Numbers are used to define personality types in Numerology and the Enneagram. Experts in Arithmancy and Gematria use numbers to predict the future or acquire otherwise unobtainable information. But, despite all the positive symbology of numbers, they can be a source of superstition and fear.
The easiest of these to notice in modern times is triskaidekaphobia, aka fear of the number 13. The term comes from Greek, where tris=three, kai=and, deka=ten, plus phobia, a term for fear.
What is it all about, you ask?
Some associate the number 13 with bad luck because of the last supper of Jesus. It’s said that Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the 13th person to sit at the table, and therefore the number 13 is cursed. Even in modern cities, some skyscrapers have no 13th floor.
The Persians believed that the signs of the Zodiac governed both the months of the year and 1,000 year periods. They said that twelve thousand years of order would be followed by a thousand years of chaos, in which none of the signs could exert their virtues. Some traditional folks prefer to stay home on the 13th day of the lunar calendar. Further east the 13th day of the Hindu lunar month is considered very auspicious, and in ancient times the 13th day of the Moon was prescribed for magical rituals.
The Norsemen believed that Loki was 13th in their hierarchy of gods, and was the 13th attendee to arrive at the funeral of Baldur, whose death he engineered. There’s a northern European superstition that if 14 people gather, one of them will die before a year has passed.
On The Contrary….
Thirteen is not always considered a cursed number. For instance, the Torah of the Hebrews speaks of the 13 attributes of mercy, or the 13 mercies of God. In many cultures, 13 is a lucky number! :)
Back in 1881, a group of influential business and military types formed a skeptics society called the Thirteen Club. They would get together on Friday the 13th and try to break every superstition. Nobody ever died from their antics, and their membership included five men who ended up as President of the US. Maybe they picked up on the lucky “vibration” of 13 that so many others avoid.
Paraskavedekatriaphobia…..say what?!… is the fear of Friday the 13th. This is a superstition of uncertain origin – some blame it on the Thirteen club because their first meeting was on a Friday the 13th. But the superstition became popular in the early 20th century.
The Origin of Friday the 13th
One theory of its origin is that the Goddess Frigga, associated with Fridays, convened a group consisting of 11 other witches and the Devil on Friday the 13th, and made all sorts of mayhem. Obviously, this is probably a story created by the church to undermine indigenous beliefs; the Devil is not part of the old faith.
There is a story that King Philip of France, out of jealously over the rising popularity of the Knights Templar, ordered their mass arrest on Friday 13th of 1307. Guess what – this story was basically unknown before the publication of the “DaVinci Code.”
One historian noted that literary references to Friday the 13th were nonexistent before 1907, the year of publication of the novel “Friday the 13th” by Thomas Lawson. It told of an unscrupulous stockbroker who used superstition to panic the markets to his advantage. Almost immediately after it became a best seller, this day became known as a day of bad luck. Incidentally, the schooner belonging to the author sank – you guessed it – on Friday the 13th.
In Romanian, Greek and Spanish cultures, Tuesday the 13th is considered unlucky, which makes a little more sense, because Tuesday traditionally belongs to the angry red planet, Mars, while Friday belongs to peaceful Venus.
The Number 4 & 17
In the west, we ignore the “evil” of the number 4. In some dialects of the Chinese language, the words for “four” and “die” sound so similar that numbers like 44 or 14 sound like curses or threats to those who speak a different one. In some cities you won’t find a 4th street or even a 4th floor in a building. Phonetics are important in Chinese divination – fish are symbols of prosperity because their words sound alike. Back to numbers, they recommend that the number of fish in a tank should equal the number of occupants of the home.
The fear of four is called Tetraphobia, and it is so common in Asia that Nokia does not produce cellphones with 4 as the lead number. In Taiwan there are no 4’s connected with hospitals. At one time, there was no number 4 bus in Beijing.
In Italy 17 is the bad luck number, because of the way it is written in Roman numerals. XVII is an anagram VIXI or “I have lived”, which sounds the same as “I am dead.”
Have No Fear!
The superstitions about numbers are often defeated by simple logic – for instance, if there is no button in an elevator for the 13th floor, there certainly is a 13th flight in a 20 story building. But to the superstitious, logical dissonance does not uproot the fear of numbers. As we understand more about ourselves and how our personal and collective consciousness shapes the universe that we experience, these fears will eventually go away.
Your Professional Numerologist,