The significance of numbers to Mongolians

by sumpteretc

This is a rough translation of a topic I recently studied:

Mongolians consider 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10 as good omens, but they see 1 and 7 as bad.

One–One is not considered a good omen. “One stick does not make a fire; one person does not make a family” is a proverb. A person does not give one item as a gift.

Two–Two symbolizes a couple. People live as couples. Everything has two aspects–good and bad, nice and nasty, long and short, south and north, black and white, etc. From this, we can say that two is life’s important law.

Three–In Mongolian oral literature, there are the “World’s Threes.” The world’s true characteristics are declared in world’s threes such as:

A night without a moon is one darkness
A person without knowledge is one darkness
A corral without sheep is one darkness

Father, mother and child are three; root, branch and bud are three, so we can see that the world’s connections are by threes. Also Buddhism talks about three lives (heaven, hell and the present life).

Five–Five sorts of livestock, five senses, five delicious foods, etc. are very much respected.

Seven–Seven is the worst number. In Mongolian stories and legends, seven represents things that are against people, such as seven hollows, seven bandits, seven black goats, seven thieves, or seven bald people. Among Mongolians, there is a proverb, “Seven declines, eight recovers.”

Eight–There are eight offerings with weight. Also eight is called “improving eight.”

Nine–Many things are connected with nine. Nine precious stones–gold, silver, pearl, copper, turquoise, mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli, coral, steel. There are nine nines–81 days of cold (beginning Dec. 22), nine birthmarks, nine holes in a milk sprinkler.

In old days, rich people gave to each other gifts of nine white camels and nine white horses. Nine white gifts is the most revered gift.

For Mongolians, even and odd numbers are very meaningful. They have weddings and feasts on even-numbered days. They bury people on odd-numbered days.

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