13: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition

13: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition

by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
     
 

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13 brings together forgotten history and unknown facts about unlucky 13 to create the compelling story of the rise of a single belief. It is also a book about superstition in general — why people believe what they believe and why they stop believing when they do. 13 draws on history and the range of contemporary superstitions; in so doing, it touches on the

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Overview

13 brings together forgotten history and unknown facts about unlucky 13 to create the compelling story of the rise of a single belief. It is also a book about superstition in general — why people believe what they believe and why they stop believing when they do. 13 draws on history and the range of contemporary superstitions; in so doing, it touches on the fate of mythmaking in general. 13 answers the following questions, among others: When did the 13 superstition begin, and why? Why is Spain divided over whether Tuesday the 13th or Friday the 13th is the traditional unlucky 13th day? What other number superstitions exist in other cultures? Which is the only major hotel in New York City that has a 13th floor? What are the top three conspiracy theories about unlucky 13? What is the Thirteen Club, and why did it count three U.S. presidents among its members?

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
A handy reference source for questions about superstitions, Lachenmeyer's book offers pleasure reading for the curious and for students of history, psychology, religion, and social customs. His work contrasts Western and Eastern traditions and extends to commentary on the Last Supper, calendar reform, hotels, gambling, executions, Wicca, and phobias. Sidebars cite examples of the number 13 in works by Dickens, Dostoevsky, Vonnegut, and Tolstoy. Thorough coverage of historical events, including the burning of Jacques de Molay and the disbanding of the Knights Templar in 1315, particularize the importance of numerology to historic power struggles. A four-page bibliography and five-page index aid the teacher, librarian, student, and casual reader in locating details of number superstitions. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Penguin, Plume, 212p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 12 to adult.
—Mary Ellen Snodgrass
Kirkus Reviews
Do you believe that 13 is an unlucky number? This book may cure you. In the late 19th century, members of the "Thirteen Club" met on Fridays, walking under ladders and breaking mirrors before sitting down to dinner, 13 at a table, to show their contempt for superstition. The belief that 13 at a table is unlucky, argues Lachenmeyer (The Outsider, 1999), was the earliest superstition involving the number. Symbolically connected to the Last Supper, it usually entailed the belief that one of the diners would die within the year. Surprisingly, the evil associations of 13 aren't as old as many believe. The earliest known reference to 13 at a table is by the Earl of Rochester in 1680, and Lachenmeyer finds scant mention of unlucky 13 in folklore of earlier periods. The Norse tale of Baldur, murdered at a gathering of 13 gods, is often cited as a pagan source, but texts preserving the myth are from Christian times and may well have been influenced by the model of the Last Supper. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that the earliest clear reference to Friday the 13th is the title of a novel published in 1907. Lachenmeyer refutes wiccans and neopagans who contend that 13 is a holy number of the old religion, suppressed and slandered by the Catholic Church. In fact, he notes, the church views lucky and unlucky numbers as foolish if not sinful beliefs. A survey of related superstitions provides interesting factoids: Tuesday, not Friday, is the unlucky day in many European countries; the symbolism of 13 on the US dollar bill refers to the 13 colonies; and several proposed calendar reforms offer 13 months, each containing a Friday the 13th. Some amusing lists enliven the presentation. Fast-moving andentertaining.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568583068
Publisher:
Running Press Book Publishers
Publication date:
10/10/2004
Pages:
212
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.94(d)

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