The number 40 is often associated with a length of time. The number 40 refers to the number of weeks in the typical 9 month pregnancy. This amount of time signals the preparation or purification stage such as in a spiritual rebirth, mimiking the physical birth time-frame. In alchemy, an Alchemical or Philisophic Month consists of 40 days, and is sometimes used during stages of the alchemical process.
In the Bible, Noah's Ark survives the 40 days and nights of rain and flood waters. Relating to the theme of water, the Hebrew letter Mem (M) has a value of 40 and means "water." The Hebrews wander the desert in Exodus for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Moses spends 40 nights fasting on Mount Ararat while receiving the 10 Commandments. Jesus spends 40 days fasting in the wilderness before being tempted by the Devil. Jesus spends 40 days with his desciples before finally ascending to heaven. Jonah is commanded by God to warn the city of Nineveh that they will be destroyed in 40 days because of their sins, though they are spared by God after having repented and changed their ways.
Some ancient cultures would sacrifice the king each year, twice a year, or after another symbolic period of time: "After the death of the old king, the officials led the new king to his coronation with a silk ribbon around his neck to remind the candidate of his brief reign with divine power. This is similar to the Scottish Rite's 33rd degree ceremony. In ancient times, the silk ribbon was a silken strangling cord, which symbolized the sacred obligation to kill the king after a nominated period, or when his vitality waned, so that the divine power may find a more youthful and vigorous incarnation. The traditional period of the king's rule was forty years. If he exceeded this time by a single day, his subjects and attendants killed him, saying His reasoning is already dimmed and his insight confused."
The number 40 may be used in place of the number 42 as a way to hide the true meaning of an esoteric passage. Ernest Busenbark in Symbols, Sex, and the Stars says: "The number 40, by the way, is emplowed interchangebly with 42 in ancient numerical systems, thereby making an even multiple of weeks." He refers to the number 40 as a period of turmoil followed by transformation.
Potential for Metamorphosis via Phonetic Spellings
40 = Forty = Four-T
T = 20th letter (2+0=2) = 2
Four-T = 42
40 = 42
40 - 40 = 42 - 40
0 = 2
(See Chapter V of Aleister Crolwey's "Magic Without Tears" for more on 0 = 2)
The Number 40 Edit
4 + 0 = 4
Adding every number from 1 to 40 equals 820.