Re: Why 13?

Stephanie A. Hall (
24 Jul 1995 16:02:12 GMT

This started with a discussion about the months didn't it? I think I may
be jumping in in the middle but --

13 is a number of magic or at least of interest in a number of cultures.
It is a prime number, and many prime numbers are thought to be magical.

As I recall, early recorded instances of 13 being considered unlucky
were associated with the belief that if you invite 13 people to dinner,
one will die before the year is out. This may be by association with the
Last Supper (Jesus + the disciples = 13) -- or from an even older source
in Norse Mythology. The Norse Gods held a banquet to which 12 were
invited. Loki (#13) was not invited but showed up. A fight broke out and
Baldur was killed. Anyway 13 at dinner has long been thought not to be a
good thing. So possibly it is from this belief, that 13 became
generalized into an unlucky number.

See Charles Panati _Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things_, 1987. Do
remember that any research into the origins of beliefs and customs is
necessarily speculative. Origins, with few exceptions, are very hard to
prove difinitively.


Stephanie A. Hall, Archivist -
Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-8100
Opinions mine