Why the number seven?
“The astronomical connection of the number seven with agricultural and sailing skills of the seven sages from the East, does not explain their amphibious nature unless this term is simply a code for sailors. A possibility is that the term ‘amphibious’ is connected with the ‘Apsu’, the mysterious watery land of origin of the seven sages. One speculation is that the visiting educators to Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean with their technology and astronomy, were accomplished sailors, whose original land was swamped by the rising sea.”
“The Pleiades are well recognized in the Asia-Pacific region and we can compare these ‘seven sisters’ directly with the seven featered bathers in the Moon/lake cycles from Southeast Asia and Melanesia
— Stephen Oppenheimer “Eden in the East” p. 349
Seven also appears in ritual and magic contexts, often used as an auspicious number in non-Islamic traditional Malay magic. in the megalithic cultures of the Nusa Tenggara seven is often used as a magic number. …repeated allusions to fertility, the Moon, skills such as agriculture and sailing and wise men from the East. …the only common factor [for Eurasia and Southeast Asia] appears to be the Moon’s cycle and the lunar week. Astronomical derivations of seven from the Moon, the Pleiades and the seven Planets can thus be found in an arc from the Southwest Pacific to the ancient Middle East and the Mediterranean. Whether the myths found scattered in the megalithic cultures of easter n Indonesia — and echoed in folk cltures of the West — represent related survivals of the earliest attempts to use the movements of heavenly bodies for practical agricultural planning is a matter of speculation.
“The earliest Mesopotamian reference to seven divine persons is in cuneiform traditions. These record that Ea (Sumerian=Enki), god of fresh water and wisdom, sent seven divine sages in the form of fis-men from Apsu to teach the arts and crafts (Sumerian=Me) to mankind before the flood…Foremost among these seven sages was Oannes (Uan or Adapa) who was said to have come from a great egg…”
–Eden in the East by Stephen Oppenheimer p. 349
‘The Seven’ is a name given to a group of beneficent gods whose power can be harnessed against evil demons by means of magical incantations. ‘The Seven’ operate together with their sister Narudu, probably in origin the Elamite goddess Narunte (see Elamite gods), and so may themselves be of Elamite origin. They should be distinguished from the Babylonian Seven Sages (apkallu). They may be identical with the seven children of Ishara. They are sometimes named (as ‘Seven and seven’) together with another group, who may be the seven sons of Enmesarra. There were temples to these Seven At the Assyrian capital cities of Kalhu (Nimrud), Dur-Sarken (Khorsabad) and Nineveh. Astrologically they were identified with the star-group Pleiades.
The standard iconography of the Seven in the Neo-Assyrian Period is known. They wear tall cylindrical hats with feathered upper borders and long open robes. Each carries an axe and a knife, as well as a bow and a quiver. These are the attributes prescribed for the Seven in rituals concerning the placement of protective figurines at set locations about a house. … on a stone relief slab from the palace of Assurbanipal (reigned 668-c. 627 BC) at Nineveh, the long bows have been carved first then erased in favour of the axes and knives.
At least in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian art, the Seven were symbolised by seven dots, sometimes substituted by seven stars (probably an allusion to the identification with the Pleiades).
Source: Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary By Jeremy Black, Anthony Green
According to Babylonian tradition, seven apkallu (‘wise men’ or ‘sages’) lived before the flood. Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian ritual texts give their names and the seven cities from which they were believed to have come, although there are variant traditions which cannot be fully reconciled with one another. Other antediluvian figures are also said to have been apkallu, notably Adapa of Eridu.
The Seven Sages should be distinguished from the Seven (gods) Sebittu) because Neo-Assyrian instructions for rituals including protective figurines prescribe sets of figures of the Seven followed by those of the Seven Sages. Figures of different forms of the Seven Sages are to be made, some apparently in human form, some wearing fishes’ skins …and winged figures with birds’ faces (see griffin-demon).
The tradition of the Seven Sages seems to be preserved in Berossos’ account of eight creatures p. 162-163
“…in the Egyptian Book of the Dead we find: ‘… The Osiris, the scribe Ani, whose word is truth, saith:- I flew up out of primeval matter … I am Yesterday of the Four Quarters of the Earth, and the Seven Uraei, who came in to being in the Eastern land …’ There are numerous references to the ‘Seven Spirits’ and ‘Seven Gods’ in the same text.” — East of Eden p. 350
In the Middle East
“The triple goddess [served by seven priestesses]
Pre-islamic worship of the goddess seems to be primarily associated with Al’Lat, which simply means ‘goddess’. She is a triple goddess, similar to the Greek lunar deity Kore/Demeter/Hecate. Each aspect of this trinity corresponds to a phase of the moon. In the same way Al’Lat has three names known to the initiate: Q’re, the crescent moon or the maiden; Al’Uzza, literally ‘the strong one’ who is the full moon and the mother aspect; then Al’Menat, the waning but wise goddess of fate, prophecy and divination. Islamic tradition continue to recognise these three but labels them ‘daughters of Allah’.
According to Edward Rice  Al’Uzza was especially worshipped at the Ka’bah where she was served by seven priestesses. Her worshippers circled the holy stone seven times – once for each of the ancient seven planets – and did so in total nudity. Near the Ka’bah is the ever-flowing well, Zamzam, which cools the throats of the countless millions of pilgrims.
In an oasis of always-flowing water, the Black Stone in its mount became an unmatched image of the goddess as giver of life. Only in the Indian continent do such physical symbols for the male and female generative powers – the lingam and yoni – continue to be worshipped with their original fervour.” — The Black Stone at Mecca (Goddesschess)
….and then there is the well-known Biblical story of Moses meeting the seven daughters of Midian by water, and drawing water to water their father’s flock
Pleiad is used as a term to describe groups of seven (usually illustrious) persons such as the ‘seven wise men of Greece’. In Greek mythology the Pleiades or seven sisters were daughters of the Titan, Atlas and of Pleione, daughter of Oceanus.
In Indo-European number symbolism:
“…the Prasun Kafir of the Hindu Kush have Imra the creator engenderin g the ‘seven daughters of Mara’ to oversee agriculture in the Hindu Kush.
In the Vedic (Hindu mythology ‘Aditi’) originally meant ‘the illimitable space of sky beyond hte Far East, whence the bright light gods sprang’. Then in later myths Aditi became the mother (by Daksa, the sun god) of the first gods, the seven Aditya who fashioned the world“.
Greek: Attendants of Artemis chased and pursued by the giant hunter Orion, but they were rescued by the gods and changed into doves. After their death, they changed into stars, but are still pursued across the sky by Orion. (Their sisters the Hyads, are also seven, and form part of the Taurus constellation.
In North, East Asia or Southeast Asia, the symbolism of seven includes:
- Seven Malay sages
- Madang, East of Melanesia story of Yabobs who are taught pot making skills by a beautiful Austronesian teacher, called Honpain a beautiful woman from the seven stars of the Pleiades constellation who came in a canoe to live secretly with a Yabob man. She returned to the stars after a family dispute.
- Seven ‘Santang goddesses’ of Borneo and seven angels in the Moon-lake setting with their ability to make rice.
- Sumban: Sun and Moon produce 15 creator offspring, seven daughters and eight sons.
- Melanesian and Australian stories refer to the seven Pleiades and Australian aborigines have a story of seven girls chased by the hunter into the Pleiades (close to the Greek myth of Orion)
- Seven is also significant for early peoples of Nusa Tenggara, Java, bali, and …
- the Lapps in the Arctic Circle.