Seventh son of a seventh son

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This article is about the folklore concept. For the Iron Maiden album, see Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

The seventh son of a seventh son is a concept from folklore regarding special powers given to, or held by, such a son. The seventh son must come from an unbroken line with no female children born between, and be, in turn, born to such a seventh son.[1] The number seven has a long history of mystical and religious associations: seven deadly sins, seven sleepers, seven-league boots, seven ages of man, seven days of creation, seven hills of Rome, seven lucky gods of Japanese mythology, the Seven Sages, seven sisters, seven stars, seven wonders of the world, etc. In this case, it refers to a man who is the seventh son of a man who is himself a seventh son.

In some beliefs, the special powers are inborn, inherited simply by virtue of his birth order; in others the powers are granted to him by God or gods because of his birth order.

The seventh son of a seventh son is also widely believed to have a direct link to Satan in some areas, and is thus granted with other "special abilities."

Regional variations[edit]

Ireland[edit]

The seventh son of a seventh son is gifted as a healer. There are several alleged cases of an Irish healer in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Paul Joseph Cawley was a seventh son of a seventh son and was known in this coal mining town for allegedly healing many skin diseases. The seventh son of a seventh son is part of a more general phenomenon known as the "cure" (sometimes also called the "charm")[2]

US[edit]

According to Kendall's Travels through the Northern Parts of the United States, in the year 1807-1808 while visiting the Newgate copper mine (and prison) the author met an innkeep who told him that "there was to be found in the surrounding hills, a black stone, of a certain species, through which a seventh son of a seventh son, born in the month of February, with a caul on his head, can discern everything that lies in the depths and interior of the globe." The author speculates that the importance of mining to the community gave rise to this localized belief [3][4]

American author Jackson Pearce uses the folklore around seventh sons in her novel Sisters Red, in which potential werewolves are seventh sons of seventh sons.[5]

Paraguay, Uruguay, and Spanish America[edit]

It is commonly believed that he will be a werewolf, "hombre lobo" or "lobizón". However this only applies to a seventh son, so a seventh son of a seventh son would result in a werewolf son of a werewolf.

Pop culture references[edit]

Music[edit]

Television[edit]

  • In The Twilight Zone episode titled "Still Valley," the character Paradine receives a book of witchcraft from an old man claiming to be the seventh son of a seventh son as was the old man's father.
  • In the Doctor Who episode titled "Terror of the Zygons," Angus, the landlord, is a seventh son of a seventh son and claims the power of second sight.
  • In the WB television series Charmed, for the episode "That Old Black Magic" in which the Seventh Son is called The Chosen One.
  • In the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives, the somewhat gothic and mystical international crime boss Stefano DiMera, who called himself "the Phoenix" and has "come back from the dead" (or rather, faked his death) countless times, has claimed to be the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In the television series The Storyteller episode "The Luck Child" an evil king sets out to kill the seventh son of a seventh son who is prophesied to become king.
  • In the movie The Seeker, a boy, who is the seventh son of a seventh son, is charged with the duty of saving the world from being overtaken by darkness.

Literature[edit]

  • In the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, magical properties are attributed to the number eight rather than seven. Traditionally on the Discworld, an eighth son of an eighth son becomes a wizard. A wizard's eighth son—the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son (an unlikely and deliberately discouraged event)—is a Sourcerer, a dangerously powerful wizard. In the novel Equal Rites, instead of an eighth son of an eighth son a daughter is born. The daughter inherits a wizard's staff and then receives the wizarding powers normally given to the eighth son. This causes problems as females are supposed to be witches, and males wizards. The powers associated with each title are not interchangeable. The novel Sourcery centers on the unlikely story of a wizard's eighth son – the Sourcerer.
  • In Susan Cooper's Arthurian fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising, the main protagonist Will Stanton is the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • Orson Scott Card's novel Seventh Son begins the series The Tales of Alvin Maker (Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son; however, his siblings also include sisters that were born in the time between the birth of his eldest brother and himself. On the other hand, he is "born with the caul.")
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison has a character named Wheatstraw who is the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage, Septimus Heap is the seventh son of a seventh son, and as such is an extremely gifted wizard.
  • In Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba's adoptive father, Frex, is the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • Comic book superhero Johnny Thunder obtained his magical birthright by virtue of being the seventh son of a seventh son. He was also born at 7 am on July 7 (the seventh day of the seventh month), 1917.
  • In The Wardstone Chronicles series by Joseph Delaney, only a seventh son of a seventh son can become a Spook, the man who's in charge of ridding the countryside of witches, boggarts and other things that go bump in the night. Twelve-year-old Tom, the last apprentice, triumphs over various scary circumstances and hardships on his way to fulfilling his destiny as a Spook.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's novel I Will Fear No Evil, the protagonist, Johann Sebastian Bach Smith, at one point refers to himself as "the seventh son of a seventh son, born under a caul."
  • In Groosham Grange written by Anthony Horowitz, the main character, David Eliot, is the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In The Penguins of Doom by Greg R. Fishbone, the main protagonist, Septina Nash, is the seventh child of two seventh children and has magical powers as a result.
  • In N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards trilogy, the main character Henry York is a seventh son of a seventh son, and as such has a second sight.
  • In Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Holly Black it states that the seventh son of a seventh son (or the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter) will be born with "The Sight" which allows him or her to see into faery.
  • In The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott, Perenelle Flamel, Nicholas' wife, claims to be a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, which allows her to see and hear ghosts.
  • In The Red Scarf, a novel by Kate Furnivall there are three sevenths of sevenths (an old gypsy man, a young woman who is the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, and also a young boy). In this novel, the seventh-of-sevenths have powers of hypnotic type mind-control.
  • In the Frontier Magic trilogy by Patricia Wrede, the character Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, and as a result has very strong magical abilities.
  • In Gloria Naylor's Mama Day the titular character is the daughter of a seventh son of a seventh son.
  • In John Morressy's Young Kedrigern and Search for the Past, the sevenths are pushed to the third generation; Kedrigern is the grandson of the White Wizard, whose mother of was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and the father was the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son; the pair had a septuplet, four boys and three girls, who all became sorcerers and sorceresses. The youngest child, the White Wizard, is in fact the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son, because before the septuplet the pair had other three boys.
  • In William Fidelix's Children of the Shadows the main character Liam Knightwalker is the seventh son of a seventh son who carries a curse from the witch Lilith.

Other[edit]

  • Seventh Son Virus – a computer virus affecting COM files, the words "seventh son of a seventh son" appear in infected files.[6]
  • The GIJoe character Crystal Ball is the seventh son of a seventh son, and has limited mind-reading abilities.[7]

Real-life seventh sons of seventh sons[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, Edmund Fillingham King, p. 315.
  2. ^ See A D Buckley 1980 'Unofficial healing in Ulster.' Ulster Folklife 26, 15–34
  3. ^ "Thomas Holcombe of Connecticut - Person Page 877". Holcombegenealogy.com. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  4. ^ Denis Larionov & Alexander Zhulin. "Travels through the northern parts of the United States, in the year 1807 and 1808 (Volume 2) by Edward Augustus Kendall". Ebooksread.com. p. 12. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  5. ^ Werewolves and Other Shapeshifters in Popular Culture by Kimberley McMahon-Coleman and Roslyn Weaver, p. 28
  6. ^ "Seventh Son Virus". Agn-www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de. 1992-07-20. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  7. ^ "Crystal Ball (v1) G.I. Joe Action Figure - YoJoe Archive". Yojoe.com. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  8. ^ "Perry Como | Explore the Arts - The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts". Kennedy-center.org. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  9. ^ America's Game 1969 : Kansas City Chiefs
  • Parman, Susan. "Curing Beliefs and Practices in the Outer Hebrides." Folklore, Vol. 88, No. 1 (1977), pp. 107–109.

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