Folklore: 7th Son of a 7th Son

Welcome to Freaky Friday!  Today’s topic is one I picked up from song lyrics.  It is supernatural in nature, and the origin is folklore.

We’re going to talk about the supernatural powers that the seventh son of a seventh son is rumored to have.  This is a new topic for me, one on which I have little knowledge.  Because of that, I’ll invite readers to share their knowledge of this folktale in the comments section.  This concept is fascinating to me, and I’d like to learn more.

Where I First Heard It

When I kept hearing variations of “seventh son of the seventh son” in songs, I got curious enough to investigate the meaning.

The first song that made me aware of the concept was Molly Hatchet’s “One Last Ride.”  The song’s narrator says that he is like his father, the son of the seventh son.

The song’s content seems to deal with a narrator who has hard time staying out of trouble.  He regrets it, but doesn’t know how to remedy his situation.  In the song, he’s taking his last ride.

Another song (I like) that features a seventh son is “Ball and Biscuit” by the White Stripes.  ”Ball and Biscuit” is a cool song for me because it uses the structure of traditional 12-Bar Blues.  I love that sound.

The narrator of the lyrics is talking to a woman, probably trying to seduce her.  He brags that he’s the seventh son and implies that he has special powers.

If you’re curious about the song, check out the You Tube video.  The lyrics of the song are posted in the video description.

Link to the video.

It is suspected that the White Stripes may have taken the concept for “Ball and Biscuit” from Willie Dixon’s song “Seventh Son.”

Willie Dixon’s song is about a guy who claims he can read minds, raise the dead and anything in between.  He keeps saying he’s the one, and I guess he is if he can do all that.

Curious?  Watch the You Tube video:

Link to video.

So what does it mean?

My research has led me to believe the seventh son of the seventh son is blessed with special, supernatural powers.  This means different things in different parts of the world.

Common themes are

  • Healing powers (Ireland, Native American cultures)
  • Lycanthropy (UK, Paraguay, Argentina, parts of Latin America, Spain, Brazil)
  • A direct link to Satan, which grants supernatural powers
  • Possessing the “second sight”
  • Has supernatural powers but struggles between using them for good or for evil

Edward Augustus Kendall, author of Travels through the Northern Parts of the United States (1809), recorded a legend about the seventh son of the seventh son from a tavern owner named Luke Viets near Newgate Prison in Connecticut .

I’ll paraphrase the legend so I don’t have to copy it.  It said that somewhere near the tavern was a black rock.  If a son of a seventh son who had been born in February with a caul over his face found this rock, he would have the knowledge of the universe.

It’s vague, but I took the legend to mean that the finder of this rock would gain the second sight.  But I may be wrong.

Seventh Sons

  • In I Chronicles 2:13-15, David is listed as the seventh son.  (However, in I Samuel 16:10-11, David is listed as the eighth son.)
  • Perry Como was the seventh son of a seventh son
  • Len Dawson was the seventh son of a seventh son

Seven in the Holy Bible

The number seven comes up repeatedly in the Holy Bible.  I am not a Bible scholar by any means, so I won’t talk too much about this.

An internet search will turn up quite a bit of information.  There have also been books written on the subject of numbers in the Bible.

Suffice to say, I think seven is a number of great power and significance in the Bible.

Conclusion

I am just beginning to research this topic, and I find it very interesting.  I can see so much possibility for use of the folktale in my fiction.  It’s creepy.

The reason I’m posting it here without having any done more researching is that I’m at a standstill.  I have a decent library of books on folklore and haven’t found any references to seventh sons of seventh sons in them.  I suspect much of the legend has been lost over time.

Thank you for your interest in this article. I often receive requests for further information on these articles. Please understand my knowledge of this topic is limited to what you’ve read in this article. I have no plans to update or expand these articles. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer writing or researching for non-fiction articles. If you’re interested in seeing what I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

Sources:

Excerpt from Kendall’s Travels Through The Northern Parts of the United States

“Seventh Sons and Their Seventh Sons” Chambers Book of Days

The Wikipedia entry on Seventh Sons of Seventh Sons has an excellent list of songs, film references, and book references for the legend.

“The Healing Powers of the Seventh Son” by Darren Bonaparte

32 thoughts on “Folklore: 7th Son of a 7th Son

  1. Catie, what an amazing myth I have not heard of! Love the themes behind it – I mean its the stuff novels are written about. I can see this character already. I cant wait to see what other people chime in with here. Methinks I will file this away to use in another novel!

    • I agree, Donna. This is the stuff you can use to create good fiction. I’ve tried on and rejected several short horror ideas dealing with this folktale. I know if I keep thinking, I’ll stumble on the right idea.

  2. The legend of the seventh son has always intrigued me.I don’t know much about it beyond what you have here. I am into numerology a bit. Things are more than they seem.
    Thanks for the fun and I hope you gain enough new information to repost. I want to read it!

    • I have never studied numerology intensively. What little I’ve read interests me, though. I suspect one of the keys to unraveling this piece of folklore would be in numerology. I hope I get enough info for a rewrite and repost, too. This fascinates me.

  3. You know more than I do! I always thought it was the seventh DAUGHTER, so I was wrong there lol. Or maybe there’s a legend for that too. I can’t even imagine having seven kids to find out, these days!

    • There is a folktale concerning the seventh daughter, Melinda. In my research, I only found one instance of it. In Argentina, the seventh son is a Lobisón (werewolf), and the seventh daughter is a witch. I read lot of interesting Argentinian legends about seventh sons. It seems to be very pervasive in that culture.

      As you said, few people have seven children these days (and haven’t for many years). I imagine that is how the folklore was lost.

  4. Very interesting. This is one I’ve not really heard of, although when the seventh Harry Potter book was getting ready to come out, there was a lot of conjecture about Ginny Weasley, the seventh child and a very powerful which. I’m sure that was drawn from this idea. Very cool!

    • Glad you enjoyed it. I had forgotten all about the Harry Potter connection. So that was interesting to me. J. K. Rowling’s world was so well built, I am sure she drew her use of the number seven form folktales and/or mythology.

  5. When I started reading your post I realized that I have indeed heard about the seventh son of the seventh son, but only in songs. I don’t know anything about it either but have now learned something new. I look forward to people’s comments.
    Patti

    • Glad you enjoyed this, Patti. I think this is such an interesting and mysterious legend. When I can’t find a bunch of documentation on a subject, I get even more fascinated because it feels like I’m uncovering a secret. And I love secrets. :D

  6. The first I remember hearing of the seventh son is the Johnny River’s record my mother used to play non-stop. The video has the lyrics. Cool post.

    • As I researched this, I kept seeing mentions of the Johnny Rivers song. I was too lazy to make the effort to listen to it, though. Thanks for the link.

      And good to see you! I hope things are going well in your life.

  7. on ,
    alandhopewell said:

    Biblically speaking, seven is the perfect number, and symbolizes the soverignty of almighty God.
    Thus, seven is often used in spells, incantations, and curses, believing that some of the Power might be tranferred through the use of the number.

    My personal favorite bit of folklore is that of the Vanishing Hitch-Hiker, which turns up in hundreds of forms through all media, from print to video, even to the Chicago phenomena known as Resurrection Mary, allegedly an actual haunting.

    Google it….I dare you.

    • Thanks for such an interesting comment, Alan. What you said about seven being the perfect number makes a lot of things make sense. Thank you so much for sharing that with me.

      I love the story of Resurrection Mary! There is also a vanishing hitchhiker associated with White Rock Lake near Dallas. If you want to look it up, look for The Lady of White Rock Lake.

  8. on ,
    Rich Whittle said:

    I had heard the lore as it pertained to women. In fact I once had a student who claimed that she was “The seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.” She earnestly believed that she had powers of perception and influence beyond that of an average person. She even went so far as to claim that she sometimes knew what I was thinking. Of course at the time I was “thinking” that she had gone completely guano and that it may be best not to continue teaching martial arts to someone who was a few bananas shy of a bunch. One day she told me that she was discontinuing her classes with me in favor of mining for ancient and mystic crystals. I try to stay open minded, I really do, but this particular woman had clearly taken the brown acid one too many times. . It is a fascinating subject though. Thank you for bringing it too us.

    • Until I started researching this I had NEVER heard the lore as it related to women. I’ve had such a good time learning about this little bit of folklore. Oh, heavens. I am such a nerd.

      Your story about your student is classic. When you work with the public, you meet the *weirdest* people. This is not supernatural, but my husband works in a job that takes him into people’s houses. The owners of one house he visited had a room inside the house that the dogs used as a “potty.” No kidding. :D

  9. on ,
    lynettemburrows said:

    Catie, I had heard only a little about the seventh son prior to reading Orson Scott Cards’ book Seventh Son. It’s a good story about a young boy born the seventh son, his powers, the powers of the little girl who could see people’s heart fires, and the evil that they battle. He makes reference to the Ozarks. Perhaps there’s more information in books about mythology in the Ozarks?

    • What a great idea!

      I have a book about Ozark Witchcraft that I did not even think to peruse for this topic. Sure enough, it had a little page on how birth order determined what a child would become. This book said the seventh son might become a healer; however, the seventh son of the seventh son becomes a healer in spite of himself.

      That got me curious enough to do a Foxfire hunt (which, even though I own the books, I do online). In the original Foxfire, it talks about how one becomes a healer. One of the ways is being the seventh son or the seventh daughter.

      Thanks for the suggestion. You woke up the muck in my brain. LOL

  10. I was going to mention Orson Scott Card’s series, but Lynette beat me to it!
    Of the three songs you linked, I liked Willie Dixon’s the best by far – thanks.

    • Willie Dixon was a neat guy in that he sang, arranged, and wrote all his own music. That was unusual for a bluesman of that era. He has some awesome songs, and “Seventh Son” is one of them. You know it has to be from some folklore he heard at some point in his life.

  11. There may be something to this special power of seventh sons of seventh sons. I’m the first son of a first son, and I don’t even have the power to do half the things any computer user needs to do. *sigh*

    • I’m the first daughter of a first daughter. One thing I’ll say is that I’m an awful lot like my mom. LOL

  12. Super fascinating! I’ve heard of this legend/myth before, but never really thought much about it. Now I’ll definitely put more thought into it when creating characters. It’s always so much fun to take a myth and wrap it into a story.

    • It is a great basis for a story. I am not yet sure what I want to do with it, but I do want to use it. If you decide to use the 7th son of the 7th son, I’d love to see the result.

  13. Seven is definitely an important number in the Bible. It does signify perfection. For instance, 7 days of creation, 7 of each clean animal on Noah’s Ark (no, they didn’t all go in pairs), 7 churches in Revelation, and double-7s in the geneology of Christ (from Matthew 1). So this idea of the 7th son of a 7th son is very interesting. I was unaware of the myths about it, though.

    By the way, love the Willie Dixon song! Thanks for an intriguing topic, Catie. It piques my curiosity.

    • I did not know that the Ark held 7 of each animal. That is super interesting. You always know the good stuff, Julie.

      I am glad this topic awakened your curiosity. It’s one I like to ponder. You know, where does stuff like this come from? Is there any truth to it?

      • Two of each “unclean” (not safe to eat) animal, and seven of each “clean” animal on the Ark. I obviously wonder about origins too!

  14. on ,
    Donna Coe-Velleman said:

    Hey Catie. I’ve heard of the 7th son before but it pertained to lycanthropy. It’s definitely an interesting subject and great for writing!

    Thanks for the Willie Dixon link. Love it.

  15. Hi Catie! Numerology has always interested me, especially as it pertains to the significance of dreams. I never considered my birth position as anything interesting. Now that I’ve thought about it, I realize now I’m the third daughter of a third daughter of a third daughter. Funny, since I’m always telling people how magical the number three is. LOL

  16. on ,
    wayne said:

    hi catie .. i am a 7th son of a 7 th son ( although 1 of the sons died a week after his birth so i have 5 brothers and a sister who is the twin to a brother )
    i slways tell people about 7 of the 7 but really unsure of meanings so thanks for helpin me out :)

    • Hi Wayne! Thanks so much for replying to my article. How interesting that you are the 7th of a 7th. This is one of those pieces of folklore that, while it’s a fairly common expression, is hard to find information on. I’m so glad the article interested you.