13 Karl Lembke How this came to be: When we were discussing the Great Seal of the United S

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13 Karl Lembke How this came to be: When we were discussing the Great Seal of the United States, and we were noting the number of times the number 13 popped up. When one of the students asked what the significance of the number was, the teacher gave it to that student as a research assignment. I was designated the official backup and resource, in case one was needed. I wrote up my version of the report, just to have on hand at need, and gave a copy to the teacher. She liked it and told me to prepare to give a presentation to the class in the near future. This was presented in class on August 6, 1992. Fortunately, I had made copies, because as it turned out, everyone wanted one. In class not too long ago, we were discussing the Great Seal of the United States, and noting the repeated occurrence of groups of thirteen. This was cited as evidence that Wiccan ideas had played a part in forming the country. This may or may not be the case, and the ideas may have come from Freemasonry rather than Wicca, but there does seem to have been a fascination with the number thirteen. Why is the number thirteen so sacred in Wicca? The number has quite a few correspondences and meanings. First, there are thirteen lunar months in a year, give or take. (A "year and a day" is thirteen canonical months of 28 days, and one day, which works out to 365 days.) Second, by Qabalistic gematria, thirteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew words for love and unity. Love is the force which draws individuals together into one unified whole (e pluribus unum). Third, the thirteenth path in Qabala, the path connecting the spheres of Kether and Tiphareth, is represented by the Hebrew letter gimel, meaning "camel". The camel is an ugly and ungainly beast, and people make fun of it. (Camel: A horse built by a committee.) The beast is also ill-tempered, and spits. With incredible accuracy. But the camel fulfills an essential function in the desert, and quite literally is essential for life among the Bedouins and other nomadic peoples of the desert. Likewise, the United States is founded upon principles that are often awkward and cumbersome. People poke fun at various applications of these principles. ("I don't make up jokes, I just watch the government and report the facts." ■ Will Rogers.) Other applications of these principles are reviled; people complain about "loopholes" and "technicalities". Yet the same "technicalities" that force people to allow, for instance, the American Nazi Party to hold a parade on Israel's Independence Day, protect the right of a group of Witches to worship in a public park. The same "technicalities" that accused criminals use to "get off" protect you and me from the knock on the door at 3 A.M. on trumped up charges (or no charges until and unless they find something in their search). You get the picture. Funny looking, sometimes to the point of ugliness; awkward and cumbersome; vitally essential. In Pythagorean analysis, one way of understanding the meaning of prime numbers (thirteen is the seventh prime, though mathematicians tend not to count one as a prime) is to regard them as transcending by one the composite number immediately preceding them. Thus, thirteen is one greater than twelve, and therefore transcends the concepts inherent in the number twelve. Twelve is often held to represent the completeness of the world. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, representing a balanced structure of aspects. There are twelve solar months in the year, one for each sign. Twelve is the product of four - representing the establishment of a permanent structure, and three - representing the synthesis new truth from two polar opposites. Thus, twelve, the establishment of a structure which reconciles opposites, represents the world■ the realm which is rich enough and large enough to encompass everything under the sun, even if they are opposed to each other. It also represents the world as the realm where entities do not exist in pure states, but must contend with and somehow adjust to the presence of their opposites. Thirteen is the prime which transcends this concept. It contains the resonances of twelve within it, yet there is the unit which remains above and outside the concept. Thirteen is the traditional complement of a coven. This worked out to six working couples and one leader. The leader-plus-twelve unit is a very old tradition. We see it in the story of Jesus and the Disciples, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, even Judge and Jury in American and British law. So thirteen is the number of leadership in the world. Yet, it must be understood that this is not leadership by force. Thirteen is the concept of striking out in a new direction and leading by example. In olden days, among Europeans, it was possible to count as high as twelve without taking off one's shoes. Ten fingers, two feet. Thirteen represented uncharted territory, that which was outside the area made safe and secure. This is one reason why thirteen has been regarded with some trepidation. It is a rare individual who can not only strike out into this uncharted territory, but inspire others to follow, thereby being "a light unto the nations". (Among many "primitive" tribes, one was a leader not by strength of arms, but because people chose to follow. The reason they chose to follow is that they had come, through experience, to recognize the merit of the path their leader chose. Any leader who attempted to exert power for the sake of power was liable to wake up one day to find that "his" tribe had declined to follow him any more; in fact had taken a different path and left him. Sometimes, quite literally, voting with their feet.) Numbers can also be analyzed by reducing them in various ways. The digits can be added, for example. In the case of thirteen, we get 1 + 3 = 4. As has been mentioned, four is a stabilizing number. It represents the addition of structure, the codification, of the relationship which materialized in the number three. Four is the number of the elements and the directions. Four is also the number of the sphere of Chesed in Qabala. Chesed, or Mercy, is the middle sphere on the pillar of force. It was formed from the energy overflowing from Binah, the sphere of restriction, and it receives its energy most directly from Chokmah, the sphere of pure force. Chesed is where the restrictions and forms inherited from Binah are animated and made flexible by the controlled use of force. This is where the letter of the law is animated and ennobled by the spirit of the law. (In the now defunct USSR, and in many other places, the letter of the law is a straight jacket. It describes why one can not do what one wants or needs to do. U.S. law and custom has generally tried to find ways to work inside the law to allow personal freedom. This is the Chesedic interpretation of law.) Chesed also represents what is known as "power with". That is, the sort of power that exists because it is shared. The magical image of Chesed, "a wise and kindly king", is followed not because his followers feel they have to, but because they want to. Rather than "might makes right", Chesed rules by the principles of "right makes might". The digits of a number can also be multiplied together. One times three is three. This is the number which represents the synthesis of opposites to arrive at a new truth. When opposites are combined, they do not cancel out. They react in various ways, and in order to maintain each in the presence of the other, it is necessary to discover the hidden truths held in common by each. This is the sphere whose magical weapon is the cauldron of Cerridwen, from which live things emerge dead, and dead things emerge alive. The hidden unity of life and death is a mystery, upon which meditation will bring riches. Three is also the number of the Goddess and the Christian Trinity. The Qabalistic sphere of Binah represents pure form. It is the kind of form we see in a crystal, where all the atoms are arrayed in a strictly regular order. Interestingly enough, there are no perfect crystals in nature. A perfect crystal would have to be infinite in extent, since an edge would represent a break in the crystal structure. But it is the breaks (the edges and facets) which give a crystal its fire. One of the conflicts which had to be resolved in forming the United States was regarding the correct balance of restriction and authority. The Founding Fathers feared central authority, and wished to take steps to ensure that despotic rule would never take over this new land. As a result, a structure was established which fragmented power, in a controlled way. All power was not to reside with one entity, but to be balanced, as evenly as possible, among all the different entities that comprised government. Thirteen can also be regarded as the sum of various numbers. In Wicca, the five fold salute is actually comprised of eight kisses, since there are two feet, two knees, and two breasts. Eight and five is thirteen. Eight is also important in Wicca, since there are eight paths to the center, eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, and eight ways of raising power in circle. There are five things one must have before one can practice the magical Art. These are: Intention, preparation, invocation, consecration and purification. There are five elements, each given to one point of the pentagram. Five also represents the four elements plus spirit, or the four directions plus the Holy Center. Interestingly enough, we have derived the numbers 4 and 3 from 13. The product of 4 and 3 is 12, which takes us back to the number which 13 transcends. The sum of 3 and 4 is seven, the number which represents the union of pure spirit and matter. Seven is also a mystical number, since it also represents the relationship and synthesis (3) of the laws of matter and energy (4), and the universe (12 = 3 X 4). 13 is the seventh prime. This essay really only touches the surface of the possible ways of analyzing the number 13. There are many other areas to explore in gematria, including examining the multiples of 13 (YHVH, in Hebrew numeration, works out to 26 = 2 X 13). Pythagorean analysis can be extended by examining all the pairs of numbers which add up to 13. We have examined two out of the six here. Temura is a method in the Qabalah by which the letters in a word or phrase are replaced with others according to specific rules. Obviously, changing the letters in a word will change the numerical total of that word. It can be interesting to examine words which yield a value of 13 after temura. Other useful explorations in gematria include examining pairs of words and phrases whose numerical values differ by 13. This is one area where the possibilities are, quite literally, endless.


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