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          Superstitions are a curious thing—with people retaining and passing them along for various reasons. Some are related to numbers and have been around since the numbers themselves. In our Western culture we’re familiar with a few: sevens are lucky, thirteens are unlucky, and triple-sixes (“the mark of the beast”) are evil. People can have specific lucky numbers, often coinciding with an important date. In many Asian cultures, numbers take on higher meanings related to their homonyms (words that sound the same.) Religious scripture, folk lore, and other spiritual practices (such as tarot, astrology, and numerology) also contribute to numerical superstitions.

          Certain calendar dates also possess symbolic importance—Friday the 13th being perhaps the most common in our society. Airlines, hotels, and other travel agencies report a noticeable decline in travel on this seemingly-inauspicious day. However, whether the day itself is evil—or merely the belief that the day is evil—remains to be seen. Days such as June 6th 2006 (6/6/06) and July 7th 2007 (7/7/07) have garnered acclaim as being demonic or lucky, respectively. Similarly, August 8th 2008 (8/8/08) was seen as a tremendously fortunate day by many Asians—hence the commencement of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on this date, at 8:08 pm exactly—because in many Asian languages the pronunciation of the number eight sounds like the words for ‘prosperity’ and ‘wealth.’

          So today—and with future dates such as October 10th 2010, November 11th 2011, and December 21st 2012 (possible ‘doomsday’ according to the Mayan calendar)—we are reminded yet again of the underlying significance of numbers. While no one can really be sure (and many will say that any day is what you make of it) if the numbers mean anything, 9/9/09 should shape up to be a pretty good day…..

The Number 9

          Nine is the highest natural number; that is, it’s the highest whole, single-digit integer. After nine, all numbers repeat themselves. Therefore, nine is a number of completion, conclusion, finality, judgment, etc. Because of this, it may be easy to see nine—and thus 9/9/09—as ominous, as a sign of the impending end of the world. However, according to most of my research, nine is a spiritually-positive number, often representing accomplishment, satisfaction, and unity. Since there is no ending without a beginning, seeing nine as the completion of a cycle, is to see the relation between closure and renewal. (The Latin word for nine, novem, is related to the root word novus, meaning new.)

          On a purely mathematical-level, if you add all the numbers from one to nine (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9) you get 45; add those numbers together (4+5) and you get nine. Further, if you multiply any number by nine (4×9 or 473×9), you’ll always produce a number that adds up to nine (36=3+6=9 or 4257=4+2+5+7=18=1+8=9). Many see this phenomenon as illustrating an “all is one” concept, with nine as an ultimate connector.

          Written in binary, nine is 1001. You get a group of nine items together (such as the nine US Supreme Court Justices) and they’re known as an ennead. Also, most human pregnancies last nine months.

The Almighty 9

          The significance of 9 has held steadfastly true throughout many of the world’s religions and cultures. For example, in Hinduism, nine is revered as divine, as a complete and perfected number; nine monks are usually involved in Buddhist rituals; and in Greek mythology, there are nine muses. Tarot and Western Numerology relate nine to concepts of newness, integration, authority, regulation, attainment, culmination, universal influence, invention, process, recognition, and achievement. Astrologically, it’s related to Neptune.  

          In Norse mythology, there were believed to be nine worlds, or nui heimar. And Odin (the chief Norse God) hung himself in an ash tree for nine days to learn the runes. Established in the late 1970s, The Odinic Rite is a Germanic neopagan organization. They list their Nine Noble Virtues, by which followers are encouraged to live, as: courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industriousness, self-reliance, and perseverance.     

          The Christian angelic hierarchy consists of nine choirs of angels (3 sets of 3—a very popular number in Christianity.) Also, St. Paul speaks of the Nine Fruits of the Spirit: love/charity, joy, peace (one’s relationship with God); patience, kindness, goodness (with others); faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (with the inward self).

          Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer, falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Since it is shorter than the Western/Gregorian calendar, the specific dates of Ramadan shift every year—in 2009 it falls between August 22nd and September 19th. In Islam, it is also believed that there are nine openings of the male human body.       

          In Chinese cultures, nine is associated with the Chinese dragon (a symbol of magic and power, as well as of the Emperor). Nine animals make up the Chinese dragon. It has the head of a camel, the eyes of a demon, the ears of a cow, the antlers of a stag (its horns), the neck of a snake, the belly if clam, the foot soles of a tiger, the claws of an eagle, and the scales of a carp (117 of them, in fact. 1+1+7=9). Nines are also featured in much Chinese architecture, such as in the Forbidden City in Beijing (which is said to have 9,999 rooms.) At the Taoist site the Temple of Heaven, also in Beijing, stands the Earthly Mound (or ‘circular mound altar’). At the center is a circular marble plate, surrounded by 9 more plates, then 18 more, and so on, until there are 9 full rings of plates.  

          In the Baha’i faith, nine symbolizes completeness. The monotheistic religion, whose official symbol is a nine-pointed star, was founded in 19th century Persia and is said to have 5-6 million followers in over 200 countries and territories around the world. Baha’i emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind and its various religions, equality, and the abolition of prejudices. It neither promotes, nor discredits, any established religion—but rather, sees them as building off one another, reaching toward a definitive, progressive religious revelation. The Baha’i calendar has 19 months (each named after an attribute of God), each consisting of 19 days.

The Word Nine

          In Mandarin Chinese, the word for nine (jiu) sounds like the words for ‘long-lasting’ and ‘long in time,’ it’s connection with longevity thus making it lucky. There’s even a nationwide celebration, Chongyang (meaning double yang; nine is odd, and therefore a yang number), held on the 9th day of the 9th month. And since another homonym for jiu is the word for ‘wine’ it is customary for it to be drank during the festival.

          A word of caution, here—nine is not seen as pleasantly in Japan. That’s because in Japanese, the word for nine sounds like the words for ‘torture,’ ‘pain,’ and ‘distress.’ Japanese-based airlines will even go as far as to omit a 9th row from their planes and building planners often leave out the 9th room.    

          Many common phrases use the word nine; however, their origins are not always clear. For example, if you’re on cloud nine, you’re in pure heaven. Love potion number 9 is a secret serum of romantic bliss (also a song by the Clovers and a 1992 Sandra Bullock movie.) Being dressed to the nines is as dressed-up as one can be. And going the whole nine yards mean you’re going all the way, baby.

          Nines have also found their way into some literature. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, there are 9 circles of Hell. And in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, nine rings of power are given to the race of men. Finally, exalted in Voeux du Paon (1312), The Nine Worthies (or simply The Nine) were the well-known men in the Middle Ages that personified all that was chivalrous, heroic, and noble. They were broken down into 3 groups—Hector, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar (Pagan); Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus (Jewish); King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon (Christian).   

The Pop-Icon Nine

          According to musical superstitions, there is the curse of the ninth. It is said to plague composers who complete a ninth symphony, finishing them before they can finish their tenth. It’s said Beethoven was the first to be killed off. Other composers have even tried to trick the curse by giving their ninth a different name…but without much avail, they were laid to rest before their true tenth debuted.

          The Beatles released the track “Revolution 9” on their 1968 self-titled album. Today, their recently-remastered catalog is being released, as well as an edition of Rock Band devoted to them, dubbed “Revolution.” Clearly the number nine was important to them as well.

          An animated movie called “9” is also being released today. Adapted from director Shane Acker’s 2007 short film by the same name (and produced by dark-star Tim Burton), the Focus Features flick tells of nine rag dolls in a post-apocalyptic world. They’re given life by their creator before his death, in order to keep existence (and the human legacy) going. I thought the short film was awesome, so I’m looking forward to seeing the full-length version, especially now that I know a little more about the importance of nine.

 Do you have any thoughts on today’s rare date? Or the number nine? Do you have a lucky number? If so, why is it lucky for you? Do you plan on buying Revolution or going to see 9?

Also, if you’re interested in 2012, be sure to check out The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies, and Possibilities.

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3 Comments

  1. Hey, just thought I’d drop you a comment.
    I recently watched 9 the movie, and noticed some Joseph Campbell-style influences, so I thought I search around for other’s thought on it. I didn’t find much about Campbell, but I found your blog and noticed your bit about numerology and the number 9. Nice work.
    One thing I’ve noticed about numerology and the number 9 is that if you have a string of numbers, when you go to add them up, the 9’s cancel out, as if they are complete and don’t influence the outcome. I will illustrate.
    9+9+9+4 will equal 4, just remove the 9’s and there’s you number.
    1+8+2+7+3+6+4+5+3 will equal 3 because 1+8=9 and is removed, repeat until there is only 3.
    Just another curious thing about 9 and numerology. I will leave you with a riddle that has kept me up at nights.

    3 guys walk into a hotel and get a room. The room costs $30, so they each pay 10. The honest manager realizes that room is only $25, so he sends the bellhop up with $5 to reimburse the uncomfortably cramped gentlemen in one room. The bellhop isn’t so good at math, and cant figure out how to split $5 3 ways, so he pockets $2 and gives each man $1, equalling $3, and walks away happy.
    So, instead of paying $10, each man only payed $9
    9X3=27, the bellhop kept 2.
    Where is the other dollar? If you find out, tell me so I can sleep at nights.
    Nigel

  2. Nigel,
    Wow that’s a tough one! I’ll keep thinking about it, and I’ve got a few people at work that might be able to crack it….. but I’m not making any promises. 😛
    Anyway, I’m glad you like the post. (I’m kinda new at all this blog/putting-my-writing-out-there kinda stuff) Lemme know if there’s anything you’re interested in learning about and I’ll do my best to research/write about it. Thanks for stopping by!
    Claire

  3. 3×9=27, MINUS the 2 the bellhop stole, equals the 25 they should have paid. They should have paid 8 and 1/3 each, but ended up paying 9 each.
    The $27 is the total payment and $2 is a cost, not a payment! It just happens to add up to $29 giving the illusion of a missing dollar.

    Anyway, my fave number is 5, and I’d love to see an article about it. But I’m not sure I can ask such a thing… just write about what you want to, it’s great stuff.


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