It’s All about the Numbers when it comes to these Wedding Rituals
If you believe in this sort of thing, the number seven is a very spiritual number. It is associated with intuition, mysticism, inner wisdom, and seeking truth. Numerology is a belief in the mystical relationship between a number and coinciding events or characteristics. It often involves taking the numerical value of letters in words or names and associates that number with different ideas or qualities. Numerology can have a paranormal or astrological association and even given divine connotations.
Two really wonderful rituals involve the number seven: The Seven Steps, and the Seven Blessings. However, I would not attribute these to numerology, but I especially love that both use the number seven.
The Seven Steps, or Saptha Padhi, is an important ritual in a Hindu marriage ceremony. For this sacred rite of passage, the couple walks around a fire or flame, seven times. The flame honors the Vedic fire god, Agni. You may be familiar with the idea that fire is one of the four elements: earth, air, water and fire, but in the Hindu traditions fire is one of the five elements, along with space (or void), water, air (or wind), and earth, the five combine to form the “perceived material existence” — or simply, the material world.
There is a lot of history and depth to the significance of Indian gods, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain, and it’s extremely complicated. For my purpose today, I’ll just say Agni is important and fire is a strong symbol.
Naturally there are variations of this ritual. In India, being such a big country, you will find different versions, from region to region, with slightly different wording, but the idea and intent remains the same.
This ritual is so important that with the completion of the seventh step the couple is legally married.
The words for each step describe the promises the couple makes to each other:
1. Let us take the first step to provide for our household a nourishing and pure diet, avoiding those foods injurious to healthy living.
2. Let us take the second step to develop physical, mental and spiritual powers.
3. Let us take the third step to increase our wealth by righteous means and proper use.
4. Let us take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness and harmony by mutual love and trust.
5. Let us take the fifth step so that we are blessed with strong, virtuous and heroic children.
6. Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity.
7. Finally, let us take the seventh step and be true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock.
The Seven Blessings in the Jewish wedding praise God; they are about the creation of the world, the creation of humankind, the unity of loving people and the joy of marriage. Many contemporary Jewish weddings do not include this ritual, but personally, I love it! And there are many modern variations, I’ve even created some myself. I often ask the couple to pick seven people to come forward to read each one. Here’s a nice variation:
May you be blessed with love. May your admiration, appreciation and understanding of each other foster a love that is passionate, tranquil and real. May this love between you be strong and enduring and bring peace into your lives.
2. A loving home
May you be blessed with a loving home filled with warmth, humor and compassion. May you create a family together that honors traditions old and new. May you teach your children to have equal respect for themselves and others and instill in them the value of learning and tikkun olam (making the world a better place – an important Jewish value).
3. Humor and play
May you be best friends and work together to build a relationship of substance and quality. May your sense of humor and playful spirit continue to enliven your relationship. May you respect each other’s individual personality and perspective and give each other room to grow in fulfilling your dreams.
May you be blessed with wisdom. May you continually learn from one another and from the world. Together, may you grow, deepening your knowledge and understanding of each other and of your journey through life.
May you be blessed with health. May life bring you wholeness of mind, body and spirit. May you keep each other well-balanced and grounded, and live long that you may share many happy years together.
6. Art, beauty, creativity
May your life be blessed with the art and beauty of this world. May your creative aspirations and experiences find expression, inspire you and bring you joy and fulfillment. May you find happiness together in adventures big and small, and something to celebrate each day of your lives.
May you be blessed with community. May you always be blessed with the awareness that you are an essential part of a circle of family and friends. May there always be within this group love, trust, support and laughter, and may there be many future occasions for rejoicing in their company.
Chinese traditions often include numerology, especially in identifying lucky numbers, but numerology can be found in many religions and cultures, including Christianity. In Jewish culture, Gematria is an alphanumeric method of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase based on its letters. The number 18 is considered spiritual and many Jews give gifts of money in multiples of 18.
Numerology is clearly not science, and usually inhabits the far-ranging edges of traditions, in other words, it’s not mainstream.
But these two beautiful rituals, for Hindus and Jews, are not “far out” at all, and they add depth to the wedding ceremony, connecting the past to the present and moving the couple into their future together. They describe 14 lovely ideals, all showing the universality of love and commitment.