Today was Friday the Thirteenth.
A day that is deemed to be very unlucky to many people. And the superstition surrounding this day are anything but new; beliefs about the number thirteen can be traced back to 1700 B.C. Yet superstitions about Friday the Thirteenth cannot be found prior to the 19th century.
The first English reference ever recorded dates back to Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini: “Rossini was
surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky.”
Then, there is Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, author of Thirteen: the story of the world’s most popular superstition. He suggests in his book that because references to Friday the 13th cannot be found before 1907, the superstition’s popularity must have come from thepublication of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel, Friday, the Thirteenth. In the novel, a stock broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on Friday the 13th.
And Wall Street itself fosters a decades-long fear of Friday the 13th. On Friday, October 13, 1989, Wall Street saw the second largest drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history, at that time. The day was nicknamed the Friday-the-13th mini-crash.
Fear of the number and the day
Many people fear Friday the Thirteenth, refusing to do anything but stay in all day so as to avoid any potential bad luck by venturing outdoors. Several others fear the number itself, regardless of the situation or what day of the week it falls on.
Fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia. Fear of Friday the Thirteenth actually has two names. One is friggatriskaidekaphobia, from Frigga-the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named, combined with the above-named term for fear of the number thirteen itself.
Fear of Friday the Thirteenth also goes by paraskevidekatriaphobia, from Paraskevi-Greek for Friday, plus dekatreis-Greek for thirteen.
But why the cause for all of this panic? I mean, why is the number thirteen considered an unlucky number, and why is Friday the Thirteenth considered an unlucky day?
For one thing, 12 is seen as a round, complete number, whereas 13…not so much. But consider the frequency of twelve: 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours on the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Decedents of Muhammad Imams, and 12 Apostles of Jesus.
That last one is one of the many theories about why the number thirteen is thought to be unlucky It is linked to the Last Supper, where Jesus dined with twelve Apostles, for a total number of thirteen. And one of those Apostles, Judas, ended up betraying Jesus.
Also, in Norse mythology, Odin and eleven of his closest friends are dining together. These twelve people, however, are unexpectedly joined by the 13th person, who happens to be Loki, the god of evil and turmoil.
Both of these theories also harbor the myth that if any group of thirteen dine together, that one of these people will die within a year.
And remember back in 2012, when a lot of people thought that the world was going to end on December 21st? This was based on the end of the Mayan calendar’s thirteenth month, Baktun.
Now, as for Friday the Thirteenth, theories abound for this, too.
Friday in and of itself has been considered an unlucky day.
Friday is the day that Jesus was crucified.
In Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Friday is considered as a day of misfortune and ill luck.
And the order to arrest the Knights Templar was placed by King Phillip IV of France, on Friday, October 13, 1307. The majority of the Knights were tortured and killed. This event was also alluded to in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
Publications of the 17th century, documented Friday the 13th as an unlucky day to take a trip, start a new project, or have a major life-changing event, such a birth, marriage, etc.
Frequency of Friday the 13th
Any month that starts on a Friday, will contain a Friday the 13th.
There is at least one Friday the 13th every calendar year.
Omissions of the number 13
The fear and superstition surrounding this number is not only limited to people. But many companies also, whether based on their own anxieties, or those of potential clients and customers, omit the number thirteen.
Many hotels will not have a room 13, 113, 213, and so on. So, for example, the rooms will go straight from 12 to 14.
Some hospitals don’t have a room 13.
On this note, many multilevel buildings that contain more than twelve floors, skip floor number thirteen, and go right on to floor fourteen.
Several cities do not have 13th Street, Avenue, etc.
Many airports do not have a gate 13.
And the ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, a collection of 282 laws enacted by the Babylonian King Hammurabi, who was in power from 1792-1750 B.C. Of those 282 laws, number 13 is omitted. The Code is inscribed on a seven-foot-tall stele that is now at the Louvre.
The Thirteen Club
Organized in 1881, this club was begun in order to improve and protect the number’s reputation. There were 13 members, and the first meeting consisted of the members walking under ladders and spilling salt. Two things that are considered to cause bad luck, no matter what day they occur on. It is, however, said that the bad luck can be reversed in these two cases. If you walk under a ladder, and then, immediately walk under it again, but backwards, that should stop the bad luck. And if you spill some salt, pick up some of it, and throw it over your left shoulder, you stop the bad luck from occurring.
Whether you are supremely superstitious about Friday the 13th, or you think that the entire idea is nonsense, it is something that has been rooted into our collective human cultures now for thousands of years.