Unlucky #13 – Superstitions

Beware of the globalisation of superstition, says John Grimond

Twenty-thirteen: for most people, another year, much like 2011 or 2012, nothing special. Okay, the United Nations says it will be the International Year of Water Co-operation and also the International Year of Quinoa. If that doesn’t seem special enough (quinoa is, after all, only a vegetable), maybe this will: 2013 will be the first year since 1987 to have all digits different from one another. Interestingly (to some people), 20 and 13 add up to 33, which numerologists—crackpots who assign mystical significance to certain numbers—consider a “highly charged master number”, full of meaning. But not all crackpots are numerologists. Some are triskaidekaphobiacs, and for them the prospect of 2013 is not so much interesting as terrifying.

Yes, triskaidekaphobia is a long word meaning fear of 13. Lots of people seem to have it. The Romans were spooked by 13. So were the Vikings. To this day some people will not sit down 13 to dinner; a teddy bear may have to be introduced to push the total up to 14. Some will not buy a house numbered 13, embark on a ship setting sail on the 13th day of the month (especially if it is a Friday) or sleep in a hotel room on the 13th floor. Some tall buildings, notably in China and other parts of Asia, appear not to have 13 storeys at all: their numbers go from 12 to 14. Since triskaidekaphobiacs are irrational, they may really believe their hotel has no 13th floor and sleep peacefully on the one labelled 14. Thirteen, they may protest, is really just a name, not a number.


Categories: Life Cycles