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13 - Triskaidekaphobia

Thirteen is the most unlucky number of all. The United States military skips the number 13 in the consecutive numbering of aircraft. The Navy's F-14 Tomcat fighter would have received the F-13 designation, but it was rejected in the late 1960s by Grumman and/or the Navy for superstitious reasons. Since then, there was an unwritten rule that "-13" designators are always skipped, which eventually led to the omission of C-13, G-13, Q-13 and V-13.

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, which is commonly associated with bad luck in Western culture. The word triskaidekaphobia was constructed : Tris kai deka phobia - from Greek words: tris meaning "3," kai meaning "and," deka meaning "10", and phobia, meaning "fear". Many hotels have no floors labeled 13; rooms in hotels, staterooms and sleepers bearing the number 13 are not taken from choice by the average person. A traveling man arriving late at a hotel was assigned to room 13. "No, you don't," said he, "I'll sleep on the billiard table or office floor first." The clerk with a merry twinkle sent him to 94, and the guest failed to add the figures together. There was no "station 13" on the railroad in the World's Fair Grounds in St. Louis in 1904.

Abnormal fears are evidences or symptoms of an unhealthy psychic state. When these fears assume a precise and systematized form, they are technically called "phobias." To enumerate them were impossible; for a phobia may attach itself to almost any object or idea. Among the more common are "monophobia," fear of being alone; "claustrophobia," fear of enclosed places; "agoraphobia," fear of broad or open places; "ereutophobia" fear of blushing; "mysophobia," fear of dirt or microbes; "siderophobia," fear of railroads , "nosophobia," fear of disease; "triskaidekaphobia," fear of the number 13.

There are few of even the most cultured or strong-minded who are not more or less under the sway of some petty aberglaube, as the Germans so forcibly term the over-belief of superstition. Good omens hardly command the belief which is awarded to portents of ill. Rice and old shoes are thrown after a bride rather in a spirit of fun than with any trust in their efficacy in bringing her good luck ; and horseshoes are used as ornament in much the same spirit, as far as people of average intelligence are concerned. As dread is more potent than hope, so the "unlucky signs" have a wider credence than the lucky ones. The most popular of all such petty superstitions is doubtless the one which condemns the number thirteen as "unlucky."

Gemetria was a science of numbers that involved many mystical attributes of numbers. In the Christian Apocalypse (or Revelation) there are many examples of this use of numbers; one of which refers to Antichrist: Rev. xiii, 18: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six (666)." The words Kaesar Neron (in Jewish letters) figure up 666. Therefore many authorities believed the Emperor Nero to be Antichrist. Gradually the meaning of gemetria was lost. Some said that the word "lateinos," whose Greek letters added up to the figures 666, was to be construed as meaning the Pagan Roman Empire to be Antichrist. Pope Innocent III (in 1215) declared the Saracens to be Antichrist, and Pope Gregory IX (in 1234) called the emperor Frederick II, Antichrist.

Hebrew ancient lore does not reckon the number 13 as unlucky. The 13 cards of each suit of a pack of Tarot cards are sometimes applied to the 13 lunar months for purposes of divination. The Gnostics gems are often inscribed with a 13-lettered Name for God, ABLANA Th ANALBA. This idea did not arise until after the Last Supper of Jesus. Thirteen is an unlucky number because the 13 (Jesus and his twelve disciples) sat at table together just before Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified. Since then the notion of 13 as unlucky has been prevalent among Christians.

The origin of the idea that it is unlucky to sit down at table with thirteen, has been traced back to the old Norse Mythology in which occurs the story of the gods sitting down to a feast in Valhalla where Loki (the embodiment of mischief, hate and cruelty) had intruded, thus making thirteen guests. At this feast Loki caused the death of Baldur the Beautiful, the embodiment of beauty, jov and gladness. Hence arose the great cry throughout the land: "Baldur the Beautiful is dead, is dead!" The speechless dismay which filled all living things at the announcement of the sad news, signifies the gloom of winter.

An accidental company of thirteen at a banquet or at table will cause consternation and uneasiness for not a few, and that even among people whom we do not ordinarily consider superstitious. Many a man and woman would go hungry rather than sit down thirteen at table. In Paris in the 19th century persons called "Quatorziens" (fourteeners) were people of recognized social position, who hold themselves ready to be called upon to make up the fourteenth at dinner parties.

So prevalent indeed is this superstition that it is not yet disavowed, although clubs had been formed in various cities of the world with the express purpose of proving it to be utterly without foundation. Captain William Fowler, a Civil War veteran who had fought in thirteen battles in the war, and in a clubbable age, belonged to thirteen social clubs. He aimed to tempt fate if fate there be; in 1881 in New York, he started a new club. When the Thirteen Club of New York published its second annual report, it showed that it had not lost a single member by death, although for two years its members had dined together on the thirteenth of every month, sitting thirteen at each table. The club, which was formed with thirteen members, now numbers three hundred and thirty-eight, or 2 X 13 X 13. The dues are thirteen cents a month. Everything connected with the club was arranged as far as possible by thirteens.

The publication of the bestselling novel "Friday, the Thirteenth" in 1907 immediately linked unlucky Fridays and unlucky thirteen, which had not previously been linked. Friday was deemed accursed by the early Christians on account of its association with Mylitta or Venus; it was considered particularly unlucky; it was made "hangman's day;" [for centuries the execution of criminals took place upon this day, simply because it was believed to be unlucky] it is considered to be unlucky to start on a journey or begin any undertaking on this day, and when the thirteenth and Friday happen to fall on the same day it is supposed to portend particularly bad luck. Yet, for America at least, Friday should be counted anything but an unlucky day. It was on a Friday that Columbus set sail on his voyage across the ocean, it was on a Friday that he discovered America.

There hadn't seemed to be anything unlucky in the 13 original States nor in the 13 stripes on the flag. The number 13 as thus used is traceable to the custom of many of the newspapers of that day in displaying at their head cuts representing a snake divided into thirteen parts, each bearing the abbreviation of one of the thirteen colonies, with the motto beneath "Join or Die," and the snake was generally represented with thirteen rattles, and it was sometimes depicted on a field of thirteen alternate red and white or red and blue stripes. The snake evidently represented the thirteen colonies turning upon their oppressor. The motto "Join or Die" was the announcement of the Union. Commodore Esek Hopkins about this time or before displayed on his ship a yellow ensign bearing the device of a rattlesnake in the attitude of striking, with the motto, "Don't tread on me."

On larger American coins in the 19th Century the obverse side has the head of the figure of Liberty crowned with an olive branch containing thirteen leaves, and the coin is encircled with thirteen stars. On the reverse side there are thirteen stars encircling the eagles' head; the streamer containing the motto held in the eagle's beak, "E Pluribus Unum," contains thirteen letters; the right talon of the eagle holds an olive branch with thirteen leaves; the left talon of the eagle holds a cluster of thirteen arrows; and the bars on the eagle's shield number thirteen; and the smaller cross bars at the top of the shield also number thirteen, so that the shield contains the number 13 twice. The superstition about the number 13 being unlucky was put lo multiplied tests in the twenty-five cent pieces of the 1890s. On one side of the coin there were no less than ten repetitions of the number 13, including 13 letters in the words "quarter dollar."

Queen Victoria once asked Ambassador Choate if Americans believed 13 to be an unlucky number. "No, your Majesty," he replied, "we do not, for the eternal foundations of our republic were built upon the number 13.' America was discovered on the eve of the 13th day of the month, and the original republic consisted of 13 colonies. The first official stars and stripes adopted June 14, 1777 had 13 stripes and 13 stars. Our national emblem-the American eagle, requires 13 letters to spell it, as does the motto on our seal-"E Pluribus Unum,' and of the great seal of the U. S., Annuit Coeptis."

The first word to pass over the Atlantic cable was sent on the 13th day of the month, and on Friday at that. The silver quarter in your purse is not considered a "hoodoo," yet 13 is written all over it. Above the head of Liberty are 13 stars, the eagle bears an olive branch with 13 leaves in one claw and 13 thunderbolts in the other. On his breast is a shield bearing 13 bars, and from his beak streams a ribbon with our motto containing 13 letters. Each wing has 13 feathers, while as you know it takes 13 letters to spell quarter dollar.

The war of 1776 was called revolutionary and was not unsuccessful because spelled with 13 letters. Our flag was saluted by 13 guns when Washington raised it-yes, and by 13 cheers. The American navy had just 13 vessels at the outset-no more, and the founder of it-John Paul Jones- was not unlucky because of the letters in his name. He was exactly 13 years old when he first came to America, and was the first to carry the 13starred flag to glory and victory and to have it saluted by a foreign power on the 13th day of the month. Perry's great victory on Lake Erie was won on the 13th day of the month, and the Stars and Stripes raised over Sumpter on the 13th.

It would seem that the evil omens attached to the number 13 merely hint at the retribution which overtakes those who profane that which is essentially sacred.

The number of the various pathological fears (phobias) and states of anxiety which usually accompany these fears is legion, but these fears are always abnormal in character and, like the obsessions, are automatic. They may arise gradually, but their more frequent onset is through some emotional shock in a certain place, which later tends to recur when the subject is in an identical place or anticipates being in such a place. So we see that autosuggestion is an important fact in the production of these pathological states of fear. The attacks of fear are accompanied by a mental state of anxiety; sometimes the mind becomes a little cloudy; sometimes there arises a transitory feeling of unreality. These mental accompaniments of fear form true psychasthenic crises. Psychasthenic fears are usually intense, systematized, and may attach themselves to any object or idea.

Stage fright is also a condition of pathological fear. In addition to the mental state of anxiety that accompanies the attack of fear, there are also associated the usual physical accompaniments of fear, such as trembling, pallor, sweating, dryness of the mouth, increased heart action, and occasional disturbances of the stomach and intestines, all of which have already been sufficiently described in the chapter on the emotions. Most of the fears can be traced to an emotional episode which has been conserved in the unconscious; in a few cases, the original episode has become dissociated.

Of all the fears that visit middle age, one of the most frequently encountered is fear of poverty. There are amiable writers who spend much ink in proving that poverty is no evil. Indeed, if we are to believe these optimistic souls, poverty so far from being an ill to be avoided is rather a blessing to be prized. There is a grain of truth at the bottom of their contention. And this grain is that there are evils worse than poverty. The woman who sells her soul for diamonds and thereby places dishonorable ease above honorable poverty, commits, it is agreed, both a sin and a blunder. Yet if poverty, as Juvenal says, makes us ridiculous, if it means dependence, loss of friendship, forfeiture of established position, physical discomfort, suppression of intellectual desires, frustration of worthy ambitions, lack of self-respect and the respect of one's neighbors - and poverty beyond a certain point means all this - then it must be esteemed an evil. A healthy fear of indigence will lead to prudence, industry, thrift, to such measures as will secure one's personal independence. Having done honest work, making the while such provision as is possible for old age or sickness or for those dependent upon us, let us in faith leave the rest to Providence before whom a sparrow's fall is not without regard, and let us comfort ourselves with the witness of ancient piety: "I once was young and now am old; and never yet have I seen the righteous forsaken."

There is one fear which is absolutely universal: it is the fear of death. In the strict sense, one must be human in order to feel it. Originating as a blind instinct unconscious of its end in our animal ancestry, it has deepened and widened with the growth of mind and imagination until to day it seems the master evil of the world. The animal knows pain and fears it: man, alone able to project himself into the future, knows the deep mystery of death, from which he draws back, but into which he must pass.

This in a certain measure is normal; without it the race would soon disappear. It is a mark of our animal nature, and as such is necessary for the preservation of the individual. As animals, then, we rightly shrink from dissolution; but as human beings, called to organize our life on a moral basis, it is our prerogative to subordinate this fear to ethical ends. And as a matter of fact, we know that mighty as is this organic instinct, "there is no passion," as Lord Bacon remarks, "in the mind of man so weak but it mates and masters the fear of death; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when a man hath so many attendants about him that can win the combat for him." Nothing, if we truly realize it, is less real than the grave. We should be no more concerned with the after fate of our discarded bodies than with that of the hair which the hair-cutter has cut off. We do not dislike the interruption of consciousness which we call sleep. No more will we resent that deeper interruption which we call death.

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Page last modified: 30-03-2012 18:45:25 ZULU