Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Mythology of 7

Numbers always play an important role esoteric learning, especially odd numbers 7 and 9. A cat is supposed to have 9 lives, and so on.
In the Hollywood movie Se7en, Brad Pitt investigates about a serial killer who kills his victims according to the 7 Deadly Sins prescribed in Christianity. These 7 Deadly Sins are pride, envy (including malice), wrath, lust (or lechery), gluttony, avarice (or covetousness), and sloth. They are called deadly because they mean spiritual death until they are atoned for by repentance. Pride is the evil of all; it was the sin of Satan for which he was banished for heaven.
As opposed to 7 Deadly Sins there are 7 virtues. 4 of these virtues come from Greek, also called temporal virtues: justice, temperance, fortitude (courage), and prudence (wisdom). Other three virtues are Christian or theological virtues: faith, hope and love (charity). Greek philosopher Plato in the book Republic discussed temporal virtues. The Purgatory section on Dante’s epic Divine Comedy is based on these 7 virtues. In his poem The Fairy Queen, Spenser attributed these 7 virtues to his hero Arthur.
Apart from vices and virtues, there are 7 Liberal Arts. Liberal Arts according to the Greeks are those subjects which add to moral and intellectual excellence. The Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro first technically discussed it in 1st century BC. These 7 Liberal Arts as included in ancient and medieval curriculum are grammar, logic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. These subjects are distinguished from other subjects which are merely useful.
The Greeks seem particularly fond of 7. The ancient Greek and Roman compiled a list of 7 Wonders of the World as the most extraordinary structures of antiquity. These are: the Pyramids of Egypt; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II about 600 BC, a mountain-like series of planted terraces; the 12-m (40-ft) Statue of Zeus (mid-5th century BC) by the Greek sculptor Phidias, now lost; the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Greece (356 BC), destroyed in AD 262; the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (c. 353 BC) for King Mausolus of Caria in Asia Minor of which only fragments remain; the Colossus of Rhodes, a 30-m (100-ft) bronze statue of the Greek sun god Helios, erected about 280 BC and about 55 years later; the Pharos of Alexandria (c. 280 BC), a famous ancient lighthouse standing more than 134 m (440 ft) tall; it was destroyed in the 14th century.
The Greek mythology takes us to the story of the 7 Against Thebes, the ill-fated expedition against the city of Thebes undertaken by 7 chieftains and their followers Polynices, the son of Oedipus, the former king of Thebes.
When Oedipus resigned, he decreed that each of his sons take a turn to rule the kingdom for 7 years each. Therefore after losing the throne after 7 year to his younger brother, Eteocles, Polynices fled to Argos and married the daughter of the king Adrastus. The Argive king then organized a great army to march against the Thebans and restore Polynices to the throne. The epic battle that followed each of the 7 warriors was killed except Adrastus, who fled with his broken army to Athens; Polynices and Eteocles slew each other, thus fulfilling the curse of their father.
The ancient mariners divined the world’s body of water into 7 Seas. These are the North and South Atlantic, the North and South Pacific, the Indian, the Arctic, and the Antarctic oceans. Presently, however, 7 Seas is the name of a code-liver oil brand.
Religion has also its concerns for the number 7.
7th-Day Adventists are the largest group of the Adventists who are the Protestant denominations that stress the doctrine of the imminent second coming of Christ. It had about two million members worldwide in 1990. Two tenets are prominent in the Church's theology: belief in the visible, personal second coming of Christ at an early but indefinite date and the observance of Saturday as the sabbath. Members accept the Bible as their sole religious authority, placing special trust in the literal interpretation of prophetic passages.
Japan however has 7 Gods of Good Fortune (Japanese, Shichi-fuku-jin). These are Japanese deities traditionally thought to bring good luck, wealth, and a long life. They are: Ebisu, a Shinto god of fishing and trade, who carries a lucky sea bream; Daikoku, a mixed Shinto-Buddhist god of wealth and agriculture, with a rice bag and a wish-granting mallet; Bishamon, a Buddhist guardian deity and god of good luck, dressed in armour; Benzaiten (or Benten), a Buddhist goddess of water, music, and wealth, who plays a lute; Hotei, a fat-bellied Chinese Zen monk who brings good luck; Fukurokuju, a Chinese immortal with a large head who grants longevity; Jurojin, a Chinese sage and god of long life, often accompanied by a deer. Placing a picture of the gods under one's pillow on the night of January 1 is supposed to ensure a lucky first dream for the New Year.
Regarding war, T. E. Lawrence popularly known as Lawrence of Arabia (immortalised in a David Lean movie by Peter O’ Toole) wrote a book called The 7 Pillars of Wisdom (1926), an account of his adventures among the Arabs.The phrase 7 Years Itch talks about married life where love remains only for the first 7 years, after that itch begins. It also reminds us a Marilyn Monroe film of the same name.

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