The word Triskadekaphiobia means a fear of the number 13. There’s an even longer word out there which means a fear of Friday the 13th. The most obvious reason 13 is considered unlucky is because it is associated with death. Even in ancient Egypt, the 13th stage of life was considered to be death. As a Tarot reader, I know that 13 is the Death card, which symbolizes and end and a new beginning. Traditionally, a condemned man would walk up 13 steps to the gallows. 13 is the next step after a perfect circle. 12 would be that perfect circle. 12 hours on the clock, 12 months in a calendar… 13 is the next step, the one we may not want to take (especially if you’re walking up the steps to the gallow).
So, the superstitions around 13 are primarily linked to Death. And I suppose we can’t forget betrayal as there were 13 conspirators at Julius Caesar’s assassination. Judas Iscariot was the unlucky 13th of Jesus and the apostles. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know who gave Jesus the kiss if death.
But in the end, tragic as it is, death brings about a transformation. For Christians, the real magic happens after death. Maybe we shouldn’t have such a bleak view of our encounter with the Grim Reaper.
It’s interesting that in China, the number 13 is not considered unlucky. But the number 4 is really bad. Numerologically, 4 and 13 are the same (13: 1+3= 4). In Tarot, 4 is the Emperor. A leader or mentor who takes one by the hand and shows you how to make your way in the world. I suppose, in a way, Death is also a mentor or teacher. Though, Death is often a harsh lesson. With Halloween around the corner (one of my favorite seasons), I’ll be writing a bit about Death and Halloween.