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    Lucky Numbers and Symbols

    Their Meanings Around the World

    Travel to any country in the world, and any region within that country, and you'll probably find superstitions about what is lucky and unlucky. Often descended from religious or spiritual backgrounds, some symbols and numbers just seem to possess a special significance whether you see them in the street, in sport or art. You might even have a lucky number yourself, which you use on even though you know it's a game of chance.

    If we take a purely scientific look at the UK lottery we can see that the number 23 is the most common, with 266 appearances since the draw started in 1994 - 62 times more than 20, the least frequent number.

    Conspiracy theorists, cryptologists and authors such as William S. Burroughs have long held a belief in the 23 Enigma, a theory based on the fact that the number seems to be linked to many events in life such as parents each contributing 23 chromosomes to the foetus. There's even a Jim Carrey film based on the phenomena.

    And the number 7 really does always seem to have a special place in people's hearts; there are seven wonders of the word, seven deadly sins, and the world (with seven continents) was created in seven days. There are many references to the number in popular culture, and a poll of 30,000 people chose the number as their favorite in this Daily Mail piece.

    So if some numbers are more common than others, and luckier than others, then why aren't we all winning? A quick online search for 'System Pick 3' brings up almost 7.5 million results, referring to a strategy for playing the various Pick 3 Lotteries in each American state. These lotteries, costing just 50 cents to enter, are obviously popular, and it appears many strategists think they have the tools to win.

    So the reason that we don't all strike it rich may be this: each number that is lucky in one place might not carry the same luck elsewhere, and may sometimes be downright avoided. We all know about a fear of number 13, but Tetraphobia - a fear of the number four - is also quite common in Asia, in a direct contrast to our appreciation of the four-leafed clover.

    The Asian apprehension may perhaps lie in the similarity between its sound and the Chinese word for death. The number three, in a curiously satisfying way, is similar to the word for birth - and is therefore regarded as lucky. It even extends to any number with the digit 4 in it, so you may often find hotels missing floor numbers 14, 24 and others. And if youre interested, a fear of the number 666 is called Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

    In Russia odd numbers are regarded as lucky, while evens are unlucky and even offensive - to the point where someone buying flowers as a gift should always buy an odd number. And Italians have a terror of the number 17 which may originate in the fact that a rearrangement of XIVI is VIXI, meaning 'my life is over.' Leeds Utd owner Massimo Cellino even used his mistrust of 17 to sack a player in the summer, as reported in the Guardian.

    As well as numbers, animals, signs and natural phenomena all seem to have their own symbolism. In Ancient Egypt scarab beetles were regarded as lucky, as a symbol of the rising sun and protector from evil, and cats were revered; meanwhile, in modern western culture, black cats are unlucky. Money spiders will bring financial happiness, a rabbit's foot is lucky, and cows are sacred. Even the position of some common signs can be relevant. A horseshoe pointing downwards is said to represent the womb, and holds good luck inside. If it points upwards it represents the moon.

    It seems that if some superstitions have survived for thousands of years one would assume they will continue to retain their status, even if there is no basis in fact or experience. But perhaps that's the whole point - we believe what we want to believe because they're our special numbers, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks!

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