Togo: The symbolism in numbers

The Wachi are an ethnic group in southern Togo which lies within the African continent. They live off the land and are agriculturalists. The religious thinking of this group contains many symbols and numbers.

Some of the numbers that are used are especially important. For example, the number three represents stability – think of a stool, it requires at least three legs to stand. Three is also the number of virility, and of the sky. The number four is associated with the earth, a feminine entity. The number seven is complete perfection.

Four is considered the number of the femininity of the earth. The number six is ambiguous. It is a multiple of three, and therefore represents aspects of power, solidarity and stability and equilibrium. The number six ‘envies’ the absolutely perfect number seven. Due to this, it possesses the qualities of despising itself, and seeking perfection. It is incomplete, and is the master of disorder and the monstrous. Six is ‘hidden’ – it wants to come out of its shell. If there is no seven present, the six takes command.

According to the Wachi people, the number seven has a role in the rite of the emergence of the child after its birth. Counting up to seven is required in carrying out various rites of initiation.

16 is also a particularly meaningful number and as 33 is considered a repetition of three, it affirms the stability of life which otherwise is always at the mercy of chance.

The symbol of suffering is 40. This is the number of shells that form a necklace for the initiates as they leave the Wachi people’s sacred compound.

As we can see, to the Wachi people, numbers are extremely important and have a great impact on how individuals live their lives.

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