Spring AS L (2016)
Volume XXI, Issue 3 (#80)

From the Nachalnik

While we are still occasionally getting snow in these parts, it's time to be thinking about summer camping events, and Pennsic in particular. There hasn't been a Pennsic gathering in a while, but if someone feels up for hosting one this year (whether in an A&S tent or a private campsite), I would be happy to publicize it here in our Summer Slovo , which should appear in early July (just before War).

If you are a member of the Slavic Interest Group, please take a moment to check your entry in the mailing list (http://www.goldschp.net/SIG/maillist.html ). It's been a while since I tested the addresses, but I know some of them are out of date.


The Semantics of Numbers

By Vasyl Jula

An ancient wise man said that numbers make up nature and whatever we see can be deciphered with their help. Ukrainian rushnyky (ritual towels) are deeply symbolic and likewise pass on information in numbers. For example, what elements make up the Tree? What is the amount of these elements? How many petals do the flowers have? The configuration of geometrical motifs and the quantity of elements that comprise the whole help us to read the embroidery.

Numbers are divided into even and odd. The first, in most cases, relate to spiritual nature and the second to the material, earthly nature. In the iconography of the towels both are simultaneously present, creating harmony and balance.

One—this number is expressed most often in the central motif or topic such as the Tree of Life, the octagonal Star, or octagonal motif. One symbolizes the one Creator. One is the Sun, the center that holds all together. One is the basis of all life and all numbers.

Two—marks the world of polarities. In the geometrical ornamental patterns, the kadutsei (a double spiral) forms the base, one thread symbolizing evolution (progress) and the other involution (regress). To this number belongs the two-sided symmetry of The Tree with a pair of birds next to it and paired motifs on both sides. Another example is the shoulder towels from the Poltava region that have two embroidered saplings (a symbol of matrimonial unity) on each end. The duality is displayed at both ends of the towel, each having different energy-power potential.

Three—possesses a special place and belongs to the row of Sacred Numbers (3, 7, 12, and 60). Three is widely encountered in the numerical symbolism of the towels. Very often the striped geometrical patterns on towels are grouped in threes correlating with three worlds; underground, earthly and celestial; with the three threads of the spiral; with the two directions of motion where, besides the evolution and the involution, is shown a middle core representing the everlasting ideas of the Creator. On the other hand, three is a symbol of the triple nature of the universe—sky, earth, and human. The triple principle is reflected in the iconography of the simple Tree reminding us of the Trinity (or the three Substances).

Four—the sacred four-sided Tetrad is most often used in the geometrical motifs of a square, rhombus, or crossed rhombus. The composition of Podillian towels often provides for two circles with two motifs—a window of four squares. The sacred Tetrada represents the four form-creating elements (Fire, Air, Earth and Water). Everything alive that we can see is the result of their work—the materialization of the idea of the Creator. That is why a majority of geometrical patterns consist of quadrangles because they reflect the matrix of creation; an embodiment of the idea on a material plane.

Five—is often seen in old images of the Tree of Life with five flowers. This corresponds with the Tree of the fifth civilization—Aryan. The number five is the number of the human species in the occult tradition of East and West. The straight pentagram symbolizes the Spirit (the top of the five pointed star) and its control over the four elements. Often in compositions of geometrical and plant ornamental patterns we find five-part motifs made up of squares. The construction of five rhombs (named the “heraldic knot”) comprises a basis for many geometrical ornamental patterns. Their diverse configurations, especially in old Hutsul and Podillian patterns, show a similarity to the ancient form of handwriting through which we inherited the information about the family-clan, and its heraldry.

Six—as a doubling of the number three, six symbolizes the embodiment of God's plan on the Earth. Imposing two triangles over each other, results in the formation of a six-pointed star, as expressed in the geometrical patterns. In a complicated, cosmic interpretation – this is a symbol of unity between the macro-cosmos (God) and the micro-cosmos (Human). The triangle pointed down symbolizes the Divine Spirit descending to earth and to mankind. The triangle pointing up is a symbol of a human striving for the sky—to spiritual and physical perfection—to achieving cosmic consciousness. On the chernytski towels from the Cherkassy region, we often find six-petal flowers on endless grapevines. A very interesting geometric pattern consisting of six- pointed stars can be seen on many towels from Poltava region.

Seven—the number that can be found everywhere in nature and belongs to the row of sacred numbers. Both worlds, visible and invisible, manifest themselves as septennials. Very often the Tree is portrayed with seven branches accompanied by seven-pointed stars (stars of magicians and astrologers). There are the seven colors and the seven notes of music. There are the seven basic spiritual centers in a human that also correlate to the colors and the notes. Seven is the number of a secret. In all nations and cultures, the number seven was very much respected because it lies at the base of all evolution.

Eight—the number six symbolizes the blending and permeation of two worlds (spiritual and material) but in the towels with the Tree we often encounter eight-petal flowers. But more commonly the number eight is displayed in geometrical ornamental patterns in the form of an octagonal star (with a popular name of “full rose" or simply "rose"). This star is often found on Podillian towels and even more frequently in ornamental patterns of men and women's shirts throughout Ukraine. Eight symbolizes a cosmic harmony and a balance of all things.

Nine—is a number of total perfection. In it we find all other numbers from one to nine. This is a triangle of three (three times three)—a full image of all the worlds. This is the number of consecration in the secrets of life, death, and regeneration. This is the number of high power, of apprehension, and of spiritual activity. It is the number of high consciousness of Christ to which all humanity strives.

Ten—one of the perfect numbers generated from adding the first four elementary numbers (1+2+3+4=10). Ten is a Divine plenitude; it means a full way of life. The numerical symbol of ten is formed with 1 meaning an existence and with 0 expressing a non-existence, comprising in itself the spirit and the matter.

Twelve—this is a celebrated dozen, one of the Sacred Numbers, a perfect number, a symbol of completeness. It symbolizes the twelve cosmic laws of existence, the twelve of signs of Zodiac, the twelve months of a year, the twelve hours in a day and a night, the twelve apostles and others. In the semantics of the Tree of Life, this number is found alongside other numbers. For example, on chernytski towels a twelve-petal flower is often embroidered on the center of the tree trunk.


•  Alistair Millar: “My outline history of Great Moravia in the 8th-10th centuries AD, which some might remember from a few years ago, is now available again!” http://skriptorium.info/greatmoravia/

•  Aldo C. Marturano (turanomar@libero.it) writes: “My latest book upon the Dolgorukii Porject that started in Vladimir-upon-Klyazma and ended up with the Third Rome has been published. It is in Italian, as u may presume, but if there is any of our friends interested in having it, please feel free to ask for it and I will air it over FOC (ca.370 pages!).”


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The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 5625 Highland Way, Middleton WI 53562, 608-827-6891, e-mail: goldschp@tds.net. There is no subscription fee and copies of this quarterly newsletter are available free of charge from the editor. Slovo is also available on-line at the Interest Group web site (http://slavic.freeservers.com).