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Unlucky Thirteen

Posted by Bob on February 21, 2000

In Reply to: Unlucky Thirteen posted by ESC on February 21, 2000

: : I had always understood that the expression 'Unlucky Thirteen' derived from the fact that, at the last supper, there were 13 participants (Judas being the 13th). However, I've recently heard that its origins go back even further to the world of the Ancient Egyptians where the way to heaven involved climbing a 13 step ladder. Does anyone have more authoritative information that this?

: I'll bet there are several theories out there. "How Did It Begin?" by R. Brash (Pocket Books, New York, 1966) mentions the Last Supper but also says: "That 13 is unlucky, and especially so at table, is a superstition which also goes back to pre-Christian days. Fear of the figure 13 is found in Norse Mythology. It stems from the fable about a banquet held in Valhalla, to which 12 gods had been invited. But Loki, the spirit of strife and evil, gate crashed, making the number 13 and as a result Balder, the favourite of the gods, was killed." Mr. B. also states, "There is a less superstitious and more rational explanation which says that statistical surveys showed insurance companies that of any group of 13 one person would die within less than 12 months." But I would say that last would depend on what locale, etc., you select the 13 from. Remind me to stay out of groups.

Apropos of nothing: I read some etiquette maven who said the best dinner parties were 6 and 12. Something to do with the dynamics of how people converse around a table.