Cultures have different ideas about lucky and unlucky numbers. In western culture, none is more prominent than the number 13. There have been multiple theories as to why, but we do know that many people and places avoid using the number 13 where possible. Gamblers avoid it where possible and feel that it is a bad omen to encounter it while gambling.
Why is 13 Considered Unlucky?
As mentioned above, there are multiple explanations for why western culture considers the number 13 unlucky.
- The Judas Theory: Many attribute the bad fortune of the number 13 to Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ. Judas was the 13th person at the table of The Last Supper. Judas’ life after the betrayal was one of tragedy and this ill fortune has possibly made 13 an unlucky number.
- The Knights Templar Theory: Friday 13th (considered an unlucky date) in the year 1307 was one of ill fortune for the former knights order. Blamed for the loss of the Holy Land to Saracens, they were arrested on the orders of the French king. Most of the top hierarchy were tortured and killed during the trials.
- The Lunar Calendar Problem Theory: Our moon passes through phases that last 28 days. That means, in some years, there is a 13th full moon. When people relied much more heavily on the lunar and solar phases (for sowing and harvest) this proved a headache for those in charge of deciding optimal season. This 13th full moon then, was seen as problematic
- The “Repressing the Sacred Feminine” Theory: To some pre-Christian cultures of ancient Europe, 13 became synonymous with femininity. It is known that the Abrahamic religions used many methods to stamp out the religions of old. Syncretism was one (adopting those beliefs and repackaging them). Deliberate suppression was another. This could explain the demonisation of the number 13.
- The Loki Theory: In a remarkably similar story to The Last Supper, it is known that Norse mythology had 12 primary gods at a banquet. A 13th gatecrashed this party. That god was Loki, the trickster god. At the banquet, he killed one of the others – an act that led to Ragnarok.
Examples of Unlucky 13
This is a selection of the most intriguing examples of 13 being unlucky. Whatever the actual reason, superstitious gamblers avoid it as much as possible. We know that gamblers are amongst the most superstitious of all, right up there with professional sports stars. Some of these following examples of Unlucky 13 could be indicative that the number is indeed bad news, or it could be mere confirmation bias – you decide.
- The Apollo 13 mission was the only mission cancelled while in progress. The crew experienced technical fault and, instead of landing on Earth’s Moon, managed a fly-by and slingshot to catapult it back home
- For executions, gallows traditionally had 13 steps leading to the platform. Whether this was a deliberate attempt to unnerve the condemned or that the legend was born out of this fact, nobody is quite sure
- Friday 13th reared its ugly head in 1972. In two separate incidents on opposite sides of the world, two planes crashed. 174 people died in a Soviet liner when it crashed just after take-off. In the more famous incident, a group of Uruguayans crashed in the Andes. Their story was made into a film in the 1990s called Alive