Why is the number 13 unlucky? How did this superstition begin? Well, there is no exact evidence as to why is 13 unlucky but people believe that it initiated during the early Christian era when Last Supper was held, where Jesus Christ sat was with his twelve apostles. Among them was Judas Iscariot — the thirteenth man to get along with them on the table that night and who also happened to betray Jesus. That’s how the notion of “13 being unlucky” started.
However, that is not the only reason why 13 is linked with bad luck. There are a few more, which you might be interested in knowing:
Why Is The Number 13 Unlucky?
1. Norse Legend: The Uninvited 13th God “Loki”
According to the Viking legends, “Loki” was the thirteenth God in the Norse Pantheon, who skillfully arranged the murder of one of the gods – Balder – and was also the thirteenth guest to reach his funeral. Gradually, this led to a superstition that when 13 people meet, one among them will depart his or her life in the following year.
2. Code Of Hammurabi: The 13th Law Is Omitted
Another ancient myth that revolves around the derivation for the number 13 to be unlucky is the Code of Hammurabi. It dates back to 1780 BC before even Jesus Christ was born. The 13th code is missing, which led ancient Historians to believe that the number 13 was unlucky. However, the fact is that the Babylon writers accidentally skipped to list down the code: 13.
3. Judas Theory: The Last Supper
If Catholic beliefs are considered, the number 13 is said to bring bad luck. The origin comes from the early Christian period when Jesus Christ sat with his 12 disciples for supper. Among them was – Judas – who not only deceived Jesus but was also the 13th man to sit at the table. The inference was that someone was about to die in a short period. The guilt of betraying Jesus made Judas hang himself. This eventually made westerners believe that dining with thirteen people on the table brought bad luck. However, Bible doesn’t say anything about the way the Apostles were seated.
4. HMS (His Majesty’s Ship) Friday
One of the common answers as to why is Friday the 13th unlucky is due to the Urban Myth – HMS Friday. It happened in the early 19th century when the British Royal Navy wanted to dispel the traditional superstition among the sailors that commencing a voyage on Friday brought bad luck.
To prove the falseness of this old myth, they built a ship, which they named it — HMS (His Majesty’s Ship) Friday. The keel, as well as the launch of the ship, was purposely arranged on Friday. The captain (James Friday) and the sailors of HMS Friday set their voyage on 13 Friday. Sadly, Neither the sailors nor the ship returned. They were never seen or heard. This made people come up with a conclusion that 13th of Friday always brought bad luck.
The story of HMS Friday has been widely circulated; however, it is untrue. According to historians and researchers, there was never a ship called HMS Friday. It is still a mystery how, where, and when the tale originated but it seems to have gained a lot of popularity when a comedian named Dave Allen recounted the story in one of his BBC TV Show.
5. The Knights Templar
One of the popular myths for Friday 13 being unlucky is often related to the Knights Templar. This happened in the 14th century, exactly on 13 October 1307 (Friday) when King Philip IV of France united with Pope Clement V and ordered all the Knights for imprisonment and execution.
6. The Unsuccessful U.S. Mission: Apollo 13
The United States only unsuccessful moon mission was none other than the Apollo 13. It was launched exactly at 13.13 hours, whose operation was to get men to the moon. Unfortunately, on the way to the moon, the oxygen tank in the spacecraft blew up. The explosion happened on 13 April 1970 and made it hard for the onboard astronauts to survive. Since this had the number 13 with it, the failure of this mission made the belief even stronger. However, after struggling for many days, the crew came home safely.
7. The Effect of “13” In Other Cultures
In Spanish-speaking countries, 13th is unlucky too but not Friday. Instead, it is 13th of Tuesday. Even Greeks believe 13 (Tuesday) brings bad luck. According to the Roman Mythology, 13th of Tuesday is considered highly unlucky, as the God of War – Ares – dominates it.
However, in Italian cultures, 17th on Friday is said to be unlucky. The myth’s origin is often traced to the writing of Roman numeral – 17 – XVII. When XVII is shuffled, you get VIXI (meaning, “I have lived”, entailing death in the present); hence, the number 17 in Italy is believed as a bad omen.
8. The Thirteen Club
The Thirteen Club was formed in the 1800s to demystify the superstition that “thirteen guests on a table” brings bad luck. So, they met on the thirteenth of every month and had dinner together at a table of 13. To make things worse, they deliberately spilt salt at the table and made sure not to throw it over their shoulders.
They even posed a penalty of 13 cents to the members who came late. Among the 13 members, five were U.S. presidents: Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Chester A. Arthur, and William McKinley. However, some time later, two presidents were brutally shot dead.
9. Thirteen Full Moons
A year with thirteen full moons rather than twelve created problems for the ancient monks, who were in charge of calendars. It disturbed the way church festivals were usually arranged. For this reason, the number 13 was considered as an unfortunate or unlucky circumstance.
10. Tarot Card Interpretation: 13 Is Death
In Tarot cards, the card number 13 doesn’t have a name, and it said to represent death. The card has a picture of a rider (death himself) sitting on a white horse. It signifies the hesitation, fickleness, transformation, uncertainty, end of life, rupture, and renewal. However, it could also mean that it is the death of an extremely struggling period. There might be new beginnings.
Also See: What Flowers Represent Death?
Conclusion: So, Is 13 Really An Unlucky Number?
While there are stories that indicate that the number 13 brings bad luck, but there are no accepted explanations either. There are different ideas about these origins. Our ancestors believed in superstitions, which eventually made us follow it without knowing if they are true or not.
It is only the circumstances that can be blamed. Bad situations happening on 13th makes people believe that 13 must be unlucky. But, the truth is that 13 is not actually unlucky. If you take the ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations, 13 according to them is lucky. So, what would you say about this? Share your opinions in the comments section.