“Something Cool” No. 2: The Cult of Pythagoras


Sam Bisno, Editor

We’ve all wanted to join a cult at some point in our lives, right? Definitely. Well, if you happen to be reading this in 600 B.C. and you have an affinity for mindless subordination and triangles, you might consider enlisting in Pythagoreanism. That’s right; not only is he responsible for that obnoxious formula from our algebra textbooks – side note: he didn’t actually write the theorem; he stole it from the Chinese, who stole it from the Indians, who stole it from the Babylonians – but Pythagoras was also the founder of a sect of hundreds of mathematically minded followers. And they were up to some weird stuff. So, today on Something Cool, we’ll be running through a crash course on everything you’ll need to know if you plan on signing up.

Essentially, the Pythagoreans were a bunch of Greek “students” that believed that numbers were at the heart of all existence and that everything could be explained through the lens of math. They gathered in their “school” to study under Pythagoras himself and further explore their beliefs. But this school didn’t feature lackluster vending machines or uncomfortable gym classes. Oh, no, it was far stranger. Aside from the general worship of numbers, here are just a few of the things you should know before you begin your studies at the cult:



  • Under no circumstances should you consume beans. Pythagoras was very particular about his foods. Grapes? Fine. Olives? Of course! Beans? Well, you might as well be saying that numbers existed in a continuous line! (Pythagoras believed that numbers were individual, nonlinear entities). In other words, just don’t eat beans and you should be fine.
  • Never pick up something once you drop it. Now, as cool as it would be to roll in to your first day at the cult on some snazzy Heelys, think twice before you lace up, because if you happen to slip and drop something, it’s going to stay there. As a member of Pythagoreanism, you are strictly forbidden from bending over and picking up any object that falls to the ground.
  • No touching white roosters. “White cocks”, as Pythagoras called them, are off limits. As tempting as it is to lean over and stroke chickens when you see them on the street, that’s a hard no-no. It’s disappointing, but it’s imperative that you get all your “white rooster petting” in before you enter the cult.
  • Don’t stir the fire with an iron. Most days, attending the school of Pythagoras will be a walk in the park, but be careful when you’re put on fire duty. It’s bound to get nippy at some point during your late nights rationalizing mathematics, but be sure to never stir the flames with a poker. Pythagoras didn’t really offer any logical substitute in his teachings, as long as you stayed away from the traditional method. Use your bare hand if you have to, just no irons.
  • Never look in a mirror besides a light. If you’re like me, you need a solid half an hour to get your hair just right in the morning. But once you enlist, your routine will become considerably more difficult. Pythagoras was strongly opposed to all mirrors placed within reach of any source of light, so you’ll need to learn how to comb in the dark.


That’s all for the second installment of “Something Cool”. Hopefully now you’ll feel ready if you do decide to enlist in Pythagoras’s cult. Stop by in two weeks to learn about the Paris catacombs.


If you have a topic you’d like me to research, or you have a suggestion for future installments, email me at [email protected]