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Lucky 13 Tattoos - Is the Number Thirteen Lucky or Unlucky?

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Lucky 13 Tattoos - Is the Number Thirteen Lucky or Unlucky?

Tattoo by Manneken - Tumi Tattoos - Gent, Belgium

Collector: David Bostijn
Why do so many people get Lucky 13 tattoos? The number thirteen has long been considered unlucky and sometimes even dangerous. Friday the 13th is credited with being the unluckiest day of the year, a 13th floor doesn’t even exist in most high-rise buildings, and having thirteen dinner guests at one table is said to have fateful results. The tarot card bearing the number thirteen (Roman numerals XIII) symbolizes death. Over the years, horror writers have banked on peoples’ superstitious beliefs of the number thirteen and have probably stirred the fear that many now associate with it.

How did the number become so stigmatic in the first place? Several sources note different theories, some dating back to early times and ancient mythology. According to Nordic legend, Loki (the Norse god of mischief) crashed a party of the gods he wasn’t invited to. Since he was the 13th attendee and, through trickery, caused the death of Balder the Good, it was determined that the number thirteen was evil. In biblical history, twelve disciples joined Jesus for the Last Supper. Judas, the last and thirteenth member to sit at the table, betrayed Jesus which eventually led to his crucifixion.

"I don't know if thirteen is lucky or not. I've been tattooing for thirteen years and my dog is thirteen, so I guess that's good.....unless I lose my job and my dog dies this year." - Kym T.

It’s no wonder some people felt that Apollo 13 was a doomed mission from the start. But do we consider the number unlucky because the ship crashed, or lucky because the crew survived? I guess it depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist!

“I actually like the number 13. It’s always been rather lucky for me. Several things have happened to me on Friday the 13th that were really lucky, and I even had a friend get married on Friday the 13th. She’s been happily married for 27 years.” – Karen P.

There are some cultures, however, that appreciate the number thirteen or even revere it as being a symbol of life, fertility, and good fortune. Judaism celebrates a young man’s coming of age when he turns thirteen. In Punjabi, the word thirteen is pronounced tera, which also means “yours,” which is a devotional pronouncement to God.

Another group of people who widely holds the number thirteen in high esteem is the body art community. You can see the evidence while flipping through the pages of any tattoo magazine or viewing the many attendees at a tattoo convention. It shows up in the form of tattoo art over and over again, almost always as a positive symbol, sometimes by itself or accompanied by other “lucky” symbols. It stems from the days of traditional tattooing and still remains one of, if not the, most popular numbers to have inked on one’s body. So, why do tattoo enthusiasts embrace what others fear?

We embrace a lot of things that others fear – including tattoos themselves. We find beauty in what others perceive as mutilation. So, maybe it’s not such a stretch that we would also see fortune in what others see as unlucky. Or maybe we’re just all a bunch of optimists! Whether you consider it a Baker’s Dozen or the Devil’s Dozen is up to you.

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