We each have our own, individual lucky numbers. It’s usually tied to our birthdays or a significant date. But one number is considered ubiquitous in being generally a lucky number. The humble number seven is a prime number, just one of five in the base 10 counting system. Why is it considered so lucky? And how is it considered lucky?
Number Seven in Modern Culture
Number seven has permeated our culture more than we might realise. “Listicle” type web articles often use the number seven. It doesn’t have the roundness of 5 or 10, but something about the number makes this type of article very popular. Perhaps it is because of some of the following reasons. It appears so often in popular and ancient culture, and not always in a good sense. It is, however, always prominent in one way or another.
In Ancient Britain
It seems that the number seven was a popular lucky number in Ireland as far as the British Isles were concerned. The epic hero Cúchulainn finds the number seven crops up in every aspect of his life. He receives his first weapon at age seven and fights in his first battle. At his death, his son is seven years old. That’s not all though; Cúchulainn has seven fingers on each hand and seven toes on each foot. It is also claimed (bizarrely) that he has seven pupils in each eye!
In Japanese Culture
The most compelling reason for the idea that lucky seven originated outside of Europe, are the seven ancient gods of Japan. The Seven Lucky Gods of Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Daikokuten of Ebisu are believed to have come from ancient Hindu gods, from Taoism and from Buddhism. That is an enormous geographical area from take influence. As Europe interacted with these cultures in the ancient world, it’s also possible that Europe originally got their ideas from the Far East.
The number seven repeats itself in Christian scripture. God is said to have created the world in just seven days. Prior to the flood, Noah is commanded to bring seven pairs of every “clean” animal onto the Ark. Jericho’s walls fell on the seventh day and there are Seven Pillars in the House of Wisdom. In the New Testament, Jesus drove seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. Yet in amongst all this, the number seven is not just a positive symbol. There are seven deadly sins, for example and many curses are repeated seven-fold.
As an Abrahamic religion, we should not be surprised that we also see the use of seven in Islamic belief. The world has seven layers and the heavens are also seven in number (echoing the seven heavens seen elsewhere). Similarly, there are also seven layers to hell as there are in Judaism and Christianity. This is much less surprising compared to the Far East considering the geographic area of origin for Islam, Judaism and Christianity all being roughly the same.
Perhaps adopting some elements of Far East mysticism, some elements of Christianity and ancient Europe, neo-pagans also celebrate seven as a “good” number. They believe there are seven chakra points on the body (this comes from Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism but have been taking on board for some neo-pagan beliefs too).