33–Number of Completion

“Thirty-three is an ancient number of completion: the age when Christ was crucified; the years in which King David reigned. It also marks the number of divinities in the public festivals of the Persian Empire, and in the Hindu tradition three sets of eleven deities appear frequently as an auspicious pantheon of thirty-three. In Muslim tradition the ninety-nine beautiful names of God are recited with rosaries made from thirty-three prayer beads each used thrice, while the Hizb al-Wiqaya is a prayer of personal protection collected from thirty-three verses that invoke Koranic protection and divine names.

In broader cultural contexts, the number was chosen by Dante to structure his Divine Comedy (composed of three sets of thirty-three chapters); it expresses the number of spiritual ranks within Freemasonry; and the blows with which Shakespeare records death being delivered to Julius Caesar (‘When think you that the sword goes up again? Never, till Caesar’s three and thirty wounds be well avenged’).”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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