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Triskaidekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning "3", kai meaning "and", deka meaning "10" and phobos meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is fear of the number 13 and avoidance to use it; it is a superstition and related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia (from Παρασκευή Paraskevi, Greek for Friday) or friggatriskaidekaphobia (after Frigg, the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named in English).
There is a myth that the earliest reference to thirteen being unlucky or evil is from the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (circa 1780 BCE), where the thirteenth law is omitted. In fact, the original Code of Hammurabi has no numeration. The translation by L.W. King (1910), edited by Richard Hooker, omitted one article:
If the seller have gone to (his) fate (i. e., have died), the purchaser shall recover damages in said case fivefold from the estate of the seller.
Other translations of the Code of Hammurabi, for example the translation by Robert Francis Harper, include the 13th article.
Some Christian traditions have it that at the Last Supper, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table. However, the Bible itself says nothing about the order at which the Apostles sat. Also, the number 13 is not uniformly bad in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For example, the attributes of God (also called the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy) are enumerated in the Torah (Exodus 34:6–7). Some modern Christian churches also use 13 attributes of God in sermons.
Triskaidekaphobia may have also affected the Vikings: It is believed that Loki was the 13th god in the Norse pantheon—more specifically, Loki was believed to have engineered the murder of Balder and was the 13th guest to arrive at the funeral. This is perhaps related to the superstition that if 13 people gather, one of them will die in the following year. Another Norse tradition involves the myth of Norna-Gest: When the uninvited norns showed up at his birthday celebration (thus increasing the number of guests from ten to thirteen), they cursed the infant by magically binding his lifespan to that of a mystic candle they presented to him.
On Friday, October 13, 1307, the arrest of the Knights Templar was ordered by Philip IV of France. While the number 13 was considered unlucky, Friday the 13th was not considered unlucky at the time. The idea that their arrest was related to Friday the 13th was coined early in the 21st century and popularized by the book The DaVinci Code.
In 1881 an influential group of New Yorkers led by US Civil War veteran Captain William Fowler came together to put an end to this and other superstitions. They formed a dinner cabaret club, which they called the Thirteen Club. At the first meeting, on Friday, January 13, 1881, at 8:13 p.m., thirteen people sat down to dine in Room 13 of the venue. The guests walked under a ladder to enter the room and were seated among piles of spilled salt. Many Thirteen Clubs sprang up all over North America for the next 40 years. Their activities were regularly reported in leading newspapers, and their numbers included five future US presidents, from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Thirteen Clubs had various imitators, but they all gradually faded from interest.
The number 13 also has a biblical significance. As the children of Israel approached the promise land after being led out of Egyptian bondage one of the first cites the Israelites had to conquer was Jericho. God instructed the Israel army to march around the walls of Jericho once a day for six days and then march around the walls seven times on the seventh day for a total of 13 trips around the city. After obeying all that God had commanded the circular walls fell down flat outwardly and the city was destroyed. These events are recorded in the 6th book of the bible or Joshua 6:3-4.
Vehicle registration plates in the Republic of Ireland are such that the first two digits represent the year of registration of the vehicle (i.e., 11 is a 2011 registered car, 12 is 2012, and so on). In 2012, there were concerns among members of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) that the prospect of having "13" registered vehicles might discourage motorists from buying new cars due to superstition surrounding the number thirteen, and that car sales and the motor industry (which was already ailing) would suffer as a result. The government, in consultation with SIMI, introduced a system whereby 2013 registered vehicles would have their registration plates age identifier string modified to read "131" for vehicles registered in the first six months of 2013 and "132" for those registered in the latter six months of the year. The main reason for this however, is to increase the number of car sales in the latter months of the year. Even though 70% of new cars are bought during the first four months of the year, some consumers believe that it doesn't accurately reflect the real age of a new car, since cars bought in January will most likely have been manufactured the previous year, while those bought later in the year will be actually made in the same year. This system continued after 2013, with vehicles registered in the first half of 2014 labelled "141" rather than "14".
In some regions 13 is considered a lucky number. For example, 13 is lucky in Italy except in some contexts, such as sitting at the dinner table. Colgate University was started by 13 men with $13 and 13 prayers, so 13 is considered a lucky number. Friday the 13th is the luckiest day at Colgate.
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