailed outline of the symbolism in numbers, focusing on those most frequently used in biblical-type texts. With a fairly exhaustive list of links, you can select specific numbers of interest and get information on symbolism, biblical reference, general interest, gematria, and occurrence in various literary works. Overall, this is a good site that has good information both of a general and detailed nature. However, if you're looking for detail, a word of warning: be prepared to spend some time here if you want to get into any detail. I printed off the pertinent information for the number seven (7) - it was 11 pages long!
An extremely lengthy document that explains Basque numerology, but worth reading if you have the time. This particular page takes you directly to a philosophical "discussion" on numbers and their place in the creation and functioning of the universe. The author claims that the Basque people were the true originators of numerology and that civilizations such as the Hebrews, Greeks, Chinese, and Mexicans simply copied the basque system. Grab a cup of coffee and get settled if you want to read this one!
An interesting site put together by researcher John Zachary. Although I was unable to find any biographical data on Zachary, I did find out that he is a published author and appears to have a special interest in the prophecies of Nostradamus. Zachary uses astronomy to scientifically date events in the bible. Included in links on this site is a reference to the number seven. According to E.W. Bullinger (an author quoted by Zachary), seven represents "spiritual perfection". If this is true, perhaps that explains the predominance of the number seven in early literary works - after all, we all strive for perfection.
Another site predominantly concerned with the number seven - this time from a Jewish viewpoint. Like Zachary's site, this one points to seven as being a special number. The Jewish interpretation is that seven represents purification and freedom.
On the surface, this site appears to offer little more than the others in reference to the number seven (7). However, by scrolling down the page a way, I found there was a refreshing twist. The site author brings the mysticism and historical significance of seven into the present day and ties it in to something familiar: the seven days of the week.
Many people know Pythagoras as a great mathematician, inventor of the Pythagoras Theory associated with geometry. Pythagoras believed that everything was related to mathematics, that it could be predicted and measured. From his own research, Pythagoras believed that the letters in the alphabet corresponded to certain numbers ... sound familiar? This website contains little information about the mathematical side of Pythagoras, but does give us some background as to the man, his thoughts, his beliefs.
This site also contains references to Pythagoras and his belief that the world is built on a system of numbers. Links within this page also give you some interesting background information on Pythagoreanism, a style of teaching. I pulled an interesting quote from this particular page: "Although there is a large body of Pythagorean literature, most of it is thought to have been borrowed or copied from Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic material ... The seven cardinal doctrines overlap the doctrines of Platonism so to appear that Pythagoreanism joined with, or was derived from the latter." My, my ... it's interesting how that little number seven (7) keep showing it's face!
Robert Carroll, the site's author, is a skeptic of numerology. He does not believe there to be any mysticism or scientific reason behind the explanations of numerology. Rather, he favors "selective thinking", i.e., the process of selecting favorable evidence for remembrance and focus, while ignoring the unfavorable. As he points out, how many times have you read an article, or listened to someone, only to pay attention to the pieces that provide some form of personal reward or interest ... only to ignore the unfavorable or distasteful items? Personally, I found his site interesting ... it offered an alternative to the scientific/mathematical explanations. I hope you enjoy some of these sites. On a related topic, if you're interested in finding out more about mythology and the Gods, I'd highly recommend going to
There are some excellent links on this page to mythology, folklore, religion, and even some of the ancient stories. Happy reading! Katherine