The Superstitions of the Number 13

Unlucky Number 13

This is a very interesting subject to me mainly because it involves something that was actually man made. Numbers were simply developed as a way of keeping track of quantities. Have you ever thought about what we would call each number if their names did not exist? It’s hard to imagine a world without numbers and realistically science would not be possible without them.

That’s actually a concept that could potentially drive you crazy trying to figure out how you would say, “I have 3 of these”, if in fact the #3 did not exist. Ok, enough of that, my head is starting to hurt. But for the sake of discussion, I would like to discuss one number in particular. That’s the number 13! I kind of felt the ground shutter when I said that.

The number 13 is said to be a very unlucky number in many cultures. Even though the number 1 by itself is a pretty good number, mainly because it can not be divided, and then the number 3 is considered quite lucky. Have you ever heard of getting 3 wishes? But when you combine those two together, something magical happens and people run in fear.

Early History of the Number Thirteen

Probably the earliest known reference to the number thirteen is The Last Supper. Jesus sat at the table with his 12 desciples thus creating a table of 13. So it’s said that having 13 people sit at dinner together means that one of them will die within a years time. This is kind of funny but, they say if you’re stuck with 13 guests, then you must either find another dinner guest to make it 14 or at least sit a stuffed animal at the table with you. This is said to avoid the bad omen associated with having 13 people sitting at the table.

Even though the Last Supper is often associated with the number 13, this superstition actually didn’t develop until nearly 2,000 years later. Sometime during the 1800s. In fact if you’ve ever heard of tarot cards, then you are probably familiar with the card #13, it actually is the death card. But this card is not intended to mean death in a literal sense. It is often times associated with a change in someone’s life. That being one idea or way of life ending and a new beginning being formed.

The Number Thirteen Goes to Space

Now here’s a very strange tid bit of information. The NASA space flight Apollo “13” had this dreaded number associated with it in many different ways. And of course we all know how that flight turned out. The flight was actually launched at 13:13pm on April 11, 1970. Then the explosion that led to the flights demise happened on, yep you guessed it, April 13.

Even though up until that point the number 13 had seemed like a bad omen to the flights success, all three of the astronauts made a safe return to Earth. So is it possible that all those 13’s were simply coincidence? Maybe the number eventually runs it’s course. Or is it possible that something happened during that flight that mysteriously cured the poison of the number?

Friday the Thirteenth

This superstition actually started back in ancient Rome, but is still widely accepted to this day. Friday was a day of execution in ancient Rome and was of course the day that Jesus was crucified. It was also a day for hangings to take place in medieval Great Britain. This is probably the reason that Friday the 13th is considered so unlucky. By combining a day like Friday with a number like 13 you get one terrible day for luck.

The day Friday is actually named after Norse Freya, she was a goddess of fertility and her chariot was said the of been drawn by black cats. According to Christianity, she was said to be a witch. I would imagine this added some more bad signs to the day Friday as well. Even though Friday is looked at by many as an unlucky day, it is more of a holy day for Muslim culture. This is the day they go to mosque, not only that but the Jewish Sabbath also starts on Friday.

But I must say, for me Friday is quite a lucky day, mainly because it is the last day of my work week! So that means a whole weekend to rest…lol

What’s up with the Number Twelve

I’ve heard many good things about the number 12 over the years. It is said to be a complete, whole and perfect number. It is probably due to there being 12 signs in the zodiac, 12 months in a year, not to mention there are 12 hours of both day and night. There were also 12 tribes of Israel as well as 12 disciples in the Bible. We can take this further by mentioning the 12 gods in Norse mythology and the 12 gods on Mount Olympus.

Could it be that the number 13 is said to be unlucky because it crosses the sacred threshold of the number 12?

The Number 13 Helps Build America

But if this is in fact such an unlucky number why does it appear on American currency so many times? If you take a closer look at the American 1$ bill you will notice several instances where the number 13 makes an appearance.

  • 13 steps found on the pyramid of the great seal
  • 13 letters will be found in “Annuit Coeptis”
  • 13 stripes on the eagle’s shield
  • 13 arrows are being clutched by the eagle
  • 13 letters appear in “E Pluribus Unum”
  • 13 stars float above the eagles head
  • 13 leaves and 13 fruits are on the olive branch the eagle is carrying

There were also 13 colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776. This lead to what we call America today. Is it possible the number 13 is only lucky in certain parts of the world? Kind of like a toilet will flow one direction when flushed on one side of the equator and flow the other direction on the other side. Again this is one of the world’s great mysteries and who actually knows how much truth there is to it all.

 You can’t help but wonder if maybe a lot of these things happen due to a collective conscious. The human mind is a powerful thing and perhaps we cause certain things to happen because there are so many of us thinking it at the same time. Even though that is an interesting concept, it is certainly a topic for another discussion. 🙂

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23 thoughts on “The Superstitions of the Number 13
  1. Just a bullshit thought. We won our baseball tournament on 13 and it was the best day of my life.

    1. It’s true James that the number 13 is not always unlucky. To some people and cultures it is a very lucky number. Congratulations on your baseball victory!

  2. This actually got me at the edge of my seat. If number 13 is a bad omen, how come the US has related contents to it as cited in your 1$ bill example and they are the world power. A really puzzling thing. Nice article by the way.

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