Insight into the mythology of numbers: seven-based cycles in treatment and magical practices of the East Slavs

Andriy Temchenko

Abstract


Introduction. Study of ritual counting, determination of main mythological numerical values is an important factor in reconstruction of archaic beliefs of the East Slavs. Transitional numbers deserve special attention, in particular three, seven, nine, twelve, which correspond to mythological constants of birth and death.

Purpose. It lies in interpretation of the semantics of the number «seven» as a transitional number in the context of mythological traditions of the East Slavs.

Results. The symbolism of the number «seven» is based on empirical generalizations that have built the idea of time and space. Unlike the numbers three and nine, seven is the indicator of «weekday» period, because it indicates one of four phases of the Moon, which makes seven days and forms a week.

In mythological texts days of the week are associated with seven «yards», through which «three saints» (Sun, Moon, Sunrise) travel. In such a way not only celestial motion is explained, but ritual time manipulation is performed, particularly speeding or slowing of the time, being important for regulation of duration of the acute phase of a disease. Besides, a separate deity was assigned to the each day of the week. Those deities ordered «worldly» time and brought it closer to «heavenly» standards, in particular they defined periods of ritual permits and prohibitions. In treatment text an old tradition is specified – guardian deities are opposed by antagonists, whose semantics has relation to the other world.

Main guardian of the time is the Sun, and the first day of the week is devoted to it. The Sun supposedly updates the time, destroying troubles (including diseases) that have appeared in the previous time cycle (at night, in winter). That’s why the first / main days of the calendar that represent periods of solstices and equinoxes are devoted to the Sun.

The number of antagonists opposing to seven deities, is increased exponentiallyand makes seventeen, seventy-seven, seven hundred, that intentionally breaks the parity of forces to demonstrate strength of the solar deity. In such a case right / «worldly»time (seven days of the week) is opposed by hypertrophied / «otherworldly» time, marked with numerical metaphors of the «wrong» seven, being compared to other concepts indicating the territory of «foreign» and hostile environment for a human.

Conclusion. Number «seven» indicates the days of the week. In mythological texts they are taken as seven «yards», through which «three saints» travel. In such a way the magical «regulation» of time is performed, and thus duration of the disease is regulated. In this regard each day of the week was given a certain deity that blessed the time and brought it closer to «heavenly» standards. Sacred characters – time guardians are opposed by otherworldly creatures that ruin the time. They are associated with the semantics of darkness, cold and death.


Keywords


Myth, number, seven, semantics, Moon, snake, diseases

References


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