In Chapter 10 of Harem, there is a reference to Chilla, which Raffi footnoted as follows:
“Chilla is derived from the Persian word chehel that signifies forty or fortieth. That was the number of days that the charms of the sorcerers lasted in mystical times, and that the dervishes are distinguished by for their acts of asceticism. The superstition [of that number] is present in the Armenians of Armenia and Persia alike. For example, there is a forty-day observance after [the] birth [of a child], where the family confines itself to the house.”
It turns out there is more to the religious significance of the number 40:
The Great Flood
In the account of the Great Flood in the book of Genesis, we are told 4 times that the Great Flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights (7:4, 7:12, 7:17, 8:6), and that after the flood, Noah waited 40 days again before releasing a raven (Gen 8:6).
The Revelation at Sinai
Moses went up to Mount Sinai, above the clouds, for forty days and forty nights when receiving the 10 commandments (Exodus 24:18).
David and Goliath
“For forty days the Philistine [Goliath] came forward every morning and evening and took his stand,” before David finally fought him (1 Samuel 16).
The Temptation of Christ
Like Moses, who fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (upon Mount Sinai) before him, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the Judaean desert after his baptism (Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2).
The Resurrection and Ascension
Forty days elapsed between the Resurrection of Christ and His Ascension (Acts 1:3).
Christians who observe the Great Lent have a penitential fast for forty days leading up to Easter, following the example of Christ’s temptation.
There are other occurrences of 40-day and 40-year periods in the Bible, although the ones mentioned here are the 6 key events familiar to most people. We shouldn’t end on this note though, because, in Biblical terms, 6 is not a divine number. After all, Jesus was accused 6 times of being a demon, the Number of the Beast is 666, and men are to work 6 days per week. The 7th day, on which man is instructed to rest, is the number of perfection, which perhaps explains why we find the 7th letter of the Armenian alphabet (Է) above the altar of every Armenian church.