Seventh son of a seventh son
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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 siblings born between and, in turn, be born to such a seventh son. The number seven has a long history of mystical and biblical significance: seven virtues, seven deadly sins, Seven Sleepers, seven days of creation, 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 the gods because of his birth order.
The seventh son of a seventh son is gifted as a healer. The seventh son of a seventh son is part of a more general phenomenon known as the "cure" (sometimes also called the "charm").
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.
It is believed that he will be a werewolf, lobizón or lobisomem (the word in Portuguese language that means "werewolf"). To stop the curse the newborn should be baptized in seven different churches, or be baptized by the name of Benito while the eldest son is his godfather. It is important to note that the local myth of the lobizón is not connected to the custom that began over 100 years ago by which every seventh son (or seventh daughter) born in Argentina becomes godchild to the president.
"Ciarallo" was the seventh son who had the power to enchant and recall snakes, and who was immune to snake venom. It wasn't enough to be a seventh son but was needed a special initiation rite called "inciaramazione". Recourse was made to Ciarallo when a snake sneaked into the house and it is said that the reptile was promptly attracted by the sound of his whistle. Another social task of Ciarallo was "inciaramare" other people by spreading a special oil, complete with a special recipe, on the arm of those who requested the treatment to ensure protection from snakes bites. Children were led to Ciarallo by their mothers to get protection.
References in contemporary culture
Film, television and radio
- The main character in the 2014 film Seventh Son is the seventh son of a seventh son.
- 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 serial 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 2007 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.
- In the 1940 film The Philadelphia Story, James Stewart's character phones up a woman and exclaims during the conversation "This is the voice of doom calling. Your days are numbered to the seventh son of the seventh son."
- The radio drama "The Iron Horse" by Sam Dann tells the story of a simple man who becomes fabulously rich by virtue of good luck arising from his being the seventh son of a seventh son. The play was written for CBS Mystery Theatre and aired as Episode no. 1137 on November 19, 1980.
- The GIJoe character Crystal Ball is the seventh son of a seventh son, and has limited mind-reading abilities.
- 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, but due to a dying wizard passing on his staff before checking the child's gender, the daughter receives the wizarding powers normally given to the eighth son. This causes problems as females are supposed to be witches, and males wizards, due to each gender having a different method of thinking, and 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 Turbulent Sea by Christine Feehan, Ilya Prakenskii is the seventh son of a seventh son. Raised in Russia to be an assassin. He marries Joley Drake, a Drake sister with magic powers, she is from a line with seven daughters.
- 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 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 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 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 three other boys.
- In Eva Ibbotson's novel The Secret of Platform 13, one of the main characters is a young hag named Odge, who is a seventh daughter.
- In Marianne Curley's first novel Old Magic, one of the main characters, Jarrod Thornton, is a seventh son of a seventh son, who has immense power, which he has to learn how to use throughout the book. Marianne Curley is known for her The Guardians of Time Series.
- In Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series, Sabine Campbell is the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, being non-human, but instead a mara, a living nightmare who feeds on the fear she weaves into the dreams of others.
- In the Harry Potter novels, Ginny Weasley is the seventh child, as J. K. Rowling drew from "that old tradition of the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and a seventh son of a seventh son".
- 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.
- The blues piece "Seventh Son", written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Willie Mabon in 1955, refers to the seventh son's healing and prophetic powers. Singer Johnny Rivers had a top-10 hit with his version in the summer of 1965, using the same lyrics but a different tune.
- In the title track to Bob Dylan's landmark 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited, the surrealistic narrative finds the Second Mother "out on Highway 61" with the Seventh Son.
- A song by Irish rock musician Rory Gallagher, released 1973 on his third studio album Blueprint, is called "Seventh Son of the Seventh Son"; its lyrics actually deal with a faith healing man.
- On AC/DC's 1977 album Let There Be Rock, the song Bad Boy Boogie includes the lyric, "It was the seventh day, I was the seventh son/and it scared the hell out of everyone."
- Sheena Easton's 1981 song "You Could Have Been with Me" opens with the lines "You're the seventh son of a seventh son/Maybe that's why you're such a strange and special one."
- English heavy metal band Iron Maiden released their 7th studio album in 1988 titled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which includes a song with the same title.
- In the 2003 album "Elephant" by the White Stripes on the song "Ball and a Biscuit," the lyrics state "It's quite possible that I'm your third man, girl, but it's a fact that I'm the seventh son." Singer and songwriter, Jack White is in fact the seventh son of his parents and the youngest of ten children.
- On Tears For Fears's 1995 album Raoul and the Kings of Spain, the title track contains the line, "when the seventh son of a seventh son, comes along and breaks the chains..."
- In the Album Mabool of the Israeli Band Orphaned land the song titled Birth of the three, the band speaks of "the seventh had seven descendants ..." and go on speaking of the symbolism of the "Celestial Religions" AKA (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and the charms/powers of the 3 sons of the seventh of the seventh.
- Seventh Son Virus – a computer virus affecting COM files, the words "seventh son of a seventh son" appear in infected files.
Alleged real-life exemplars
- Abram George (1916?–?), Mohawk faith healer from Akwesasne, claimed in contemporary news reports to have been the seventh son of a seventh son.
- While singer Perry Como discussed his being the seventh son as fact when interviewed, Como had two older sisters and only one older brother who survived to adulthood, plus three preceding siblings who died in infancy.
- American rock musician Jack White of The White Stripes mentions in the 2003 song "Ball and Biscuit" that he is the seventh son, however he has 3 sisters in between.
- Former American football player Len Dawson self-identifies as a seventh son, but is a ninth child with two younger sisters. He also has two older sisters and six older brothers.
- Ten Thousand Wonderful Things, Edmund Fillingham King, p. 315.
- See A D Buckley 1980 'Unofficial healing in Ulster.' Ulster Folklife 26, 15–34
- "Thomas Holcombe of Connecticut - Person Page 877". Holcombegenealogy.com. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
- 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.
- "No, Argentina's president did not adopt a Jewish child to stop him turning into a werewolf". Retrieved 2015-02-06.
- "TRADIZIONI E MITI POPOLARI". Retrieved 2015-09-06.
- "Crystal Ball (v1) G.I. Joe Action Figure - YoJoe Archive". Yojoe.com. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
- Feehan, Christine. "Turbulent Sea". Sisters Of The Heart. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
- "Interview with JK Rowling After HBP - Part 3". The Leaky Cauldron. July 28, 2007.
- Werewolves and Other Shapeshifters in Popular Culture by Kimberley McMahon-Coleman and Roslyn Weaver, p. 28
- "All US Top 40 Singles for 1965". top40weekly.com. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
- "Seventh Son Virus". Agn-www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de. 1992-07-20. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
- "Indian Healer Returns Home" (PDF). The Massena Observer. Massena, St. Lawrence County, New York. March 20, 1930. Retrieved April 20, 2016 – via NYS Historic Newspapers.
Some have attributed the boy's miraculous power to his descendancy. He is the seventh son of a seventh son and from this circumstance is believed to have been endowed with a sort of sixth sense.
- "Abram George: Mohawk Fatih Healer (United States, 1916?". Boys' Historical Clothing.
- Bonaparte, Darren. "The Healing Powers of the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". reprint from The People's Voice, October 21, 2005
- Macfarlane, Malcolm; Crossland, Ken (June 13, 2009). Perry Como: A Biography and Complete Career Record. McFarland & Company. pp. 8–9. ISBN 9780786437016.
Perry usually shrugged off the idea that he had any special gifts because of it, although he never denied its veracity, despite knowing full well that he had only one elder brother.
- Thomas, Jim (April 20, 2012). "Dawson back in Alliance as hometown hall of famer". The Repository. Canton, Ohio: Gatehouse Media.
“I’m the seventh son of seven sons,” Dawson said of being the youngest male in a brood of 11.