Monday, February 9, 2009

Thing a week 13 - 13

What other subject could I discuss in thing a week 13 other than 13. I can think of few other examples in the modern western culture where rationality and superstition collide on such a monumentally ingrained level. Society has attached such a stigma to this innocent and innocuous number as to hardly be believed. Developers will build streets without a house number thirteen because they know it wont sell. Hotels often don’t have a room thirteen for the same reason and it’s not uncommon for high rise buildings to skip the thirteenth floor. There’s even a recognised phobia of the number. No, honestly there is. It’s called triskaidekaphobia. Try slipping that one into conversation.

But why? It’s only an arbitrary number. If you start at one and count upwards you’ll eventually get there as surely as you’ll reach nine, forty two or six hundred and sixty six (all of which are also numbers with a perceived psychological significance). Don’t get me wrong. Thirteen is quite special in its own right. It is a prime, one of those special numbers that Pythagorus (the triangle guy from maths at school) and his insane followers worshipped so much. It’s the first year of teenage life and as such a major step to adulthood. It’s the number of the original colonies forming the United States. There’s any number (no pun) of good things about thirteen so why is it demonised.

As usual with traditions they follow the Christians like to take credit and claim they started it. In this case it’s down to the rumour that Judas was the thirteenth to take his seat at the last supper or that thirteen is one more than the number of disciples Jesus chose and as usual they ignore things they don’t like, such as evidence that thirteen had significance in mythology long before them, or contradictions like the fact that in Italy, which most people would agree is quite a Christian country what with the Pope and all that, thirteen is widely considered a lucky number.

Maybe it’s because there’s not quite thirteen months in a year. There are a little under twelve and a half lunar months in a year. Many ancient societies were built around a lunar calendar and the discordance of twelve months and an extra bit could have been irksome I suppose.

In short I don’t know why it gets picked on and nothing’s been resolved in this little blog. Which is as it should be. I’d rather start a discussion than end one any week of the year, especially the thirteenth.

1 comment:

  1. I used to live on a street where there was no house number 13 - the numbering went 12,12A then 14. Some local authorities now have a policy of not allowing a house number 13 on new developments. Can't help you out on why 13 gets picked on but can throw in the rather nice term "Triskaidekaphobia" - the irrational fear of the number 13. That's one for the local pub quiz!