Monday, 12 September 2011


“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.” – Voltaire

Today is Tuesday the 13th, a very unlucky day according to Greek tradition, just as Friday 13th is considered the unlucky day in other cultures. The reason is historical and harks back to events going back centuries. In ancient times, Tuesday was sacred to Mars, the god of war (dies Martis being Tuesday in Latin – “day of Mars”). Mars wasn’t the nicest of gods and he was disliked not only by mortals but also by his fellow gods and goddesses. Hence Tuesday was shunned for initiating projects and for doing anything that required a degree of luck, with people deferring important decisions until later in the week – Friday for example, (dies Veneris being Friday in Latin – “day of Venus”), which was dedicated to the much more genial and well-liked goddess, Venus.

Greeks shun Tuesday as unlucky because of another reason. It was a Tuesday on the 29th May 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. This was a black and ill-starred day and subsequent to this sad and sorry event, people did not celebrate anything on Tuesdays, nor did they receive visitors at home. It re-enforced the ancient tradition of Tuesday considered an unlucky day. However, Tuesday 13th is also considered unlucky in Romania and some areas of Spain and Latin America (called “martes trece” there). The reasoning behind the unluckiness of Tuesday 13th in this later group of countries is linked to the belief that the biblical confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel ostensibly happened on a Tuesday, the 13th!

The number 13 has been considered unlucky for millennia. Ancient Persians believed the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years, at the end of which the sky and earth collapsed in chaos. Therefore, the number 13 is identified with chaos and is the reason why Persians leave their houses to avoid bad luck on the thirteenth day of the Persian Calendar, a tradition called Sizdah Bedar.

In Christian tradition the people sitting at the Last Supper were 13, with Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus being the dreaded unlucky one identified with this number. The number 13 is a prime number, which comes after the “beautiful” number 12. Twelve is considered perfect in many ways as it can be divided evenly by 2, 3, 4 and 6. It has been widely used in “sacred” groupings, for example: 12 months of the year, 12 disciples of Christ, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 zodiac signs, 12 labours of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 days of Christmas, 12 Great Feasts of Orthodoxy, 12 Imams – legitimate successors of the prophet Muhammad, 12 adepts in a Wiccan coven, 12 Jyotirlingas (manifestations of God Shiva) in Hindu Shaivism, etc. it is clear that the extra number added to the perfect twelve mars the total with 13 being considered inauspicious (keep in mind that Tarot card number 13 is Death!).

Superstition is an irrational thing, although the human mind may invent a thousand “reasonable” explanations to explicate common superstitions. Some people even today are extremely superstitious and will go to great lengths in order to avoid whatever the superstition they believe in dictates. Others are oblivious to such nonsense and will ignore or be completely unaware of any such unfounded beliefs. Others still, will purposefully go out of their way to flout superstitions, which demonstrates perhaps another type of unreasonable belief…


  1. how interesting all this! i knew of course about Constantinople and a bit of the 12 number. but only a little bit to be honest. there is something really amazing to how everything conects. religion. old and new. different religions with eachother. somehow knoweledge was going around in a way we`ll never find out... by the way i am a bit superstitious... i don`t like going under laders or loose salt on the floor...

  2. Wowww Nic!!! This is very interesting.... Never realised so many things were relevant to 12 and that adding one number to it disrupted its harmony, so unlucky 13!!!!

  3. rotfl
    good pic of lucky bunny without foot

  4. Fascinating post! I find myself being superstitious sometimes even though I am usually quite rational...

  5. I didn't know that it was a Tuesday in 1453 ... very, very interesting ... also I really *love* this quote by Voltaire ^^