One of the most well known superstitions in western history is the one of Friday the 13th. It is said to be the most unlucky date. On this Frightening Fridays we bring you the untold stories associated with Friday the 13th. The fear of the date is the combination of the fear of number 13 and the fear of Fridays, both considered to be “unholy” in the Western culture which is predominantly Christian.
The start of this superstition is traced to the 19th century. Folklorists say that there is actually no written mention of the date before the 19th century. The earliest mention in English was found in the biography of Gioachino Rossini by Henry Sutherland Edwards in 1869. Rossini died on 13th of November which was a Friday. Like many Italians, he considered Fridays as well as the number 13 as unlucky. It is interesting that he died on the date he feared most.
There are several theories that try to explain the origins of Friday the 13th superstition.
Numerologists consider the number 12 as a perfect number. It is a special number. There are twelve months in a year, twelve hours on the clock, twelve Gods on Olympus, there were twelve tribes in Israel, Jesus had twelve apostles, there are twelve Zodiac signs and Muhammad has twelve successors in Shia Islam. The number thirteen was taken as transgressing the completeness of the number twelve. There is also a Norse myth that says that having 13 people on a dinner table will mean the death of one of them.
The myth about Friday goes back to at least the 14th century. It was in The Canterbury Tales and many regarded Fridays as bad days to start journeys or take on new projects.
The day that Jesus Christ was crucified was a Friday. That only adds to its unpopularity.
An author attributes the novel Friday, the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson, for the popularity of the date. The author notes that there doesn’t seem to be any references to it before 1907. In the novel, a broker with questionable morals uses the superstition to create A Wall Street panic.
There are rarely any records of the superstition before the 20th century. This is when it was the most common. The Knights Templar have a connection with the date, which was popularized by Dan Brown in his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and by John J. Robinson in Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry. October 13th 1307 was a Friday, when hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested in France due to financial reasons and to increase the prestige of the throne of Philip IV. But this backfired and made a dent in the historical reputation of the Clement V. The king falsely charged the Knights Templars with heresy, immorality, and abuses on the same day of Clement V’s coronation. The Scruples of the Pope were also compromised by the growing sense that the growing French State might proceed independently and not wait for the church. The experts, however agree that the correlation is relatively recent and a modern day invention.
There are some beliefs that the Friday the 13th being unlucky is linked to the Bible. Judas Iscariot is labeled as the 13th guest in at the Last Supper. As Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus the number is considered unholy.
What do people do?
Many horror parties are celebrated on Fridays that fall on the 13th.
Charities use Friday the 13th to hold fund raisers. The date is celebrated as PD13, a celebration for motorcyclists. The event held at Port Dover in Ontario, Canada is known to attract large crowds.
In Brazil, the date is considered even unluckier if it falls in August. Some say that is due to the fact that Augusto (August) rhymes with Desgosto (Sorrow).
In a lot of Spanish speaking countries, the title of the film “Friday the 13th” was changed to Tuesday the 13th (“Martes 13”). Tuesday on 13th being considered days of bad luck, not Friday 13th.
Lotteries have been won that relate to Friday 13. CNN.com did a story on a couple that won $17 million on the ticket that they bought on a Friday 13, a mirror in their house is also said to have broken on the same day they bought the lottery ticket.
Some people also believe that Friday the 13th is a very lucky day for children to be born on.
Other people refuse to fly on a plane, go to work or even get out of bed on the day. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina says that millions of Americans are scared of the date. People have been reported to have symptoms ranging from just mild anxiety to a nagging sense of doom. This can go as far as the patient having panic attacks on the date.
Bad events in the Bible that occurred on a Friday include the Great Flood, the confusion of languages on Tower of Bable, Jesus Christ’s death and the day Eve tempted Adam with the apple.
Even in Norse mythology 13 is a bad number. When there was a banquet at Valhalla, the 12 Norse Gods were invited. Then Loki, the demigod of mischief entered the party and created chaos in which Balder, one of the good gods dies. All the Gods grieved that day.
In ancient Egypt, the number 13 was considered lucky as they believed that the 13th stage of life was in the afterlife in heaven. When the Egyptian civilization declined, the number was still associated with death but now with a connotation of fear.
The number 13 and black cats, which are also considered unlucky are associated by some people as symbols of femininity. Friday the 13th has been popularized by Hollywood movies like “Friday the 13th” and its sequels. The movies have their own cult following. The Image of a hockey mask is usually associated with the films.
Phobia of the Fear of Friday the 13th
Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the clinical name for the fear of Friday the 13th. “Freya” is the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named and “triskaidekaphobia” means fear of the number 13. Sometimes it is also called “paraskevidekatriaphobia”, from the Greek word for Friday.
Why number 13?
In an effort to organize time, humans created calendars. Today’s dominant system is divides the year into 12 parts called months. Each month of around 30 days and a group of 7 days is called a week.
Many people in the Western world believe that bad things tend to happen on the 13th of the month that is a Friday. Like a lot of beliefs that humans have, this isn’t grounded in reality. There are no scientific studies that could explain why there is a fear of bad things happening on the date. The bad luck that is associated with the date has no explanation, logical or mystical. People believe in this myth without reason or explanation. They fear it just for the sake of it.
The roots of this superstition are deep and the stories associated with it are compelling. The origins do help explain the widespread belief.
Sailors were very superstitious about Fridays. According to some vague legend, which has not been verified, in order to quell the superstition the British Navy commissioned a ship called H.M.S. Friday in the 1800s. The crew was selected on a Friday, the ship was launched on a Friday and the Captain was named James Friday too. The ship’s maiden voyage was on a Friday morning, after which it disappeared forever. Another such event was the flight of Apollo 13, which is entirely factual.
A few historians have linked the Christian distrust of Fridays to the Catholic Church’s suppression of pagan religions and their intolerance of women in power. The Roman calendar had dedicated the day of Friday to Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. When the Norse adopted the calendar they changed the name of the day to Freya, the goddess of love and fertility. Both these depicted women as powerful and strong which posed a threat to a highly patriarchal Christianity. So the theories state that the Christian church vilified the days associated with the goddesses.
This theory may also link the number 13 to it. As Freya would often join a group of 12 witches, making the number 13. This story may have its origin in the Christian Church itself but there is no way to know the exact origins of any folk tales. Another Christian legend says that 13 is unlucky because it signifies the gathering of the devil and the 12 witches.
13 could have been considered pagan because the lunar calendar in most pagan cultures consisted of 13 months. The lunar calendar is considered to correspond to the human menstrual cycle, which connects the number to femininity.
In British tradition, Friday and the number 13 is closely linked to capital punishment. Public hangings were conventionally done on Fridays and the number of steps said to be on the stairs leading to the noose were 13.
Friday the 13th Myths
Someone in your family will die if you cut your hair on Friday the 13th.
A child born on the day would be unlucky for its entire life.
If you happen to be crossed by a funeral on Friday the 13th, you are the next person to die.
Friday the 13th Anecdotes
A New York pastor in an attempt to assuage a couples’ fears offered to marry them for free on the 13th of the month on Friday in 1913.
A small town in Indiana put a bell around all black cats on Friday Oct. 13 1939. Observing that nothing bad was happening, the town did this for the next three years.
The Dow crash of Oct. 13th 1989 was the second largest drop of its time. It was nicknamed Friday-the-13th mini-crash. It doesn’t even count in the top 10 in today’s list of crashes.
So in conclusion, the folklore associated with Friday the 13th does not have much to do with the fear of the date today. The fear is a result of the cognitive bias we have about the date. We learn from a very young age about the date being unlucky and then we start giving significance to all bad things that happen on the day of Friday the 13th. There is no evidence of the date being bad for anyone. But of course if you were in a car crash on the date, spilled your coffee on the date, you will probably associate the date with bad luck. If you think about it though, bad things happen all the time, regardless of the date or day. So if you’re looking for bad things on every Friday the 13th you will find them.