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What is Arithmancy?

Article Details
• Written By: Tara Barnett
• Edited By: Jacob Harkins
2003-2015
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Arithmancy is the art of divination by numbers. In this numerological tradition, each Latin letter of a person's name or other salient item is assigned a number, to which numerous processes are then applied. From the resulting single digit number a prediction can be made concerning the person's future. This number can also be used to evaluate personal tendencies of people bearing that name.

The exact interpretation of these numbers is usually at the discretion of the numerologist, but there are certain trends that are often formalized in arithmantic charts. The entire practice is based on the assertion that numbers, names, and the way they connect to the living world are all meaningful and purposeful, and can speak to both the present and future.

There are two common ways of assigning numbers to the Latin alphabet for the purposes of arithmancy. The first is the Aggripan method in which the letters are given the numbers one through nine. They are assigned in order, such that the letter "A" receives a one, the letter "I" receives a nine, and the letter "J" receives a one again, and this continues until there are no more letters. The Chaldean method assigns only the numbers one through eight, and the digit associated with each letter was determined by likening the Latin letters to Hebrew counterparts.

Once the letters to be used have been assigned numbers, those numbers are typically then added together. If the sum is a two-digit number, each of those digits is added. The process is repeated until the sum is a single digit number. It is this single digit that is analyzed. There are often variations on this basic strategy, but the bare bones process usually only employs addition.

Not all of the letters of a person's name are always used for divination, and there are at least three kinds of numbers derivable from a person's name. The character number uses all of the letters of a person's name, and provides a general personality type. A person's heart number is calculated from all of the vowels in his or her name, and shows inner qualities. In contrast, the social number is calculated from all the consonants of a person's name and reveals features displayed externally. Other systems of number selection are possible, particularly when using ancient or historical traditions for interpretation.

People who practice arithmancy are often confronted by the critique that naming is a seemingly arbitrary act, and that words do not have any inherent connection to the things they represent. For instance, a tree is no less a tree when it is called arbre, which would have a different arithmantic number than the word tree. A person may be more affected by his or her name than a tree, but the ability of not only a name, but the spelling, to determine a great amount about a person sounds illogical to many.

Practitioners of arithmancy often deal with this critique by claiming that children choose their own names and communicate them psychically to their parents. Others put more faith in the flexibility of interpretation to compensate for the arbitrary nature of names. Even so, these are not usually sources of great worry to those who value this practice. People who believe in arithmancy tend to believe that the future and the true nature of things want to be revealed to human listeners, and that this is but one path towards revealing those truths.