It has been brought to my attention that today is Friday the 13th. And many people consider it to be an unlucky day. But why is 13 considered to be unlucky? And what is the deal with Friday?
Let’s first take a look at the number 13. But one cannot talk about the number 13 without talking about the number 12.
Twelve is a number that has special meaning for the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Hebrews. In many cases, the stories intertwine and morph, and it is difficult to determine the origin of a story or myth. The sphynx, for example, is common to both Egyptians and Greek mythology (read Oedipus). Just so you know studying mythology is not an exact science.
We have the 12 Apostles.
From the Bible;
“SIMON (PETER), and ANDREW his brother; JAMES the son of Zebedee, and JOHN his brother; PHILIP and BARTHOLOMEW; THOMAS and MATTHEW the tax collector; JAMES the son of Alphaeus, and THADDAEUS; SIMON THE ZEALOT, and JUDAS ISCARIOT, who betrayed him.”
The Bible makes no listing of the order when all the apostles joined the group. However Judas, because of his betrayal, is considered to be the unlucky one.
Which makes sense. If someone is going to betray you that results in your demise, he would be considered an unlucky and unfortunate friend to have.
We also have the 12 Olympians.
(Note the Greek names come first followed by their Roman equivalents in parenthesis. Remember this list for your next mythology quiz!)
ZEUS (JUPITER/JOVE), HERA (JUNO), POSEIDON (NEPTUNE), HADES (PLUTO), HESTIA (VESTA), ATHENA (MINERVA), ARTEMIS (DIANA), APOLLO (APOLLO), APHRODITE (VENUS), HEPHAESTUS (VULCAN), ARES (MARS), HERMES (MERCURY)
From Egyptian mythology:
HOURS. They are the Egyptian underworld goddesses and there are twelve of them.
We also have the 12 signs of the Zodiac and the 12 months of the year. There is even an actual word to describe the number 12. It is called a dozen. Like a dozen donuts.
But even with all these great groups of 12, it still doesn’t explain why 12 is such a special number for the Ancients, and by extension, us.
Let’s take a look at some other numbers.
The number 1 is prominent in the ancient worlds and us. It describes the existence of god (only one – Hebrew), or at least the top god (Greek, Roman). It also describes the top leader in a political sense as well (Pharaoh, Caesar, President, etc.). And finally, unity (We’re number one! See also E Pluribus Unum).
The number two describes the Sun and the Moon, Day and Night, Male and Female, the Plaintiff and the Defendant, the difference between existence and non-existence, Yes and No, binary logic, and other pairs.
The number three describes a triangle.
Remember Pythagoras’ theorem from High School (A (squared) + B (squared) = C (squared)? It is reported that Pythagoras and his group, were impressed by this property of right triangles that they keep it a secret for many years.
The number three also describes the exact number of points needed to define an object in a three dimensional world.
It is also the number of a trinity. If not God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, then of The Earth, God, and Mankind (Hebrew), or of the three male Greek gods who controlled the major parts of the known world; Apollo (sky), Hades (hades), Poseidon (sea). You can even make up your own lists. But let’s get to the next number, four.
Four is the number of the seasons, the number elements in Egyptian mythology (earth, water, fire, and water), the number of Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the number of the major points of the compass (N, S, E, W), the number of four ways to move (front, back, left, right) and the number of sides of a rectangle and squares (the Greeks loved geometry).
And we still talk about the four corners of the earth.
So what has the numbers 1,2,3,4, have in common with the number 12? They are all factors of twelve. A factor in mathematics is a whole number, when multiplied by another whole number produces another whole number.
Here is the proof:
1 x12 =12
2 x 6 = 12
3 x 4 = 12
If all these numbers can be incorporated into the number, 12, then 12 has even more special meaning than just the factors of 12.
It also means that the 12 number can be divided equally into many whole more numbers, than say, 10. No need for difficult decimals or awkward fractions.
In fact, 12 is so easy to use, it is often used a factor in other whole number. After all, any number that uses 12 as a factor automatically incorporates the factors of 12 as its own.
Which may be at least part of the reason we have 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 360 degrees in a circle, and so on.
Since 13 is one more than this perfect number, and destroys any hope of easy to use factors (it is a prime number), there must be something wrong with it. It is also unwise to tinker with perfection as perfection describes a god.
It’s easy to find examples of the bad, unlucky, and evil things that are associated with the number 13.
Thirteen is the number of a witches’ coven. It is also, if we are to believe some recent books, the same number at a vampire’s coven.
Then there is the case of Judas, who was considered to be the 13th person of Christ’s group. All thirteen were at the Last Supper.
Loki is also the 13th guest at a Norse god banquet (even the Norse mythologies get into this).
The Knights Templar was also destroyed on a Friday the 13th.
The thirteenth card in a Tarot deck is reserved for Death.
In Egyptian mythology there are 13 steps on the ladder that leads to eternity.
In fact, this prejudice is so strong in our society, you might never find a street with this number (when the last time you drove on 13th street?), or a house number (1396 might be OK, but just 13 would not be OK). Hotels may have more than 13 floors, but never a 13th floor. And you can’t roll a 13 in a craps game.
It’s no wonder that the 13 is considered to be unlucky!
But what is exactly the big deal about Friday?
Well, that seems be a more recent invention. Friday is supposed to be the day Christ was crucified.
And just in case you are wondering: fear of Friday the 13th is known as TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA,
PARASKEVIDEKATRIAPHOBIA, and FRIGGATRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA.