So the latest issue of Good Reading marks our 13th birthday. But anyone I’ve mentioned it to brings up the belief that 13 is not a good number. So I decided to see if I could find out why.
Most people recognise this number as possibly being unlucky. Those who have a fear of the number are said to have triskaidekaphobia, a word that originated around the early 1900s. We probably all know the symptoms brought on by the superstition: avoiding important activities on Friday the 13th or asking for another floor of a hotel if we’re initially assigned to the 13th level.
But no-one has conclusively determined how all this superstitious behaviour started. Theories have included the Last Supper, where Jesus and his 12 apostles formed a group of 13, one of whom was Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. Apparently there is a Norse legend in a similar vein, in which 12 gods were enjoying themselves at a banquet when another uninvited god, Loki, turned up to slay one of the gods. This led to the occurrence of a number of natural disasters and the annihilation of everything except two humans. On 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the earrest of the Knights Templar, most of whom were tortured and killed. And if you were a monk creating a calendar for a year with 13 moons instead of 12, well, you can imagine that this was going to be problematic. Traditionally 13 steps would lead up to the gallows where you’d be hanged. And once upon a time it was thought that 13 witches constituted a coven. Even in Formula One racing the number 13 was not used between 1977 and 2013. And don’t forget Apollo 13, which experienced bad luck on its bid to land on the moon.
In the 1880s a group called The Thirteen Club started in the United States. Their aim was to challenge the superstition that 13 people at a table meant that one would die within a year of their meeting. And to debunk the idea, 13 of them would regularly dine together. To push the envelope even further they would have their dinner date on the 13th day of the month. They were very provocative in tempting fate, even spilling salt at the same time. If you arrived late you were fined 13 cents. Five US presidents were members.
The number 13 gets a bad rap. Surely we can look at the glass half full for this number. Apollo 13 made it back. That was really very lucky! A baker’s dozen is also known as a devil’s dozen. But it’s one more than a standard dozen. That’s a bonus in my book. Apparently American singer–songwriter Taylor Swift agrees with me that the number 13 is brimming with luck. She was born on 13 December. Her first album went gold in 13 weeks, she’s had luck when sitting in the 13th row, seat or section at awards evenings, and she even paints the number 13 on her hand when performing so it is constantly with her.
In Egyptian cosmology there are 13 steps on the laddr that leads to eternity. Upon the 13th step it is said that the soul reaches spiritual completion. Sounds good to me. Zeus was counted as the 13th – and the most powerful – god in the pantheon of ancient Greece.
So here we are turning 13, although strictly speaking we are in our 14th year, so maybe it’s all water under the bridge anyway. But I hope you’ll join us in celebrating by visiting us on our Facebook page or by dropping me a line just to say hello and tell me what you’re reading. Thank you for enjoying gr over the last 13 years. Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning of our journey or just joined us last week, you all contribute to this magazine in some way, whether you know it or not. We all wish you another fabulous year of discovering new books and sharing our love of reading.
Here’s to lucky 13. No triskaidekaphobics here.
And Baxter superdog, who would really like to catch that dastardly, sneaky cat down the street. Just the way it sits and flicks its tail while looking away and pretending not to notice …