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Odd Numbers 


People put great faith in lucky numbers, while avoiding those considered ill-omened. A belief in the occult importance of numbers is deep-rooted and widespread. In a tradition inherited from the Greeks and Romans, scholars of Renaissance Europe endowed numbers with magical significance. Certain numbers, particularly odd single figures such as the numbers three, seven, and nine, throughout the ages, have always been considered imbued with mystical properties. In the ancient world, odd numbers were thought to bring good fortune. This was reiterated by the Roman poet Virgil who observed that ‘odd numbers delight the gods’,228 whereas Pliny the Elder wondered why odd numbers were thought effectual for every purpose. Hence, he poses the question: ‘Why do we believe that in everything, odd numbers are more powerful?’229 In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare also refers to the belief that odd numbers are lucky: ‘This is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers. [...] They say there is divinity in odd numbers....’.230 

However, even numbers, with some notable exceptions such as the number forty, were always considered nondescript. Because they could easily be divided and, therefore, diminished in their value, no special significance was attached to them. 

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