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Pythagorean number: The tetra
1+1+1+1; 2+2; 1+3; 1x4; 2x2
Four is the first square number, and not because a square has four sides, but because it is the square of 2 (2 x 2 = 4). However, the four-sided square is a symbol of four. From the sheer number of groups of four, it is an important number. We have the four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. The ancient thought there were four elements of earth, water, fire, wind or air (or aether), and traditionally the four winds of east, south, west, and north. The four ages of man include infant, adolescent, manhood, old age. The four-color process uses magenta, cyan, yellow & Black. President Franklin Roosevelt espoused our four freedoms of speech, worship, and freedom from want and fear.
Roman used quattuor for four, which we changed to the prefix quat or quad for quarter, quartet, quadruplets, and quadrangle. The Greeks used tettares for four, which gave us tetrad, tetrahedron, and tetrapod.
April is the fourth month, and in the Northern Hemisphere, fulfills spring's promise of regeneration in many blossoming flowers, and the ceasing of winter’s bleak fury. Wednesday is the fourth day of the week when Sunday is the first day, often called hump day because the workweek is half over. Wednesday comes from the Germanic god Woden, who is related to Mercury. The hours have four quarters, and the year has four seasons. In the United States, the Fourth of July is a National holiday celebrating the birth of the nation. If, however, your week starts on Monday, Thursday is the fourth day.
Before the discovery of atoms, matter consisted of four universal elements, fire, wind, water, and earth. In today's matter, Beryllium’s (Be) atomic number is 4 on the periodic table. Time is considered the fourth dimension. North, east, south, and west are the four points of the compass. In money, four quarters equal a dollar, but four bits is slang for fifty cents. Every gallon contains four quarts. Egyptian pyramids have four sides, not counting the base, and the sides of great pyramids line up on the compass points. The ancient Egyptians believed the four sides of the world rose to a conjunction point where God existed, and so the eye of God is at the top of the pyramid's point. Through various permutations, the pyramid was printed on the U.S. great seal as represented on the one-dollar bill.
The Christian religion has four evangelists or apostles, Matthew (symbolized by a human or angel), Mark (symbolized by a lion), Luke (symbolized by a calf or an ox), and John (symbolized by an eagle). It also has the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Conquest, War, Famine, and Death). The Fourth Commandment is “Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy.” In the Bible, the river out of Eden parted into four heads, which is often confused with the four rivers of Jordan. Four represents the cross, and the cross was an early sign of the four compass points. In other religions, we have the Four Noble Truths of Buddha, and Druids believed the 4-leaf clover had magical powers giving the holder of one supernatural sight. Many ancient cultures had four-lettered names for God: Allah (Arabian), Adad (Assyrian), Amun (Egyptian), Itga (Tartar), and Esar (Turkish), showing four as a sacred nature.
Four plays a part in the Bible’s Revelation, too.
Revelation 4:7 In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.
Revelation 6:7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!"
Revelation 6:8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by (1) sword, (2) famine, and (3) plague, and by (4) the wild beasts of the earth.
Revelation 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
Revelation 9:14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
Revelation 9:15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.
Revelation 16:8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire.
Revelation 21:19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald...
Sports and games also have many representations of four. We have a golf foursome. A 4-Bagger or home run happens in baseball. If a four-horse team pulls a carriage, the drive has four-in-hand. You can have a four spot, a four hander, or four-of-a-kind when playing cards.
In numerology, the alpha letters of four are d, m, and v. (Adding up the number derivations in the letters of your name and then adding the numbers of the resulting sum gives you your personal number.) In Astrology, the Fourth House is that of Cancer and the moon. These lead to many prophetic references for four. Because the square has four sides, it is the basis of solidarity and stability. The Pythagoreans esteemed four as the primogenitor number, the root of all things, the fountain of Nature and the most perfect number. Pythagoras believed that the soul of man consisted of a tetrad, its four powers being mind, science, opinion, and sense. Four is also an intellectual number and the first geometric solid. Four represents the world, the Earth, the Establishment, the number of foundation and solid matter. The points of the compass, the seasons, the elements, the winds. Four is a ‘safe’ feminine number. Four’s keywords are impetuosity, strength, the key keeper of nature and harmony (mother nature), and it is often associated with Hercules, Mercury, Vulcan, and Bacchus. How did Bacchus get in there?
In Tarot, the fourth card is the emperor card, which represents leadership, thought, domination, war, and power. It is a card of authority and fatherhood, showing the fruits of toil, and the results of actions taken. The emperor is the embodiment of promise of the magician in the first card. When reversed it shows the opposite, a loss of power, injury in battle, a weakling or remaining under parental control. Four also has negative connotations like being off balance or off kilter, imperfect, rootless, vapid, flat, insane, stupid, or unholy. Each of the four suites also have a four card, and it usually indicates a time of thoughtfulness, a decision needing to be made, or inaction.
In music we have had The Fab Four, the Beatles, and the Motown singing group, Four Tops, with Abdul 'Duke' Fakir, Lawrence Payton, Levi Stubbs, and Renaldo 'Obie' Benson
Four shows up in common slang usage, too. You can go to the four corners of the earth, run into many four-footed beasts, and still find four-square monuments and buildings. Here are some more:
4-F (unfit for military service)
4-Striper (Captain in the Navy)
Four wheeler (All Terrain Vehicle)
Four way (goes in all directions)
Four Bits (50¢)
Four O’Clock (a flower)
Four part harmony
Four poster (a bed)
Forth class (cheapest rate)
four letter word (damn!)
Four Leaf Clover (One leaf for fame, one leaf for wealth, one leaf for a faithful lover and one leaf to bring glorious health)
So there it is — all aspects of four, but certainly a list that is not all-inclusive.
~ * ~Wikipedia has a page on four. Sources
Some information was drawn from:
The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin
A Complete Guide to the Tarot by Eden Gray
The Numerology Workbook by Julia Line
The Dartmouth Number Symbolism in the Middle Ages site offers much info on numbers in Christianity.