The fear of the number 13, known as triskaidekaphobia, is more widespread than I thought. Sure, t’s common to casually tease about the number 13 being unlucky, just as it is to avoid walking under ladders or crossing paths with a black cat, but there are many around the world who follow the science behind the numbers — or numerology — and believe it to be true.
So, where did the fear of the number 13 come from? The earliest reference that I found dates back to 1780 BC, where the 13th law of the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi was removed from the books. That 13th law dealt with a person’s fate (or death) and what to do with their real estate holdings after they passed. Perhaps the Babylonians believed the code was too unpleasant to pass into law. Little did they know how much controversy they would create because of it.
Years later, early Christians believed unlucky 13 had to do with the Last Supper. Judas, the last apostle to arrive, and the very one who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to sit at the table. Can’t argue with that logic. Most of us know there were 12 apostles and one leader.
Still, others believe that the Vikings may have originated the superstition. It is known in those circles that Loki, the 13th Norse god arranged the murder of Balder, a fellow Norse god, and then was the 13th guest to arrive at his funeral. That’s a double whammy for the number 13, and it began the widespread belief that if 13 people gather together, one will soon die. I’ve been to gatherings of 13 where this very notion came up in conversation. Apparently this theory had enough power and longevity to make it into modern times.
Another odd theory is that a hangman’s noose requires 13 turns of the rope to complete. Any less, it is said, would not break the neck. While that may sound like good news on the surface, it is terrible news for the poor soul who is put to death by hanging. It’s a long lingering death if the neck doesn’t snap quickly.
Speaking of modern times, many high-rise buildings – and I’ve visited a few — once omitted the 13th floor altogether. Have you ever been in an elevator and found the button for the 13th floor mysteriously missing?
On a positive note, the number 13 is considered lucky for many world residents, including those citizens in China and Italy. I’m not of Chinese or Italian descent, but I’ve noticed that any given Friday the 13th usually turn out positive for me, and I’m hoping that the entire year of 2013 follows suit.
Thirteen is also a positive number in the Jewish culture, since it is the age where a boy or a girl celebrates their bar or bat mitzvah and becomes an adult. Plus, according to the Torah, God has 13 attributes of mercy.
So if you do suffer from triskaidekaphobia, here’s the scoop. We have another 361 days left of 2013. It’s probably best for you to face your fear, and embrace the lucky side of 13. Either that, or get ready for one long year hiding your head under a pillow.