F is for Four

It seems that nearly every tradition has its own numerology. I don’t specifically mean arithmancy—though that may be present as well. I mean that every culture seems to have its own concept of what numbers correspond to the divine, to the mundane, what numbers are appropriate and what numbers are not.

Three has an obvious importance to Christians with a belief in a Holy Trinity, as it also does for Wiccans and other pagans who believe in the Rule of Three. Five is a powerful number for many, especially in the form of the pentacle/pentagram. Seven is so thoroughly accepted as magical, holy, or perfect number across many traditions, it goes without examination or questioning that there are seven days in a week, seven named colors of the rainbow, Seven Wonders of the World, etc.

In my tradition, four is a number associated with concrete completeness. There are four dimensions to our perception of the physical world, for instance—three dimensions of length, height, and width, and one dimension of time. Matter exists in four states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. The physical laws of the known universe have four fundamental forces at work: electromagnetism, gravity, and the weak and strong nuclear forces. A connection to life can be made as well, as there are four nucleobases present in DNA and RNA: cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine pair up to create the nucleotides of DNA, while they are comprised of cytosine, guanine, adenine, and uracil in RNA.

Rationally, these are all coincidences, but they are still meaningful coincidences. From coincidence, we can make a symbol, and with a symbol, we can communicate ideas beyond the limits of language.

When I make an offering to my god, I light four candles. On the surface, this is a simple signifier of intent; I do not light four candles for any other purpose, and so my wishes are made clear, as well as reinforced in my mind and heart. Contained within the number chosen, however, is the flavor of that intent, the color of my dedication, as present as the scent of smoke and the heat of the candle flames.

Within four and four-ness, I acknowledge my place in this universe. Within four seasons of the year, I perceive time as traveling in only one direction, while my god knows time as thoroughly as I know my own palm, moves through it as easily as someone walks through their own home. Time is only one of four dimensions of my daily life, yet there are far more, and even in travel, I cannot perceive them all at once and forever, as so many gods and spirits do.

A four-chambered heart pumps one blood type out of four through my body, through four major limbs—legs to walk on and arms to work with. I live and work within a certain context, with contextual limits, and yet they are fewer than they could be. My life would be different if I had been born to a shorter-lived species, and my practice would be different without hands to offer with and knees to kneel on.

I occupy a place in this universe, neither above all things nor below. I am in-between, in the middle of existence, and it is, for now, where I should be.

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2 thoughts on “F is for Four”

  1. I like that you acknowledge that numerology differs by tradition. So many numerologists I meet insist that there is only one sort of numerology – typically descended from Pythagoras – and anything is is simply wrong. There’s an argument to be made, no doubt about it, but I think there’s merit to the claim our individual beliefs shape our individual worlds, thus the method of numerology you follow is correct for you if you use it consistently. Speaking for myself, I take most of my numerology from Henry Cornelius Agrippa and his Three Books of Occult Philosophy. I found that Agrippa’s summary was more relevant to me than that of Pythagoras, but like they say, different strokes and all that jazz. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it 🙂

    1. Equating all numerology with Pythagorean tradition is a bit shortsighted, I agree. It’s entirely possible that more people in the world practice Chinese numerology than any Western tradition. (Plus, of course, Vedic and Mayan traditions, which may be considered geographically Western to some, but are often forgotten or misrepresented.)

      In my opinion, what ultimately matters is a question of what works. If something that “should” work doesn’t, the best course may be to let it be and move on; if something that “shouldn’t” work does, it’s time to question why it “shouldn’t” in the first place.

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