Friday, April 13, 2007


Today being Friday the 13th, a day for paranoia, I've decided to dwell on the mystery shrouding the unluckiness of of the number 13th. Sidetracking a little the fear of friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. Deliciously long words with a hint of a tongue twister in them. After that slight bit of digression, here's the facts surrounding the origin of the fear of 13th.

  • Thirteen may be considered a "bad" number simply because it is one more than 12, which is a popularly used number in many cultures (possibly due to it being a highly composite number). When a group of 13 objects is divided into two, three, four or six equal groups, there is always one leftover object.

  • Some Christian traditions have it that at the Last Supper Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table, and that for this reason 13 is considered to carry a curse of sorts.

  • Fear of 13 has also been linked to that fact that a lunisolar calendar must have 13 months in some years, while the solar Gregorian calendar and lunar Islamic calendar always have 12 months in a year.

Diversion 1:A lunisolar calendar is a calendar whose date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. If the solar year is defined as a tropical year then a lunisolar calendar will give an indication of the season; if it is taken as a sidereal year then the calendar will predict the constellation near which the full moon may occur.

  • Triskaidekaphobia may have also affected the Vikings — it is believed that Loki in the Norse pantheon was the 13th god. More specifically, Loki was believed to have engineered the murder of Baldr, and was the 13th guest to arrive at the funeral.This is perhaps related to the superstition that if thirteen people gather, one of them will die in the following year. This was later Christianized in some traditions into saying that Satan was the 13th angel.

Diversion 2: Baldr (modern Icelandic and Faroese Baldur, Balder is the name in modern Norwegian, Swedish and Danish and sometimes an anglicized form) is, in Norse Mythology, the god of innocence, beauty, joy, purity, and peace, and is Odin's second son. His wife is called Nanna and his son is called Forseti. Baldr had a ship, the largest ever built, named Hringhorni, and a hall, called Breidablik. Phol may have been a German name for Baldr, based on the second Merseburg charm, where the same person seems to be referred to as Phol and Balder.

  • The Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1760 BC) omits 13 in its numbered list.This seems to indicate a superstition existed long before the Christian era.

Diversion 3:The Code of Hammurabi (also known as the Codex Hammurabi and Hammurabi's Code), created ca. 1760 BC (short chronology), is one of the earliest extant sets of laws and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. It was created by Hammurabi. Still earlier collections of laws include the codex of Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (ca. 2050 BC), the Codex of Eshnunna (ca. 1930 BC) and the codex of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1870 BC).
The Code contains an enumeration of crimes and their various punishments as well as settlements for common disputes and guidelines for citizen's conduct. The Code does not provide opportunity for explanation or excuses, though it does imply one's right to present evidence.
The Code was openly displayed for all to see; thus, no man could plead ignorance of the law as an excuse. Few people, however, could read in that era, as literacy was primarily the domain of scribes.

I meant this to post to completely centre around the notions which made 13 an unlucky number but the references were so interesting, especially for a someone like me who loves the old and the obscure that I couldn't help introducing various diversions in the piece.

Some interesting consequences and events of this phobia were

  • Some buildings such as One Canada Square in Canary Wharf(the tallest building in the UK) number their floors so as to skip the thirteenth floor entirely, jumping from the 12th floor to the 14th floor in order to avoid distressing triskaidekaphobics, or the building will have 12th floor and floor 12a or 12b instead. Many hotel/casino megaresorts in Las Vegas also lack a 13th floor. This is often applied to home or hotel room numbers as well, and the same is also true of rows in airplanes, as well as cabins aboard cruise ships.

  • The composer Arnold Schoenberg (ironically born on the 13th) suffered from triskaidekaphobia. He was convinced that he would die aged 76 (because 7+6 = 13). Not only did his premonition come true, he also died on Friday 13 July (another 13: Friday is the sixth day of the week - beginning on Sunday - and July is the seventh month, making 6+7=13) at 11:47 PM - 13 minutes to midnight. Also, adding the numbers 1, 1, 4, and 7 brings up a total of 13.

The above case just gave me the goosebumps, this is definitely a facer for those who scorn at supersitions. But then for the sceptics, I guess they'll just term it as a coincidence. A special thanks to Moi for inspiring this post with her photo of the paint can head scarecrow. Can be seen here


Moi said...

I get the honorary mention!!! yipee!! :DD
and i am one of those skeptics...with due respect to Schoenberg..I still think it was a co-incidence..what's that they say abt Life being stranger than fiction!!
And the tallest bldg in UK bit reminds moi of my first visit to Chandigarh, the city designed by French architect Le Corbusier... is a very well planned city, divided into sectors from 1 to ...i think 47 or 48 except that there's no sector 13 there!!! and then I have this French visitor to the superstition post who says Fri, the 13th is an imp. superstition in France!!!so there!!!Cintrast this with NOIDA, again divided into sectors but with no European designers to its credit ...has a sector 13!!! :)

Moi said...

* Contrast

suramya said...

u always do :), is it a co-incidence, what about all the unexplained phenomenon, the paranormal etc????? wow didn't know that chandigargh too followed that policy, thanks for the info, hmmm we all know whats happening in noida don't we :) :)???????

Moi said...

girl, u sure are not blaming all those children deaths to Sector 13th , are u ???? Those are some of the atrocious crimes that man has to take the blame for..not the sector 13th..and the para-normal....i really find it hard to believe that Friday the 13th is the reason behind any of those occurrences......each one to his/her own ??? :DDD

suramya said...

no no I am not blaming the children death on superstitions, those were the acts of a depraved and crazed mind, I was talking about the noida jinx :), the politcians who visit it before the elections always loses.

Moi said...

ahh!!! guess, serves the politicians right ......superstition or not!!! :)

arpitha said...

nice post su.. 13th friday unlucky for me too.. i end up meeting with atleast a minor accident

666 said...

excellant post. moi would call this flattering but honestly really liked it.

In all of my erudition, the most commonest of origins is the Judas the 13th apostle who betrayed Jesus.

and i am a staunch believer of the paranormal.. so extend my support to your p.o.v in the discussion with moi:-)

Keep posting.

Moi said...

mark 16th the Monday for me, suramya...:D
we r safe and fine....the initial shock's gone...tho' am still shaken a li'l.Thanx for the kind words, dear girl. Will mail you soon.

suramya said...

arpi: I guess thats the only time I can make u ride slowly honey :):)
666: thanks for the support :), i had an inkling u might veer in that direction :):), not everyone is brave enough to choose the number 666
moi: u take care girl,u will be fine, I am glad ur coming back to ur happy self :)

suramya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mandeep said...

I am born on 14th ...Does that make me super lucky ???

suramya said...

nope :), that has no significance, unless u consider it lucky u missed being born on the 13th!!!!!!!!!