Friday, August 13, 2010

13, the Number of the New Order

Today being Friday the 13, there is a lot of folklore and superstition associated with Friday the 13. Today we are experiencing the only one we will have this year. Last year 9 times the 13 fell on a Friday.

Two of the myths that suggest to a lot of people that 13 is a bad luck number is the story from the Christian myth of the Last Supper where Judas was the 13th guest, after the 12 apostles. In Norse mythology, there was also a huge feast of 12 gods going on when the 13th, Loki, arrived.

Judas gave the signal that turned Christ over to the Romans for his execution, while Loki's mischief resulted in the death of Balder, the sun god. Both were catalysts for great change.

The Judas kiss changed everything. Without it, Christ might have continued being an itinerant teacher and healer for who knows how long. Maybe his followers would have been loosely organized with no centralized authority, like Buddhists. But the crucifixion, resurrection and the merging of politics and religion under Constantine, complete with the establishment of the HQ of the church in the lap of the HQ of the Roman Empire changed the whole trajectory of that story.

For those of you with an irreverent sense of humor, check out Tom Robbins' novel, Another Roadside Attraction, where he speculates that the apostles really stole the body and hid it, then told everybody that Christ ascended so that they would have a more powerful story to build their new religion on.

Another religious story that pivots on Friday the 13 is when King Philip of France ordered the arrest of all the Knights Templar on that date, cementing the place of that date in history and kicking off a whole new generation of secret societies and conspiracy theories.

The story of Balder is also a game changer. Frigg, Balder's mother, and Balder both had a prophetic dream of Balder's death. She asked every creature and plant to agree not to hurt him. She neglected to secure a pledge from mistletoe because it seemed insignificant. At the feast, the other gods were playing a game of seeing how impervious Balder was to all assaults. Loki, however, knew about mistletoe and his mistletoe spear killed Balder. Frigg sent a messenger to Hel, the keeper of souls after death, to ask for his release. She agreed to do so if every creature in the world would mourn for him. All agreed, except one, so Hel stipulated that he could only return after Ragnarok, the battle at the end of the world which destroys everything and kills all the old gods, clearing the way for a whole new world to be born, and with new gods to rule it, led by Balder, the Bright and Shining One.

I do not regard 13 or Friday 13 as bad luck.

Some people refuse to travel on Friday 13, more than 80 percent of high-rise buildings lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.

Some numerologists consider 12 a complete number. There are 12 months in a year, 12signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles. In exceeding 12 by 1, the 13 association with bad luck has to do with just being a little beyond completeness.

But remember that there are different ways to do numerology. In simple numerology, the number 13 becomes 4, the number of foundation and order.

13 has as many good connotations as bad.

We do well to remember that before the church changed the calendar to what we use now, we did not have all these months with odd numbered days. We had 13 months that were all equal in length, consisting of a 4 week moon cycle.

Traditional witches formed their covens with a membership of 13, bringing yet another spiritual perspective to the number.

There are 13 stripes on the American flag. In the Great Seal of the United States there are 13 olive leaves (with 13 olives), 13arrows, and 13 stars. These form a triangle over the eagle with the number 13 on each point. On the reverse the pyramid has 13 levels.

A baker's dozen contains 13 items.

Apollo 13 was the only manned spaceflight intended to land on the moon that failed in its mission. However, the courage and ingenuity of the men aboard resulted in all of them returning safely to earth, becoming a story of great inspiration, rebounding from the potentially fatal results of the explosion of an oxygen tank. Its fame has eclipsed other missions in which everything went as planned.

So you see, there is more to suggest that 13 can lay the groundwork for strength and new beginnings as there is to suggest that it is bad luck.

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