When we first arrived in the USA, we were surprised by the importance many people gave to the number 13 (thirteen) as a harbinger of bad luck—to be totally avoided. Only later did we learn its origins in the tragic demise of the Knights Templars in the Middle Ages, which we described in a previous article of this novel series. One of the reasons why it did not ring any bells in our conscience is that we did not have that family or cultural imprint in our memory, except for a vague recollection from the printed media.
For the Italians—and henceforth their descendants, us, the Italian Americans—the real dangerous number is 17 (seventeen) for reasons that were initially rather cryptic. We always took it as a given, accepting it as part of our cultural heritage. As a result, we never had any calms in using seat 13, or having an office in an address with 13. For all those that were watching our cavalier attitude towards that number, the certitude that we were not “superstitious” was applauded as a most rational attitude. That was a most specious assessment of our true state of mind as they had been hoodwinked by our camouflaged allegiance to a much, much more ancient belief from our ancestors.
The Romans were firm believers in multiple ceremonies presided by socially-sanctioned augurs that studied the flight of birds and the droppings of chickens to discern events still to come. They also studied the denomination of numbers to find hidden signs to exploit. The Roman denomination of Number 17 is XVII. Priests re-arranged those letters in various combinations, finally finding a similarity with the word VIXIT ( I existed) If we use the Past Tense to identify a status, it implies that the person is already dead. As a result that number was firmly associated with impending harm and even death.
For all its professed Cartesian rationality, our modern society still harbors fears and misgivings that hark back to the Dark Ages and were surreptitiously smuggled into our daily placid routines. Haven’t you noticed that many buildings lack a floor 13? Or that many hotels do not have a floor of suites starting with that fateful number? In a different scale but most noticeably there are countless villages in the Italian peninsula—especially those quaint settlements perched atop the mountains—where you cannot find the number 17 in any of the visible signs of the rustic communities.
Some numerologists claim that Life is all about numbers, good or bad. If we scratch the surface of our sanitized experiences, we might be able to find a significant one. The question is whether we can isolate them with a calm attitude and an open mind.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.