Whether it’s Friday 13th or a seat in row 13, there are countless people that associate the number 13 with bad omens, but just when did this tradition begin? Who decided that this number should be unlucky and not one of the other countless numbers?
Historians disagree on the true origins of the widespread hatred of the number, but there are a few clear sources of bad omens being tied to bad events by the number 13. One of the earliest examples is the Last Supper, at which 13 members dined before Jesus died. While this may have been mere coincidence, the trend continued in Norse mythology, once again displaying the dreadful consequences of having 13 diners at a banquet.
The Norse gods had gathered in Valhalla to celebrate with a feast, but Loki, god of mischief, never missed an opportunity to meddle. He convinced the blind god, Hoder, to throw a piece of mistletoe at Balder, a favourite of Odin and the other gods. Due to a recent series of omens in his dreams, Odin had made every being in existence swear an oath to not harm Balder, all except the mistletoe. The beloved god fell and, as the 13th guest of the banquet, Loki became yet another reason to dislike the number 13.
The link between Friday and the number 13 originated in the times of the Knights Templar; on Friday 13th, 1307, King Philip IV had huge numbers of Templars arrested, with each arrest having the same quote read out: “God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom.” The Templars endured specifically catered forms of torture and reconditioning that made them turn their backs on their own faiths.
Ever since these events, whether they supposedly happened in folklore or were a part of history, the number 13 has been unlucky for large portions of the world, but not all, like in China where it is actually lucky!