November 13, 2016
Lucky Number 13
Is the number 13 a lucky or unlucky number? You might be surprised to see where cultures differ.
When looking up this famous saying, I came across so much interesting information. Unfortunately, I just could not fit it all, but let this post be a fact sheet for the number 13.
Some Definitions I Found
Before we get started, lets learn about some definitions:
Triskaidekaphilia is used when someone believes the number 13 is a lucky number.
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. It is a word of Greek origin made up of the root words tris (“three”), deka (“ten”), and phobia (“fear”).
Is 13 Considered a Lucky Number?
There are positive spiritual connotations of the number 13.
The ancient Egyptians saw the number 13 as a lucky number. According to ancient Egyptian culture, thirteen steps are on the ladder that leads to eternity. When the soul reaches the thirteenth step, it reaches its source and attains spiritual completion.
The Greek god Zeus was also counted as the thirteenth. He was the most powerful of the Greek gods (Venefica).
The number 13 is considered lucky in Eastern cultures. The Thai new year is celebrated on April 13. Bad omens can be washed away by splashing water on people. In Hinduism, the 13th day of any month is seen as a good omen (Chowdhury).
In particular, the Chinese see 13 as a lucky number. From ChinaOnTheGo.com:
The digit 1 when it is in the position of tens sounds like the word ‘definite’ (shi or 实) in Mandarin and dialects such as Cantonese; while the digit 3 sounds like life, living or birth (生)
As a result, 13, which is pronounced as shisan in Mandarin, can mean ‘definitely vibrant’.
Native American tribes see the number thirteen as a sacred number.
To the Aztecs, 13 was a sacred number. Weeks were 13 days (Trecana) and the Aztecan year was 20 periods of 13 days (260 days total). The goddess Tlazoltoetl ruled over the 13th Trecana. She was the goddess of sin and adulterers who could also forgive sins of a sexual nature.
The Aztecs days were each ruled by a god. Tezcatlipoca, the ruler of the 13th day, represented Mystery, Psyche, Illusion, and Magic.
Also, the number 13 has been seen as lucky in Italy because of its connection to the “Great Goddess,” who was responsible for fertility and lunar cycles. The number 13 symbolized life and prosperity, and many gamblers saw the number as giving them good luck.
In the section about lucky and unlucky numbers, Justin Demetri’s information seems to support much of what I already found. However, he adds that the number 13 is starting to have negative connotations in Italy.
Thirteen is on the Death card, which symbolizes transition, change, and inevitability. The Death Tarot card represents the end of an event or chapter in one’s life. When someone pulls up this card in a reading, the person whose fortune is being read is supposed to experience a major change. Change is inevitable and as one thing ends, another begins (Venefica).
Why Is 13 Considered an Unlucky Number?
It appears the superstition against the number 13 began in Norse mythology. It eventually worked its way to other parts of Europe.
According to Norse mythology, there was an honorary banquet held in Valhalla for Baldur, the god of nobility, redemption, and admirable strength. There were supposed to be 12 Norse gods at the table, but a 13th guest, Loki, crashed the party. Baldur was later slain by Hoor, who received a magic spear from Loki for the deed (“Number 13”).
FYI: Balder, in Norse Mythology, was the god of joy and happiness (Pappas).
This event eventually led to Ragnarok, the death of many more gods, natural disasters, and the destruction on Earth that left only two human survivors (Conradt).
There is also a mention of the Last Supper. The number 13 is believed to be a bad omen since Judas Iscariot betrayed him around that time. (Judas is counted as the 13th guest but some.)
The number 13 is referred to as le point de Judas, due to Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ. Judas was the first to leave the table at the Last Supper and the first to die.
By other accounts, Jesus and Baldur may be counted as the 13th guests. (But that’s if the number is seen in a spiritual, positive light.)
Some More Religious Context
Priests of patriarchal religions were said to revile the number 13 because it represented femininity or the Mother Goddess. In particular, Christian church also tried to demonize Frigg. There were 13 lunar and menstrual cycles during a year and in goddess-worshipping cultures, the number 13 was sacred (Padden).
The letter “m,” the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is considered unlucky when it is at the beginning and end of a word (mem, which means death).
Supposedly, Hindus think it was unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place.
In Modern Times
Today, the view that the number 13 is unlucky is mostly a Western superstition. About 80 percent of buildings do not have 13th floors. Many places, like hotels, hospitals, and airports, avoid using 13 for rooms and gates.
At the Savoy Hotel in London, England, Kasper, the 3-foot black cat sculpture, will be a dinner guest at a table if that table was booked for 13 guests. The table is set for 14 guests and even Kasper is served with a full-course meal.
Also, the French have a dinner party tradition that is similar to that in London. A quartorzieme, or fourteenth guest, is hired when only thirteen guests are booked at a table. This is to make sure there are no problems at the dinner event (“Number 13”).
What Are Some American Connections to the Number 13?
Surprisingly, as I perused the page on MysticalNumbers.com, I realized there are a lot of connections between the number thirteen and the United States. Do some hold good fortune? Take a look:
- Rhode Island was the last of the 13 original colonies.
- The American flag has 13 stripes in recognition of the colonies.
- The original American flag had 13 stars, for the same reason.
- Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743.
- Millard Fillmore was the 13th president. He came to power after President Taylor died from stomach flu and Fillmore was the last president from the Whig Party.
- The Thirteen Amendment abolished slavery except in cases of imprisonment.
The One Dollar Bill utilizes 13 units in various areas including: the bars of the shield, the leaves on the olive branch, the fruits, the arrows, the stars above the eagle, the plums of feathers on each of the eagle’s wings, and the steps on the pyramid. Additionally, the letters in “E PLURIBUS UNUM (“Out of many, one”), and the letters in “ANNUIT COEPTIS” (“God has favored our undertaking”) are 13 in number.
The Apollo 13 was the third manned spacecraft prepped for a moon mission. The number 13 had more connections to the spacecraft. For one thing, the rocket was launched on April 11, 1970 at 13:13 CST. On April 13, there was an onboard explosion that caused the mission to be scrapped. (“Houston, we have a problem.”)
Would You Like to Learn More?
Check out the sources I list below. This was a lot of information to sift through, but I think it’s worth the time. I will revisit this number again, when I address Friday the 13th.
Chowdhury, Sanchita. “How Is Number 13 Lucky?” Boldsky. 13 June 2014. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
Conradt, Stacy. “13 Reasons People Think the Number 13 is Unlucky.” Mentalfloss. 13 May 2016. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
Demetri, Justin. “Italian American Superstitions.” Italy. 10 June 2010. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
Marzani, Barbara. “What’s so unlucky about the number 13?” History.com. 13 Sep 2013. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
“Number 13.” Mystical Numbers.com. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
Padden, Kathy. “The Origin of Friday the 13th as an Unlucky Day.” Today I Found Out. 13 Sep 2013. Web.
Venefica, Avia. “Death Tarot Card Meanings.” TarotTeachings.com. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
Venefica, Avia. “Symbolic Meaning of Number Thirteen.” Symbolic Meanings Blog by Avia Venefica. 27 Jan 2008. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
Venefica, Avia. “Symbolic Meaning of Number Thirteen.” Whats-Your-Sign.com. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
“Why is 13 a lucky number in Italy?”. Reference.com. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.
“Why Is the Number 13 Lucky?” ChineseOnTheGo.com.
Wolchover, Natalie. “The Surprising Origins of 9 Common Superstitions.” Live Science. 19 Sep 2011. Web.
Last Updated on November 15, 2016 at 4:37 pm PDT.