Meaning of Number 3
Number 3 is the number of good fortune.
The Pythagoreans taught that the number three was the first true number.
Three is the first number that forms a geometrical figure – the triangle.
Three was considered the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding.
Three is the number of time:
Past Present Future
Birth Life Death
Beginning Middle End
Three is the number of the divine.
Three is a sacred number in many religions.
In ritual many actions are preformed three times.
Three is the Number of Magic
We are all familiar with the expression “third time lucky”.
In fairy tales three is often the magical number.
Heroes and heroines are often offered three choices or three tests. They overcome difficulties on the third try.
In Zoroastrianism there are three ethical principles
- Humata: to think good
- Hukhta: to speak good
- Huveshta: to act good
Under Muslim law a man can divorce his wife by repeating the phrase “I divorce thee” three times.
Plato divided his Utopian city into three populations: Laborers – Guardians (warriors) – Philosophers (rulers)
The Borromeam Rings
The three Borromeam Rings are three rings that are interlocked.
If any single ring is removed, the two remaining rings will fall apart.
This has been used as a symbol of “strength in unity” for centuries in many parts of the world.
The symbol of the three rings that are interlocked is also known as “The Tripod of Life”. Christians may use “The Tripod of Life” to symbolize the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Nobel Peace Prize
On the Nobel Peace Prize Medal there is engraved a picture of three naked men. The inscription reads: Pro pace et fraternitate gentium, translated ” For the peace and brotherhood of men”. The medal was designed by Gustav Vigeland.
The symbol of three interlocked triangles is called Valknut.
It was used in Viking times as a symbol for the slain dead.
Valknut is associated with the Norse god Odin.
The Vikings believed Odin would protect the dead warriors who died in his name. They believed they would spend their afterlife in Valhalla belonging to Odin.
The name means “Knot of the Slain”.
Only three primary colors are needed to mix most other colors; red, yellow and blue.
According to Benjamin Disraeli (British Prime Minister, 1804-1881) there are three degrees of lies: Lies – Damned Lies – Statistics
In the Western world, leather traditionally marks the third year anniversary.
The Triple Goddess
The Triple Moon/The Triple Goddess.
It shows her three aspects as maiden, mother and crone.
It is often used by Wicca.
Astrology and the Tarot
Gemini is the third astrological sign of the Zodiac. (May 21 – June 21) Number three is the number of Jupiter.
Number three is lucky for Sagittarius.
In the Tarot, three is the card of the Empress.
The Empress stands for creation and growth. Reserved it warns of inaction.
The Shamrock, the three-leaf clover, is a symbol of Ireland.
Saint Patrick taught Christianity in Ireland. He used the three-leaf cover to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity (The Father, Son and Holy Ghost) in Christianity.
Saint Patrick died March 17, 461.
March 17 is celebrated as his feast day and named Saint Patrick’s Day.
The Leprechaun: Three Wishes
In Irish folklore there is a saying:
“If you catch a Leprechaun and set him free, the Leprechaun will grant you three wishes.”
Petals of the Iris Flower
The iris flower was a symbol of power in ancient Egypt.
It was often placed on scepters of rulers and kings. The three large petals of the iris flower symbolize:
Faith – Wisdom – Courage
The iris flower is named after the Greek messenger goddess, Iris. She was also seen as the rainbow. Iris flowers were planted on the graves of women.
The ancient Greeks believed that the goddess Iris would lead the dead women to the Underworld.
The word “troika” is a Russian word for threesome, triplet or trio.
A Troika is three-horse harnessed sledge.
Troika is also the name of a traditional Russian dance. The dancers dance in groups of three.
A Troika also means a committee consisting of three members.
During the rule of Stalin, the Troika was used to speed up the prosecutions of people accused of political crimes.
In that meaning a Troika consisted of three judges and replaced the normal legal system.
An old superstition from Britain states that it is lucky to find three whole grains in a loaf of bread.
Another bread superstition says it if you take three loaves of bread out of the oven at one time, a death of someone you know will occur within a year.
The Three Languages of the Rosetta Stone The Rosetta Stone contains inscriptions in three languages: Demotic (Egyptian), Hieroglyphic and Classical Greek.
The Rosetta Stone helped reveal the secrets of Hieroglyphic writing. It is on display at the British Museum in London.
Three English Kings have died in battle. 1. Harold II – October 14,1066 2. Richard the Lionheart – April 6, 1199 3. Richard III – August 22, 1485
Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. 1801 – 1809.
Jefferson was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence.
He owned many hundred slaves. Jefferson passed a law in 1807 to abolish slave trade.
He was strongly against the Bank of America saying that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.
The octopus has three hearts.
Camels have three eyelids.
Cats have a third eyelid. It is called the haw.
Sonnet 3 By William Shakespeare
Number 3 in the Bible
Three is the number of The Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Three Wise Men came to Jesus bearing three gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Jesus spread Christianity for three years – according to the Gospel of John.
Jesus predicted that Peter would deny knowing him three times before the cock crowed. (Luke 22:34)
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.
Jesus spoke of his threefold role:
the way – the truth – the life
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Saul’s (Paul) Conversion to Christianity
Saul was on his way to Damascus when he fell to the ground hearing the voice of Jesus asking: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
When he opened his eyes he could not see anything. “And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank”. Acts 9:9.
Saul converted to Christianity and was later known as Paul.
Paul suffered “Three times I have been beaten with rods. Three times I have been shipwrecked.” 2. Corinthians 11:25
- Three angels visited Abraham announcing that his wife, Sarah, was to give birth to a son. (Genesis, chapter 18)
- Noah had three sons: Shem – Ham – Japheth The story of Noah is in Genesis chapter 7 -10
Jonah in the Whale
Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a whale.
“And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” The Book of Jonah 1:17
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40
3 Days in Prison
Joseph was made governor after he had successfully interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh.
When his brothers arrived in Egypt to buy grain, they did not recognize Joseph. Joseph put them in prison for three days. Genesis chapter 42.
The Temptation of Christ
After Jesus was baptized, he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.
During this time Satan tried to tempt Jesus three times. Satan was unsuccessful.
1. Satan asked Jesus to turn stone into bread. Jesus answered: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
2. Satan asked Jesus to jump off a pinnacle and rely on the angles to save him. Jesus said to him, “Again you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Matthew 4:7
3. Satan asked Jesus to worship the devil in return for all the kingdoms of the world. Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matthew 4:10
Jesus raised three people from the dead
1. The only son of a widow from Nain. Luke 7:11-14
2. The daughter of the religious leader in Jairus. Mark 35 – 42
3. Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha. John 11:1-44
Parable of th Good Samaritan
“A man was going down from Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” Luke 10:30
Three people arrived at the site where the man lay half dead:
1. A priest – passed without helping
2. A Levite – passed without helping
3. A Samaritan – showed mercy and took care of him
Number 3 in Buddhism: The Three Jewels
We find the number three in the Buddhist Tiratana. The Tiratana is also known as the Three Jewels of Buddhism.
The 3 circles are symbolic for:
1. The Buddha
2. The Dharma (his teachings)
3. Sangha (his followers)
The symbol of The Three Jewels shown on a Buddha footprint.
The third day of the Chinese New Year is often called the “Squabbling Day”. People will avoid visiting family and friends on this day as it may result in quarrels. A visit to the temple is a better choice.
Buddhism – The 3 Cardinal Faults
At the very center of the Samsara, The Wheel of life, there are three symbols of the cardinal faults of humans.
The pig symbolizing greed
The snake symbolizing hatred
The rooster symbolizing delusion
The Holy Trinity in Hinduism
Three is the holy number for the Trimurti /Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
These three gods make up the One Supreme God, Brahman:
Brahma – the creator of the world
Vishnu – the preserver of the world
Shiva – the destroyer of the world
A tilak is a religious mark on the forehead. Devotees of Shiva may often be seen using a tilak of three horizontal lines. (Devotees of Vishnu use a tilak of two upward lines.)
At the beginning of religious ceremonies, it is common that the priest takes water in his right hand and drinks it.
This is repeated three times. This clears his throat before the chanting starts, he can do so with clarity and is absolved of sin. This is called “Aachman”.
3 Wise Monkeys
Japan – The Three Wise Monkeys
Hear No Evil
Speak No Evil
See No Evil
The Three Wise Monkeys – Toshogu Shrine, Japan. The Three Monkey Philosophy:
Kikazaru: covering his ears to hear no evil.
Mizaru: covering his eyes to see no evil.
Iwazaru: covering his mouth to speak no evil.
Baku – The Dream Eater
Baku has its origins in Japan and China. It is a strange, but cute hybrid creature featuring many different animals.
Baku has the power to eat nightmares.
Bad dreams go through Baku’s digestive system and are totally eliminated, leaving serenity in its place.
Baku will consume nightmares on request.
Superstition has it that a person experiencing nightmares must call out three times to Baku; “Eat it, Baku”.
The River of Three Crossings – Japanese Buddhism
The River of Three Crossings is also called the Sanzu River.
It is the river the dead must cross. There are three different places the dead may cross the river.
The karma (good and bad deeds of the person) determines at which point the dead may cross the river.
1. The Bridge – the dead person with very good karma may use the bridge to cross over to the other side.
2. The Ford – the dead person with good and evil deeds may wade across the river at this point.
3. The water polluted with gruesome serpents.
The dead person with evil doings must wade across the river at this point.
The Doll Festival
The Japanese celebrate Hina Matsuri, (Doll Festival) on March 3, the third day of the third month. The Doll Festival is also known as “Girls’ Day”.
Earlier it was believed that dolls could ward off evil spirits and illness. Dolls were sent floating down the river, to carry away trouble.
Now dolls are displayed on special platforms in the home. Dolls are also sent out to sea.
This is a special day devoted to the happiness and protection of girls.
Sun Goddess – 3 Symbols
Shinto – The three symbols of the sun goddess
The Mirror – symbol of truth and wisdom
The Jewel symbol of compassion
The Sword – symbol of strength and courage
These symbols are associated with the sun goddess, Amaterasu.
Culture Day – Japan
In Japan they celebrate Culture Day on November 3rd.
It is a National Holiday and the prestigious award “Order of Culture” is presented to a praiseworthy person who has promoted arts, science or culture.
The award is handed over by the Emperor personally.
Culture festivals are held throughout the country.
The Tomoe symbolizes the three foundations of Shinto philosophy.
The three flames of the Tomoe symbol represent the Earth, Heavens and Humankind.
Number 3 in Mythology
In Mythology – they often come in groups of three…
Creating Mankind – Mayans
According to the Popol-Vuh, it took three attemps to create mankind.
1. The first man was made of clay, but it was destroyed by a flood.
2. The second man was made of wood, but was washed away in a storm.
3. The third was made from maize, from whom we are all descended.
Inanna – Rose from the Dead after 3 Days
Inanna Rose from the Dead after Three Days and Three Nights – Sumerian
Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, descended to the Underworld to attend her brother-in-laws funeral.
Ereshkigal (her sister) was the Queen of the Underworld, which was a dark and gloomy place. After arriving Inanna was killed.
For three days and three nights her corpse hung on a hook.
Enki (the god of freshwater, magic and culture), created two sexless creatures and sent them to the Underworld to save Inanna.
On the third day, Inanna returned to the world of the living. Her sister had demanded that someone was to take her place in the Underworld.
When Inanna discovered her husband, Dumuzi, had not mourned her death she was furious and ordered him to take her place in the Underworld.
Dumuzi was terrified and tried to escape, but a fly conveniently informed Inanna where he was to be found.
Dumuzi’s sister was in great despair and offered to take his place.
It was finally agreed that Dumuzi was to spend one half of the year in the Underworld and his sister the other half.
Manuk Manuk – Sumatran
Manuk Manuk was the name of the fabulous blue chicken. This blue chicken belonged to the supreme god. On day Manuk Manuk laid three huge eggs. From these three eggs emerged three new gods. These three gods created the three different levels of the universe;
1. The heaven (upper world),
2. The earth (lower world)
3. The underworld.
The god/spirits of the entrance
In Ancient Rome there were gods and goddesses for almost everything. The entrance of a home was protected by three different gods. They had the power to keep evil demons from entering the house. Cardea was especially good at keeping small children safe at night.
The three gods were:
1. Forculus – god of doors
2. Cardea – goddess of hinges and door handles
3. Limentinus – god of thresholds
Ancient Babylonia told stories of the trinity creator gods.
Their names were:
Anu – Bael – Ea
The 3 Rulers in Greek Mythology
In Greek myth three bothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades were each rules of their worlds.
1. Zeus – ruler of the sky
2. Poseidon – ruler of the sea
3. Hades – ruler of the underworld
Their equivalents in Roman myth were Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.
The 3 Graces / Charities
The three Graces (Roman myth) were followers of the goddess Venus.
In Greek myth they were called the three Charities and were followers of Aphrodite.
Aphrodite was the goddess of love. In Roman mythology she goes by the name Venus.
The three Graces gave beauty to the world.
Every attractive human being could thank the three Graces for the gift of beauty. They chose the humans who would receive the gift of physical beauty.
In Roman mythology the Moeraes were called the Fates.
1. The first was known as “The spinner”. She spun the life web of the humans. Her name was Clotho in Greek Mythology and Nona in Roman Mythology.
2. The second was known as” The Apportioner”. She decided how long each human was to live. Her name was Lachesis in Greek Mythology and Decima in Roman Mythology.
3. The third was known as “The Inevitable”. She cut the thread of life when it was time for someone to die. Her name was Atropos in Greek Mythology and Morta in Roman Mythology.
In Norse mythology there are parallel goddesses called the Norns.
The ancient Romans and the ancient Greeks believed that the first seven vowels were invented by the Moeraes/Fates.
The Three Erinyes were goddesses of revenge. In Roman myth they were called “the Furies”.
They were greatly feared as they showed no mercy.
They were particularly upset with anyone who killed a family member.
The 3 Hesperides
In some versions of the myth there are Three Hesperides. In other Versions of the myth, there are Seven Hesperides .
They were the daughters of the Evening Star, Hesperus. Together with the serpent, Ladon, they guarded the tree with the golden apples.
The garden with the tree was located far west, beyond the sunset.
Atlas carried the celestial globe on his shoulders close by the garden.
The tree with the golden apples was a gift from Gaia (mother Earth) to Hera (queen goddess) when she married Zeus (chief god). The three Hesperides were: Hespera – Ægle – Erythea
The Sacred Tripod of Ancient Greece
The tripod was sacred to the god Apollo.
In the Oracle of Delfi the priestess, Pythia, would take her seat on the tripod before going into trance.
Tripods were also widely used by ordinary people as alters.
Cerberus was the hideous three-headed watchdog of the Underworld.
His job was to stop anyone trying to get back to the land of the living.
Cerberus was the offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna.
The Judges of the Underworld
The Three children of Europa (Greek myth)
The three judges of the Underworld were the three sons of Europe and Zeus. Their names were Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon.
Europe was the granddaughter of Poseidon (the Sea god). Zeus saw her on the beach in Phænicia (Lebanon).
He changed himself into a beautiful bull.
Europa climbed on the back of the bull (Zeus). The bull jumped into the water and swam across the sea all the way to the island of Crete. Zeus revealed who he really was on the shores of Crete.
From their union three sons were born. These three sons ended up as the judges of the Underworld, after they died.
Hecate, the three-faced goddess
(Hecate – Greek myth, Trivia, Roman myth)
Hecate was goddess of farmland, earth and fertility during daytime. She could also help women during childbirth.
She was also said to have offered protection to travelers, because she could see in all directions at dangerous junctions.
Three-faced statues of Hecate were often found at forks in the road looking in three directions.
At night she was a moon-goddess. During the night she was associated with magic and witchcraft.
She was the protector of witches, sorcerers and wizards. Hecate could appear quite sinister. She was accompanied by a pack of ghostly and scary dogs.
The ancient Greeks would offer food at these places to please Hecate or if they needed to do some magic act which needed her approval and blessing.
Hecate was associated with the three phases of the moon.
Number 3 in Norse Mythology
The three Norns were the goddesses of Destiny.
Their names were
1. Urd (Fate),
2. Verdani (Present)
3. Skuld (Future).
They sat spinning the thread of life and had the power to decide the fate of every human being, god, giant and dwarf.
In Greek and Roman mythology there are parallel goddesses called the Moeraes and the Fates.
The 3 Roots of Yggdrasil – The Tree of Life
1. The first root went to Asgard, where the gods lived. Under this root was the well called Urd.
The Norns poured water from this well over Yggdrasil to keep the tree healthy.
2. The second root went to Jotunheim, where the Giants lived. Under this root was Mimes well. Mime was considered to have great wisdom.
Odin (the chief god) once traded an eye for the privilege of drinking from this well and thus gaining great wisdom.
3. The third root went to Niflheim, the horrible Underworld.
The well under this root was called Hvergelmir.
The Creation Story in Norse Mythology
In the beginning of time, before the world was created there were three different areas:
Niflheim – Land of mist
Ginnungagap – the great void between Niflheim and Muspelheim
Muspelheim – Land of fire
In Ginnungagap the first Jotun (troll) was formed. His name was Ymir.
Also in Ginnungagap the primeval cow named Audhumla resided. Ymir enjoyed drinking milk from the teats of the cow. Audhumla loved salt. The cow found a salty rock and started to lick it.
1. On the first day hair came out from the rock.
2. On the second day a head grew from the rock.
3. On the third day the rest of the body emerged from the rock.
The very first god (Aesir) had been created. His name was Buri. Buri was to become the grandfather of Odin.
Creation of the World – Norse Mythology
Three brothers created the world. In Norse myth the three brothers, Odin, Vili and Ve, killed the first living monster called Ymir and created the world from his body parts.
The blood became the oceans.
The flesh became the land.
The bones turned into mountains.
The teeth turned into stones.
The hair turned into plants.
The brain they threw up into the air and that was how the clouds were created.
The brothers created the first two humans. The three brothers were walking on the beach.
They found two trees; some say two pieces of wood from two trees. From these two trees the three brothers created the first two humans.
They named the man, Ask. He was made from the Ash tree.
They named the woman, Embla. She was made from the Elm tree.
1. Odin blew the breath of life into Ask and Embla.
2. Vili gave them movement and intelligent minds.
3. Ve gave them shape, hearing, sight and speach.
The 3 Fimbulwinters
The Fimbulwinters were three hard and extremely cold successive winters with no summer in between.
The three Fimbulwinters were the last three winters before Ragnarok (the end of the world).
Fimbul means “great”. It may be noted that there was a climate change in the Bronze Age around 650 B.C.
Three Nights – Three Lovers – Three Social Classes
Heimdall was the god who guarded the rainbow bridge (Bifrost). He was the son of nine mothers.
Once he disguised himself as a mortal, calling himself Rig.
1. He visited a poor couple and dined with them. He was invited to sleep in their bed. Three nights he slept in their bed. When the husband was sound asleep he made love to the wife. Nine months later the wife gave birth to a son. This boy became the ancestor of the serfs.
2. The second couple he visited was better off. The same thing happened in this house. The wife gave birth to a son, he became the ancestor of the peasants.
3. The third couple lived in a wealthy home. Again he spent three nights making love to the wife when the husand was sleeping. Her son became the ancestor of the nobility. This is how the Vikings explained that the three social classes were created by the Heimdall, the rainbow god.
The 3 Children of Loki
Loki was a jotunn (giant) and a god. He lived with the gods and caused them much trouble. He had three well known children.
1. Hel – She was the ruler of the Underworld called Niflheim. Those who died of sickness or old age were sent to Hel. It was not a pleasant place.
2. Fenrir – Fenrir was the gruesome wolf, who would eventually kill Odin (the chief god) at Ragnarok, the end of the world.
3. Jormungand (Midgard Serpent) – The huge and monstrous serpent. Odin threw the serpent into the sea that lies around all lands. Hel, the ruler of the Underworld had a three-legged horse. The three-legged horse was called Helhest.
Gullveig – Died 3 Times
Died Three Times and Rose from the Dead Three Times Gullveig was a master of witchcraft and black magic.
She showed up mysteriously in Asgard (the home of the gods).
She was filled with greed for gold and power.
Gullveig was described as an evil woman. The gods decided to kill her.
The gods stabbed her with a spear and threw her into the flames.
Three times they burned her. Three times Gullveig came back to life.