Friday, November 22, 2019

Why You Should Use The Number 72 In Your Game

There are two pyramids at the centre of the city, one each for the Sun and Rain gods. Located on the North and South sides of the central plaza the red stones of the pyramids crawl with priests and pilgrims that climb up and down the 36 steps of each staircase while reciting prayers and mantras. A broad walkway passes between the pyramids from East to West and there are 72 archways through which, once per year, the rising sun is precisely aligned.
- An Account of Sundaland by Alom Takal 
Something you might have noticed when reading about the myths and religions of ancient civilisations is their use of very specific numbers. For example Osiris wasn't just enclosed in a coffin by several disciples of Seth, there were specifically 72 of them. And in the Viking myths it is said that during Ragnorak 800 heroes will march out of the 540 doors of Valhalla for the final battle. Are these just random numbers or are they significant in some way?

In 1969 Giorgio de Santillana wrote the book Hamlet's Mill in which he posits that an ancient culture discovered the precession of the equinoxes, how the sun rises and sets against a changing background of star constellations in a cycle that lasts 25,776 years (2148 years per zodiac constellation). This is basically what astrologers are talking about when they say that we've recently left the age of Pices and have moved into the age of Aquarius. This ancient culture encoded important numbers into stories, myths and religions in order to ensure the transmission of this astronomical knowledge through the ages.

Decades later this hypothesis has taken on a new meaning in light of the research done by authors like Graham Hancock (Magicians of the Gods) concerning a possible lost civilisation that was destroyed at the end of the last Ice Age, the survivors of which spread out across the globe to pass on their advanced knowledge.

The number 72 is deemed particularly important because if you divide 25,920 years of the Axial Precession by 360 degrees you get 72. (In actual fact 1 degrees takes 71.6 years but that's not a number ancient people wold have been able to convey in a story). All of this of course presupposes that the concept of 12 distinct star constellations and dividing a circle in 360 degrees were invented by the ancient civilisation.

These are some of the main numbers to work from. The numbers on the left are calculated using 71.6, those on the right using 72.
  • 12 signs of the Zodiac
  • 360 degrees
  • 30 degrees per Zodiac Sign / Constellation
  • 71.6 / 72 years per degree
  • 2,148 / 2,160 years per Zodiac Sign / Constellation
  • 25,776 / 25,920 for a complete precession.
You can play around with these numbers with simple multiplications and divisions as I did in the opening vignette. So each pyramid staircase has 36 steps (2 x 36 = 72). Another example would be describing an army in an ancient myth that consisted of 21,4800 soldiers.

Anyway, this is just a fun way for me to add in some flavour to the setting that alludes to the lost civilisation theme.

The below video lays out the hypothesis in a little more depth (length: 18:24 minutes).

More resources:

Wikipedia: 72 in Religion
Wikipedia: Axial Precession
Wikipedia: Equinox
Wikipedia: March Equinox

1 comment:

  1. That's an excellent observation. I was just getting to laying out the basics of the religions of Atlä-Notiš (my name for the city that controls the southernmost river valley and generally dominates the political landscape of Sunda and the surrounding seas), and that is something I should pay attention to.