For years I have used the ‘delay start’ function on my top loader washing machine so that the laundry would be freshly cleaned in the morning for me to hang up on the line before going to work*. It was only the other day though that I thought further about why there wasn’t a thirteen hour delay, as you can delay from two or three hours up to about sixteen. So I got to thinking…
Are the makers of washing machines (in my case Samsung) a little superstitious? Do they follow in the footsteps of hotels (by not having a thirteenth floor) and airplanes (by not having a thirteenth row)?
I tried my best to get evidence to support my thoughts but alas Google did not assist me.
In thinking about this particular superstition, and realising that 2013 would be particularly bad for those suffering from Triskaidekaphobia, I searched for why the number thirteen (and Friday the 13th) is thought to be unlucky.
1. Some Christian traditions have it that at the Last Supper, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the thirteenth to sit at the table.
2. Bearing some similarity to the above, in Norse lore, a banquet of twelve deities was interrupted by the evil god Loki, making thirteen the number of gods present when the nigh-immortal god Balder was killed by an arrow made from mistletoe (his only weakness). His death marked the beginning of Ragnarok, the end of everything.
3. The foiled Gunpowder Plot that threatened 17th Century England’s government consisted of thirteen original conspirators.
4. In numerology, twelve is considered the number of completeness and thirteen was seen as disturbing that balance. Witches were claimed to gather in groups (a coven) of twelve and during such ceremonies, the devil would appear as the thirteenth attendee.
5. On Friday 13 October 1307, Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the (Christian) Knights Templar and seizure of all of their assets based on accusations of various forms of heresy. Some were later tortured and then burned at the stake. This is commonly believed to serve as the origin for the observance of Friday the 13th as an unlucky day, however no record of the date’s importance as a superstitious holiday is believed to exist before the 19th century.
6. Friday the 13th is also theorised to originate from the claim that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday.
7. Adding to Friday’s bad name, one hundred years ago, the British government tried to end the superstition among seamen that setting sail on Fridays was unlucky. A special ship was commissioned and given the name “H.M.S. Friday”. They laid her keel on a Friday, launched her on a Friday, selected her crew on a Friday, and hired a man named Jim Friday to be her captain. To top it off, H.M.S. Friday embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday — and was never seen or heard from again.
8. Traditionally, there used to be 13 steps leading up the gallows.
9. There’s also a legend that a hangman’s noose traditionally contained 13 turns.
10. Apollo 13 is the only unsuccessful moon mission (intended to get men on the moon, anyway) thus far. An oxygen tank exploded and the survival of the astronauts on board was pretty touch-and-go for several days, but they did all come home safely in the end.
11. There’s an old superstition that says if you have 13 letters in your name, you’re bound to have the devil’s luck. Silly but slightly more convincing when you consider that Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all contain 13 letters.
12. Kids officially become teenagers at the age of thirteen. Need I say more…
13. In the late 1800s, there was a group called The Thirteen Club. Their purpose was to debunk the legend that seating 13 people at a table would result in the death of one of them in the year to follow. They met on the 13th of the month and had 13 people to a table, and they purposely spilled salt on the table without throwing it over their shoulders. Members of the club included five U.S. presidents: Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Chester A. Arthur. If you care to know, two of these presidents were shot — one fatally. And, if you’re keeping track, Chester A. Arthur only became president because he was vice when Garfield was assassinated.
The Republic of Ireland have taken their superstition of the number thirteen to a whole new level… The first two digits on their vehicle registration plates represent the year the vehicle was registered (11 for 2011, 12 for 2012, etc). Last year the motor industry society thought that having the “13” on newly registered vehicles might discourage motorists from buying new cars (which would cause car sales to decline). The government then introduced a system where 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.
So maybe my washing machine is trying to tell me not to delay the start by thirteen hours or do any washing on the thirteenth day of the month (especially not on Friday the 13th) in case my clothes shrink or disappear. Makes you think…
*We all know that I’m way too organised and OCD for my own good, so this revelation shouldn’t shock you.