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Superstitions About the Unlucky Number Thirteen

Updated on December 20, 2011

Thirteen is the unluckiest of all numbers, or so they say. Many buildings don't have a 13th floor. Henry Ford himself would not do business on Friday the 13th. Many people aren't even aware that there were originally thirteen constellations. Ophiuchus, the 13th constellation, was ommited from the Zodiac. Don't be the 13th person to sit down at the table either, according to superstition, the thirteenth person seated at a table will be the next to die.

The fear of the number 13 is so widespread, there is even a name for it: Triskaidekaphobia. More money is lost on Friday the 13th than any day of the year because so many people call in sick that day. Some people won't even leave their house on Friday the 13th.

So why is there such a fear of 13 anyway? Where did it come from and is there truth to the superstitions? Let's explore the myths and history of this infamous number.

Leonardo DaVinci's painting, The Last Supper
Leonardo DaVinci's painting, The Last Supper

13 in Mythology

All Christians know the story of Jesus and the last supper. At this famous dinner, Jesus announced that he was to be put to death and one of his faithful followers at the table would betray him. Judas was the last to sit at the table, the thirteenth person seated. Judas was the apostle that betrayed Jesus by turning him into the Romans. He later hanged himself from a tree. Some could argue that Judas was doomed the moment he took that thirteenth seat. What's more is that the last supper took place on a Friday.

There's another story that is even older than the story of Jesus Christ. It's a story about another dinner party that also led to a tragedy.

In Norse mythology, Loki was also known as The Trickster. He was mischevious but also brave. As he aged he became more malicious. A party had taken place in Valhalla (Heaven) and twelve gods were seated to dinner. Loki, showed up uninvited and with him made thirteen seated at the table. He tricked Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to kill Balder, the god of light and joy. After Balder was killed, the entire world became dark, as both gods and humans went into mourning. Through this, thirteen had become an unlucky number.

Loki, Norse God
Loki, Norse God | Source

Interesting Facts About 13

King Phillip of France had the Knights Templar arrested on Friday the 13th in the year 1307. His motive was pure greed. He wanted the riches that belonged to the Knights to be his. Under extreme torture, the Knights were forced to confess to crimes of heresay. Most of the knights were burned to the stake.

Apollo 13 was a jinxed mission to the moon. Apollo was launched on April 10th on the 13th hour and the thirteenth minute. While in route, there was an explosion in one of the propellers - On April 13th.

Rapper Tupak Shakur was shot and killed on September 13th, 1996, which also happened to be Friday the 13th.

Many mass murderers have 13 letters in their names, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson and Harold Shipman.

The 13th card in the Tarot deck is death.

Misogynist Roots of Unlucky 13

Still, many believe that the negative connections to the number 13 was another attempt from the early Christians to vilify women. Cultures that worshipped the Goddess believed the number thirteen represented femininity. Thirteen corresponds to the number of lunar (and menstural) cycles in a year. (13 x 28 = 364).

Lucky 13?

Is thirteen truly an unlucky number or is it pure coincidence when terrible things happen on days like Friday the 13th?

Actually, statistics show that less accidents and deaths occur on Friday the 13th than any other day of the year. It's interesting and could be because there are so many people who won't leave the house on Friday the 13th.

Thirteen parties were popular in the late 18th century. People would 'tempt' faith by throwing these parties on Friday the 13th, sitting 13 at a table and doing silly superstious things like walking under ladders.

In Italy, 13 is a lucky number. Singer Taylor Swift agrees. Her birthday is December 13th and her lucky number is also 13. The United States was founded on 13 colonies and 13 stripes remain on the American flag in honor of those colonies. As for Apollo 13, all the astronauts made it home safely and not a single life was lost.

So is 13 truly an unlucky number? It's hard to say but I suppose one could argue that it's all in how you look at things.

Do you believe the number 13 is unlucky?

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    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      Before I had our daughter the doctor told me he could start my labor on Friday the 13 or wait until Monday. I was ready to have that baby so she was borned on Friday the 13th and our granddaughter was borned on Friday the 13th so I don't see 13 as bad luck. Voted up.


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