The Number Thirteen

an Element of

Ill Fortune or Good Fortune?

Friday the 13th

Why is the number thirteen believed to be unlucky? 

The usual answer involves the Christian view that the number reflects the total number seated at the myth of the Last Supper – Jesus and his twelve disciples - an ill-fated gathering which culminated in accusation, betrayal, arrest and trial.

Following this final meal of companionship, the legislative machinery, first refused by the Roman judge and finally entrusted to the Jewish High Priest, was set in motion leading to the crucifixion and death of their Master.  We shall return to this trotted-out reason at the end of this brief survey.

Thirteen should be regarded actually as denoting a unit of totality or completeness - perfection in functionality.

The first apparent observation is that it requires thirteen lunar months to form a complete year.

It is also a geometric fact that if one attempts to form a sphere made from a number of balls of equal size, one may try through numbers up to twelve but even then they will not remain in a spherical shape.  Only when a thirteenth ball of similar size is housed in the centre of this sphere will stability and cohesion be achieved.  Again twelve plus one equals the number that will ensure completeness – the number thirteen.

In the physiology which governs fertilization of the human ovum, we know that normally one spermatozoon is required to produce one foetus. Nevertheless a number of facts have been discovered by advanced microscopy.  There are certain preliminaries that occur to enable that single spermatozoon to gain entrance to the ovum.        

Although 200 and 500 millions of spermatozoa (on average) are deposited on ejaculation, only c. 200 circulate around the outer wall of the ovum until finally a cohort of twelve must line up in geometric order to complete the preliminary conditions - forming a gateway, if you will.  
Then and only then will the ovum and pronucleus permit the one spermatozoon, the thirteenth, to be guided through the arrangement of the twelve and enter the ovum to effect a fait accompli – again thirteen working in perfect functionality.
It is the norm in most hero myths that the hero has a retinue of twelve, making a complete circle of thirteen comrades in fellowship.

Now let us return to the Last Supper and the belief that it was the number thirteen present which facilitated the entry of ill fortune.  The genesis of the catalogue of events leading to the horrendous execution was the.departure of Judas to betray his master and, in so doing, he was totally responsible for breaking the circle of completeness.  This shattering of a perfect unit was the commencement of negative destiny, not the beautiful cohesive companionship of the thirteen during which the celebration of comradeship, the institution of the Eucharist, was established.

Of course the event is reputed to have occurred in the evening of the Thursday, the night before the crucifixion on the Friday, so why do we not link a spuriously unlucky thirteen to the Thursday instead of the clichéd Friday?   There seems to be a confusion of symbolism here.

The horror and despair caused by the execution occurred the following day, the Friday and precursor of the Shabbat, on which day the crucifixion scenario was the culmination of the negative trigger of the Thursday.  Although there was an essence of gross ill fortune on that Friday, the number of the fellowship was already reduced to twelve, giving us no linkage with the number thirteen.  ‘Friday the thirteenth’, I argue, is entirely erroneous.

Caiaphas rightly ensured that these proceedings, the ultimate in the bloody negativity of a barbaric execution, be ended by afternoon and prior to the beginning of the Shabbat of the Friday evening.

So let us give thirteen its true importance as a number of divinely appointed comprehensiveness and flawlessness as indeed the triple Goddess of The Moon, with thirteen lunations per year, has perfect functionality in being Mother to each individual mind with its well ordered human instincts and attribute of psychism as part of the concrete spirit and desire body.  (vide A Taxonomy of the Major Keltic Deities on Kaer Dathyl website.

Similarly, on the physical realm, our satellite the moon maintains a perfect function in the governance of tidal mechanics and the regularity of women's menstrual cycle, all to aid the continuance of human existence.

I suppose one may attempt to argue that the Tarot trump number 13, being Death, is a profoundly unfortunate card.  If, however, one reflects Death being a natural process for every Metaphysical 'fact' or denoting the end of an unfortunate event or scenario in one's life prior to an amelioration of circumstances, then again the number 13 is quite acceptable.

The helemeted figure on horseback, by the same token, may be acknowledged as the Psychopompos - a friendly dramatis persona in most myths and legends who leads each individual soul and spirit to their rest following perhaps a most painful illness as a precursor of the death experience.

Much more could be said relating to this number in the mathematics of sacred geometry and in the field of biology but I leave the reader to research these areas.  Perhaps a sound starter to these studies is the highly readable work "Rhythms of Vision" by Dr. Lawrence Blair (Paladin).

copyright © Gareth Pengwerin Friday 13th May 2011
All rights reserved