What do you think of when you hear the number 13? People may think of certain superstitions, or a feeling of unluckiness associated with this number. This number has caused tremendous paranoia that days, events, and even floor numbers associated with the number thirteen have people limiting their use of it in their daily lives. Some people even have a fear of the specific day, Friday the 13th, which is called Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Thirteen is a number, that holds a great amount of importance in math, religion, spirituality, and other historical events. The number 13 comes right after the “perfect” number 12, giving it a connotation of imperfection, defectiveness and evil. Thirteen has widely been recognized as superstitious, associated with misfortune, and has appeared in many religious and spiritual texts.
The history of the number 13 can be found in ancient cultures and has had a history of being a disastrous number. There was a time when we had no number system at all. No way to count, tell time, understand the value of money and much more that would drastically change the way that we live now. Once the first ten numbers were discovered, they paved the path for all the other numbers that we now know. The number 13 is the third number to appear in the number line after 10, it comes after 12 and before 14.
In math, the number 13 is a prime number. This means, that anything but 1 and itself cannot be multiplied to reach this number or be divided evenly from it. That signifies that it’s only divisors are 1 and itself, 13. However, numbers can be added together to reach 13, as it is the sum of 4 and 9 which are both perfect squares of 2 and 3. A perfect square is the product of a rational number that can be multiplied by itself. In geometry, the relationship between twelve and thirteen is obvious as a dodecagon results in “twelve equally spaced points around a thirteenth one at the center.
Twelve points occur at the crossings of a hexagram star around the thirteenth at the center” (Schneider p 199). In the third dimension, twelve equal spheres can fit together to surround a thirteen sphere in the center. Thirteen also appears in the Fibonacci Sequence, a widely known number pattern that was coined by Leonardo Pisano, also known as Fibonacci. This number is the seventh term in the sequence and is the sum of 8 and 5, the two terms that came before it. Thirteen is also the square root of 169, which is the product of multiplying 13 by itself. There is no way to divide 13 into something smaller evenly, so the number continues to grow depending on what you add or multiply to it.
Thirteen holds its own historical significance within many different cultures, religions, and texts. The Mayans thought that 13 was a sacred number because a single year can be divided up into 13 moons as well as 13 being the sum of adding 12 and 1. This is because 1 represented a higher being, and since 13 was the joining of 12 with 1, the essential being, it represents the reunion with that higher being or God. Not only was this number prominent in Mayan culture, another group of people called the Mesoamericans whose region extended from Mexico to Costa Rica, also used this number to predict the future. Instead of using numbers for scientific purposes, they used these numbers to understand cycles and make projections about what would come later in the future.
In biblical times, the number 13 did not carry this same sacred meaning. There were 12 people at the last supper, but the 13th guest, who was named Judas Iscariot, ended up betraying Jesus. It was thought that he started a series of events that would lead to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. A symbol for the Satan, a dragon, is also found 13 times in one of the books of the Bible, Revelation. In folklore, ancient Norse lore holds that evil and turmoil were first introduced in the world by the mischievous god Loki at a dinner party in Valhalla. He was the 13th guest, upsetting the balance of the 12 gods already in attendance.
In more recent times, this number has been associated with unluckiness, evilness, and death. In fact, relating to the number 13 is the only unsuccessful moon mission that took off with a set of astronauts, Apollo 13, failed. The men inside were lucky to be alive, but could their streak of unluckiness be caused by the name of their rocket and its relation to 13? Also gruesomely enough, “there have always been 13 steps leading up the gallows where criminals received the ultimate punishment for their crimes” (Williams par 6). A true, correctly tied noose also contains 13 loops. There is even a term that was created due to a fear surrounding this number called, triskaidekaphobia.
The term was said to have originated around 1910 when phobias were a focal point in mental health. There are two other phobias related to the number 13, one about the fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia, and the other has to do with the fear of the 13th floor in buildings. “According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, more than 80 percent of hi-rise buildings in the United States do not have a 13th floor, and the vast majority of hotels, hospitals and airports avoid using the number for rooms and gates as well” (Maranzani pp. 4). The number 13’s superstitious ties have lead whole companies and businesses to remove traces of it.
The number 13 has had a very conflicting past throughout history and continues to inspire some, and scare others. The way that one perceives this number is all about how they look at its past and honestly how much they let numbers control their world. The history of the number 13 is greatly tied to its spiritual connections and superstitions that are associated with it.
The number 13 is said to bring suffering and death. It symbolizes the death to something or to oneself and the birth of the spirit and the passing on to a higher level of existence. “In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, the 13th card is called Death or The Reaper depending on which deck you use” (Eugene par 7). However, like the number itself, this card is highly misinterpreted as negative. This card should be interpreted as a process of transformation and rebirth. This symbolism of the number 13 could also correspond to the age that a kid becomes a teenager. This can show a loss of innocence and supports the symbolism of rebirth. The rebirth in this situation is the death of childhood and the birth of young adulthood. It is not the true milestone to adulthood, which is the next Fibonacci number after 13, but an important transition for the body, mind, and soul.
There are also many superstitions that have formed at different time periods that have given this number different significance. There was a superstition surrounding the number 13 in the late 17th century, and the first embodiment of 13 as an unlucky number was given the name, ’13 at a table.’ It was said that if you sit 13 people at a table, one will die within a year. This was based on the biblical story of the 13th guest at the last supper. This superstition caused a specific club to form. The 13 Club began in 1882. It was founded by a man named Captain William Fowler, who was a Civil War veteran and a wealthy man in New York.
During this time, the ‘13 at a table’ superstition sat seriously with most people, which made them irrationally afraid that if they happened to be one of 13 at the table they would die within a year. So, he got together with other like-minded people, six of them being Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Chester A. Arthur to stop this superstition. Fowler was finally able to debunk this superstition, however, this meeting did not happen right away. It took him a long time to find 12 people who would agree to sit with him at a table, making 13. Once this group got together, they sat 13 at a table on the 13th day of the month to prove that it was simply a myth.
There is another superstition that said if you had 13 letters in your name, you’re damned to have the devil’s luck. Oddly enough, some evil people like Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, and Albert De Salvo all contain 13 letters. These five names definitely support this theory, but there is no solid evidence to prove that this is true. Oddly enough, my own name, Kiley Chambers, contains 13 letters in it as well. From my point of view, I wouldn’t say that I have the ‘devil’s luck’, but I could also be biased towards myself.
The number 13 has also appeared in ancient cultures and civilizations. The Tzolkin is a calendar system within the Mayan calendar system. It directly translates to ‘the distribution of the days,’ and is also known as the Divine Calendar and the Sacred Round. This system is made up of a 260-day calendar with 20 periods of 13 days, which is used to dictate the time of their religious and ceremonial events. The days in each period are numbered from one to 13. Each day is also given a name from a sequence of 20 names that represented each day. The Mayans also saw the joining of 12+1 to make 12 as representing reuniting with our “essential being,” reaching a higher existence within ourselves.
In astrology, 13 once represented the 13 astrological symbols, that we based on the constellations. There are 88 recognized constellations in the sky, but the Babylonians were the first to choose 13 main ones picked for the reason that the sun shone through each of the 13 throughout different parts of the year. This 13th zodiac sign was called Ophiuchus. However, in the current time period we now only identify with 12 zodiac signs. The reason that the 13th zodiac sign was left out is that it held less significance than the other 12, it was simply a constellation, and did not represent an astrological sign. It was also tailored down to 12 because 12 fit in better to their calendar system. Like their calendar system, the current astrological system, divides the sky into 12 sections, each representing the 12 months of the year.
There are also 13 lunar cycles in the year. “Twelve is related to thirteen… While twelve is a solar number, thirteen is lunar, as the twelve months of a solar year contain nearly thirteen lunations” (Schneider p 199). These lunations occur for a period of 28 days, and each cycle has different symbolism associated with it. The overall symbolism behind the 13 moons deals with femininity, magic, psyche, and emotion. Each moon has its own name and meaning, and represent the 13 galactic tones of creation, or nature’s creative process.
An angel number is a number that someone sees frequently in their life. To most, the number 13 is a negative number, but by taking the root number of 13, we get a different meaning. When we add the numbers 1 and 3 together we get the root number 4. The number 4 is grounded with the earth and with the physical world. So, the symbolism within 13 from its root number, “is about our spiritual ability to create being grounded on the Earth and focused on the material world” (Eugene par 14). The numbers that make 13, 1 and 3 also hold their own symbolism. In numerology, 3 represents creation, completion, order, advancement, and mystery. The number one represents beginnings, initiation, solidarity, unity, and birth. These numbers combined influence the overall meaning of 13, giving it the properties of both numbers within it. This symbolism makes sense to me from a personal perspective because on my 13th year, I had completed my childhood and started many new beginnings as I was becoming a teen. I had been reborn.
The number 13 has always been one of my favorite numbers despite its bad reputation, and I have always been drawn to it. Since I was a kid, one of my favorite numbers has been 13. I really don’t know why, but I felt comfort in this number. I could never figure out what exactly made me have such strong feelings toward it, especially since it has a reputation for being evil and unlucky. From my point of view, I never thought about the connotations of this number or most numbers for that matter, but the fact that it was the first number that ended in ‘teen’ appealed to me.
Since I really liked this number, I would often pick it out for my sports jersey during the sports seasons. I soon found though that even when I could not pick my own number, I would still receive the number 13. I had never really put much thought into the fact that I was still getting the number 13 on my jerseys until I was in high school. Through my research about this number, I have learned that could have meant that some spirit was trying to reach out to me. At the time it had no meaning, but with this new knowledge, I now know why this could have been occurring.
I also remember as a preteen, I could not wait to finally get to the age that I would be considered a full-blown teenager, 13. Thirteen to me represented the passage from childhood and into young adulthood, and I thought I was so cool. I finally wasn’t just a ‘kid’, but a teenager. A teenager was supposed to be mature, they could watch PG-13 movies, play M rated games, do all the things that people younger than 13 were not supposed to do. Thirteen was now not only my favorite number, but it was what I was. This age may have been one of my hardest years emotionally, but it made me who I am today and overall a stronger person. Thirteen may be just a number, but it was an important milestone in my life.
The number 13 has had subtle influences on most people in their daily lives. Whether one has actual knowledge about the number 13, they probably have some opinion about it. A lot of these opinions come from superstitions that date back to the time period of Jesus Christ. This, among other events, has given the number 13 a bad reputation. However, in other cultures perspectives, this number is considered sacred and religious. Thirteen helped to form the astrological signs that dictate the lives of many people around the world.
Overall, the number 13 has had power over people for centuries through its numerology and symbolism. Whether it is an actual unlucky or lucky number, is based on personal preference. It is acknowledged worldwide as mythical, given the stereotype of being evil, and has been associated with many other meanings in numerous religions and spirituality.