Is three truly a magic number? Why do celebrity deaths seem to come in threes – for instance, the weekend’s triad of Dennis Hopper, Gary Coleman and Rue McClanahan?
Many cultures depict God as having three aspects – for instance, Catholics speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; whereas Hindus speak of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. European paganism recognizes three phases of the Goddess or archetypal womanhood – Maiden, Mother and Crone. Hinduism recognizes the Tridevi, or three forms of the Goddess, as Saraswati (the goddess of learning and arts), Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and fertility), and Paravati (the goddess of love and power). Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels – Buddha (the spiritual potential of all beings), Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and Sangha (spiritual community). In Qabalah, 3 is the number of Binah, or the archetypal female energy.
The philosopher, mathematician and mystic Pythagoreas held that three was the “noblest” number. The classic rules of rhetoric, and comedy, demand that statements made in threes are inherently more effective. The psychology of communication, and advertising, demonstrates that something must be stated a minimum of three times before somebody truly hears it. Almost all movies rely on a three-act structure (and often become trilogies if their directors are particularly ambitious and well-funded).
Wiccans hold that whatever energy a person puts out, whether it is positive or negative, will return to them threefold.
A triangle, which of course has three sides, is the strongest structure possible.
So what exactly is so special about the number three? In many ways, three is the number of change. It is the first positive number that implies anything moving. The number 1 is single, alone, and unified. 2 implies opposites, duality and reflection. But only in 3 do things really start to move, as 3 implies a third factor and therefore the beginnings of motion. This is why we speak of love triangles, power triangles, why you only become a family when you have a child (and not just a dog or a “third wheel”), and so on. And, perhaps, this is why bad news tends to come in threes.
What do you think – what exactly is it about the number three that holds so much mystic potential?