Today is the first Friday the 13th of the year, and it’s got the inter web thingy in a spin, but not everyone thinks the number 13 is unlucky.

Triskaidekaphobia, is the phobia of the number 13, and there are a number of theories behind the cause of this association between thirteen and bad luck, but none of them have been accepted as universally true.

(13 Lucky or Unlucky?

Unlucky 13

The number 13 is considered to be an unlucky number in some countries.

The end of the Mayan calendar’s 13th Baktun is superstitiously feared as a harbinger of the apocalyptic 2012 phenomenon.

Fear of the number 13 has a specifically recognized phobia, Triskaidekaphobia, a word which was coined in 1911. The superstitious sufferers of triskaidekaphobia try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen. As a result, companies and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labeling to avoid the number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples (Thirteenth floor). It’s also considered to be unlucky to have thirteen guests at a table.

Friday the 13th has been considered the unluckiest day of the month for many years, probably compounded by the film series of the same name.

The Hangman’s Noose

13 turns make a traditional hangman’s noose. anything less would not snap a neck.

The Last Supper

At Christ’s last supper, there were thirteen people around the table, counting Christ and the twelve apostles.

The Knights Templar

On Friday the 13th of October, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar.

Full moons

A year which contained 13 full moons instead of 12 posed problems for the monks who were in charge of the calendars. “This was considered a very unfortunate circumstance, especially by the monks who had charge of the calendar of thirteen months for that year, and it upset the regular arrangement of church festivals. For this reason thirteen came to be considered an unlucky number. However, in a typical century, there will be about 37 years which have 13 full moons compared with 63 years with 12 full moons, and typically every third or fourth year would have 13 full moons, making it a reasonably common occurrence, unlikely to tax monks any more than leap years.

A repressed lunar cult

In ancient cultures, the number 13 represented femininity, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The theory is that, as the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar, the number thirteen became anathema.

Lucky 13

The number 13, especially Friday the 13th, has long been considered lucky in Judaism, 13 signifies the age of maturity, a 13 year old Jew is said to be Bar mitzvah. It is also the number of the tribes (11 being the sons of Jacob and two more named after the two sons of Joseph). Some think that the general population’s fear of 13 stems from anti-semitism.

Several successful sports figures have worn the number 13. Ozzie Guillén, manager of the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox, has worn the number throughout his baseball career. Alex Rodriguez began wearing it upon joining the New York Yankees (three, the number he had previously worn, is retired by the Bronx Bombers to honor Babe Ruth). Dan Marino, an American football player known for passing the 2nd most yards in NFL history, wore the number 13. Basketball great Wilt Chamberlain wore the number 13 on his jersey throughout his NBA career. Also, FIBA rules require a player to wear the number in international competitions (only numbers from 4 to 15 could be worn, and as there are 12 players, one must wear 13); Chris Mullin, who wore No. 20 in college and No. 17 in the NBA, wore No. 13 for both (1984 and 1992) of his Olympic appearances.

Shaquille O’Neal wore No. 13 in 1996; Tim Duncan wore No. 13 in 2004. Steve Nash is currently wearing it for the Phoenix Suns. Yao Ming wore it in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Mats Sundin, Pavel Datsyuk, Bill Guerin, and Michael Cammalleri wear 13 in the NHL. One of Iceland’s all time best handball players, Sigurður Sveinsson, wore the number 13 when he played for the national team. In association football, both Gerd Müller and Michael Ballack have favoured the number 13, among others.

In Italy, 13 is also considered to be a lucky number, although in Campania the expression ‘tredici’ (meaning 13) is said when one considers their luck to have turned for the worse.

Some people even have 13 tattooed onto them to represent the lucky number.

I was taught (purely by superstition) to avoid the number 13. However, I tend to be ambivalent, I don’t really believe, but if something bad happens on Friday the 13th – I blame the date.)