Follow TV Tropes


Rule Of Three / Mythology & Religion

Go To

The Rule of Three in mythology and religion.

  • Shows up all the time in religion:
    • Christianity does this so much that 333 is used by people being ostentatiously Christian:
      • The Bible: Three days pass between Jesus dying and returning to Earth. In fact, whenever a number is mentioned in the Bible, it's usually 3, 7, 12, or 40.
      • "Jesus answered (Peter), Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice". — John 13:38. And then, after his resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, extracting from Peter a promise to continue his work three times before he leaves him alone. This is often regarded as a symbolic reversal of Peter's thrice-denial of Jesus before his death. Also cf. the Fight Club example above.
      • The three Christian virtues: Faith, Hope, Love/Charity (Charity refers to agape or selfless love, as opposed to Eros as self-gratifying and/or sexual love).
      • Also, although the only reference to this event in the Gospels states that Jesus was placed "in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn", Nativity plays tend to show two innkeepers telling Mary and Joseph to go elsewhere because all the rooms are taken — before a third also says that there are no rooms, but that Mary and Joseph may use the stable, since Mary is pregnant.
      • The Gospel of Matthew, the only one that mentions the Wise Men or Magi, doesn't specifically state that there were three of them, only that they came "from the East". The gospel does mention that they presented Jesus with three symbolic gifts; gold (signifying Christ the King), frankincense (representing Jesus' divinity) and myrrh (an embalming incense, indicating that Jesus would die to save God's people).
      • When Jesus fasted in the desert, he was tempted three times by the Devil; 1) Turn the stones into bread, 2) Throw yourself from this cliff and let God save you, and 3) swear loyalty to me and the kingdoms of the world will be yours.
      • The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The first sometimes is represented by an eye set in a triangle. (Although there are also nontrinitarian Christians).
      • The Kyrie: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.
    • Advertisement:
    • Examples from the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament:
      • The three sons of Adam and Eve: Cain, Abel, and Seth.
      • The three sons of Noah: Shem, Yaphet, and Ham.
      • The three patriarchs, also mentioned in the formula: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
      • The three kings of the united Israelite kingdom: Saul, David, and Solomon.
      • Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
  • Wicca has the "rule of 3" also known as the Three-fold law, meaning (depending on who you ask) that everything you send out into the world either returns to you thrice as strong in consequence, or comes back to you on the astral, mental and physical planes. Furthermore, when casting a Sacred Circle in Wicca, the typical procedure is to walk around the circle three times and say the incantation three times. (In some practices anyway.)
  • This pops up occasionally in Judaism, though generally not as centrally as in Wicca:
    • The world is sustained by worship, study and deeds of lovingkindness. Also known as love of Hashem, love of Torah, and love for your fellow human being.
    • These temper judgment's severe decree: prayer, repentance and charity.
    • In Kabbalah, the Tree of Life has 3 pillars: The pillar of rigor, the pillar of mercy, the pillar of balance.
  • Some religions divide reality into Heaven, Earth and Hell.
    • For the Norse, the universe was divided into nine (thrice three) worlds on three levels: the upper level had Alfheim (elves), Asgard (war gods and those who died in battle), and Vanaheim (fertility gods). The middle level has Midgard (humans), Jotunheim (giants) and Svartalfheim (dark elves/dwarfes), The bottom level has Helheim (those who died of disease), Nifleheim (land of ice and fog) and Muspell (fire demons).
    • There are a lot more examples in Norse mythology, mayby since as mentioned above thrice three is nine which is the holy Arc Number of Norse Mythology:
      • The third generation of Gods created the world, those are three (Odin, Vili, and Ve).
      • Three gods created humans: Odin, Hönir, and Lodur (Loki).
      • There are three norns.
      • Yggdrasil has three roots.
      • Thor has three children: Thrud, Magni & Modi
      • Loki has three children with Angerboda: Hel, Fenrir & Jörmungandr.
      • The Fimbulwinter will last for three winters without summer in between.
      • The wolf Fenrir was bound by three fetters: Loeding, Drómi, and Gleipnir.
      • In the poem Völuspá, the description of Garmr's howl is repeated thrice.
      • Freyr anf Freyja has three magical items each.
      • Three of Odin's sons shall live after Ragnarök: Vidar Baldur & Hödr.
    • Advertisement:
    • Mormonism recognizes three heavens/kingdoms of glory after the Final Judgement: The Celestial Kingdom (itself divided into three kingdoms), the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom.
  • Subverted in Lakota mythology: Three is the number of imperfection, while four, far from its other implications, is the number of perfection.
  • Hinduism : Three gunas (modes) of nature : goodness, passion, and ignorance.
    • Bhagavad Gita: Lust, Anger and Greed — three gates to hell. Also gross, subtle and spiritual existence.
    • Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva: The creator, the preserver and the destroyer.
  • In one of the variants of the Arthurian Legend, Arthur has to ask whomever is present at the time (usually Bedivere) three times to return his sword to the Lady of the Lake.
  • In Greek/Roman Mythology the rites of the three-formed witch goddess Hecate usually involve three. This can be seen especially in the practices of Medea, the wife of Jason of the Argonauts.
  • The trope shows up three different times in the story of Saint Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio: (1) Three attempts are made to deal with the wolf—the first by shepherds, the second by guards, and the third by Francis. (2) Three shepherds are killed by the wolf—the first shepherd, then his brother, and then their father. (3) The mayor sends his three best guards to try to kill the wolf; the first two are killed but the third escapes.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: