Debunking the world’s most notorious superstition
13, 13, 13. Whatever shall become of the infamous number subjected to eternal damnation, for the better part of a millennia, as being unholy and unlucky.
Friday the 13th, 13 being generally unlucky, its undying adverse relation to the stock market crashes, its role in the emergence of the neopagans moon, or the once famous but now somewhat forgotten “13 at a table” myth are just some of the many forms of this legendary pair of digits’ heritage.
It would surprise you to know that an exceeding majority of the hotels in Europe have a missing 13th floor and go directly from the 12th to the 14th floor. Also, some new built airports deliberately skip the 13th gate and there’s even a phobia attributed to it known as “triskaidekaphobia”. Now the question looms large that how did 13 become the worst of all numbers and the most afeared of all myths known to man?
Perhaps the oldest known base of this is found in ancient Norse mythology in form of Baldur (the God of light), son of Frigga (Supreme Goddess) and Odin (God of wisdom, poetry, war and agriculture).
It is said that when Baldur has nightmares suggesting his life is in danger, his mother extracts a promise from all things animate and inanimate, that they will cause him no harm. Baldur’s invincibility provided a new form of entertainment in Valhalla(the home of Odin) located in Asgard (the citadel of the gods). To pass the time, the other gods used Baldur as target practice, honing their warcraft by attacking him with rocks, darts, swords and even battle-axes; all to their unending amusement. All this attention towards Baldur made Loki jealous. He assumed the form of a woman and tricked Frigga into confessing that she did not extract a promise from a bush of mistletoe as it could not possibly harm her son prompting Loki to fashion a spear of mistletoe and presenting it to Hodur (blind God of winter), brother of Baldur. With Loki guiding his arm, Hodur threw the spear at Baldur and killed him. Unlucky 13 enters the frame because there were 12 gods in Valhalla before Loki intruded, making him the unlucky 13th guest.
Hence, modern-day Europe is the major contributor to the uncanny repute of 13. Additionally, it is widely believed that the orders of the disbandment and annihilation of the ‘Knight Templar Order’ or more commonly the ‘Poor-Fellow soldiers of Christ’, consisting of the worlds first elite task force who played an integral part in the crusades, were issued by King Philip of France and Pope Clement fifth on Friday, October 13, 1313.Furthermore it is said that the mystical ‘Congregation of the Witches of the Sabbath’ always consisted of 13 members.
In more recent times, adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Apollo 13 is the only unsuccessful moon mission so far and one of the astronauts was allegedly born on a Friday the 13th. There was even a club in the early nineteenth century devoted to debunking this myth which boasted 5 American presidents amongst its members, two of whom were assassinated publicly.
All these factors with a combination of hysteria and fear of the unknown has led to 13 being the most notorious of any myth known to man existing in seemingly infinite forms. Strangely enough, there is a severe lack of people rebuking the theories related to the apparent unholiness and unluckiness of the number 13, even in this scientific era. Whether you identify yourself as a ‘triskaidekaphobic’ or its opposite ‘triskaidekaphillic’, one thing is clear, 13 will most certainly continue to haunt the minds of superstitious people till the end of time. This is because of it’s lavishly impressive legacy, ever so faint but steadily evolving through time.