Counting mythology: “four” and “five” concepts in traditional picture of the world of the slavs (based on the material of healing-ritual texts)

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Andriy Temchenko


Introduction. The subject of the space mythology is an important part of the mythological picture of the world, which explains the existence of different concepts of interpretation of its semantics and confirms the relevance of the problem studied.

Purpose. Unlike other numbers, the mythology of the semantic pair of “four-five” has not been practically studied. In some articles, there are only fragmentary references to the meaning of these numbers in the mythological picture of the world of the Slavs.

The study of the mythology of the number is a difficult task, so it is advisable to divide this issue into separate parts. In this aspect, the symbols of geometric figures, in particular the “circle”, “rectangle” and “angle”, make a special interest.

Results. In the mythological picture of the world, the “four” is the numerical equivalent of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ “wild / domestic” opposition, as evidenced by the parameters of natural and cultural objects, particularly rounded shapes of trees, lakes, mountains, and rectangular outlines of fields, buildings, and household objects. Association of “cultural” and therefore “correct”, “reliable”, and “wild” - “irregular” and “conflict”, explains semantic logic of dual rites of protection and expulsion of the disease. In the “four sides” protection there is a concentration of force in the centre, which explains the symbols of the cross, icon, and ritual rectangular objects. Instead, the expulsion is accompanied by the rejection of “alien” / “harmful” with further “worldwide” distribution / sending “to the four winds”.

In contrast to the “space” four, the number “five” is associated with time, as indicated by the five phases of the moon, four of which are visible, and the one is invisible. Invisible state brings down the image of the moon, and hence the five, to the other world. In this case, the five seems to “dematerialize” the four, because it involves the existence of an invisible reality, mixed with transformational and transitive processes. Hence the five objects in protective rites are used as attributes of not destruction, but disappearance of the antagonist, its transition / return to the invisible state.

The boundary characteristics of the five put it in line with other transitional numbers - seven and twelve, indicating the completeness of the lunar and solar cycles. The invisible state of the fifth element, its association with darkness and death, allows changing the quality of an object, turning it into new, sometimes opposite forms (a wolf turns into a lynx, just as an old man becomes a young one). It is possible that this is the Christian interpretation of the five, which becomes the symbol of the resurrection.

The semantics of the number “five” is important as well in organizing the mythological picture of the world as a sign of a four-dimensional space with a fixed fifth centre. Hence, the five-member organization of sacred buildings, for example pagan pantheons, which visually resemble a pentagram, or residential rectangular spaces with centre in the middle.

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