Friday the 13th – The Devil’s Day, is one of the most feared days of the year. It is a superstition about a day of good or bad luck and derives from Greek words meaning “Friday, thirteen, fear”. Many people consider it as the Devil’s Day. Ever wonder where the Friday the 13th superstition got its start? Or why the number 13 or the day Friday are considered unlucky? Find out all about the history of this widespread and ancient superstition.
Friday the 13th – The Devil’s Day
Friday the 13th occurs when the thirteenth day of a month falls on a Friday, which superstition holds to be a day of bad luck. In the Gregorian calendar, this day occurs at least once, but at most three times a year. Any month’s 13th day will fall on a Friday if the month starts on a Sunday.
The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen)
There is no evidence for a “Friday the 13th” superstition before the 19th century. The earliest known source of such a superstition was in 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini. However, many believe that the superstition had been passed down by oral tradition.
Some theologians hold that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and that the Great Flood began on a Friday. In the past, many Christians would never begin any new project or trip on a Friday, fearing they would be doomed from the start.
Several theories have been proposed about the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition. Here are a few to name…
In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, twelve gods of Olympus, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness.
There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.
A theory by author Charles Panati, one of the leading authorities on the subject of “Origins” maintains that the superstition can be traced back to ancient myth:
The actual origin of the superstition, though, appears also to be a tale in Norse mythology. Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil — a gathering of thirteen — and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as “Witches’ Sabbath”
Life and Death:
Despite whatever terrors the numerical unknown held for their hunter-gatherer ancestors, ancient civilizations weren’t unanimous in their dread of 13. The Chinese regarded the number as lucky, some commentators note, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs.
To the ancient Egyptians, these sources tell us, life was a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in stages — twelve in this life and a thirteenth beyond, thought to be the eternal afterlife. The number 13 therefore symbolized death, not in terms of dust and decay but as a glorious and desirable transformation. Though Egyptian civilization perished, the symbolism conferred on the number 13 by its priesthood survived, we may speculate, only to be corrupted by subsequent cultures who came to associate 13 with a fear of death instead of a reverence for the afterlife.
The Devil’s Dozen:
Although no one can say for sure when and why human beings first associated the number 13 with misfortune, the superstition is assumed to be quite old, and there exist any number of theories — most of which deserve to be treated with a healthy skepticism, please note — purporting to trace its origins to antiquity and beyond.
It has been proposed, for example, that fears surrounding the number 13 are as ancient as the act of counting. Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition.
Which has an edifying ring to it, but one is left wondering: did primitive man not have toes?
The Last Supper:
There’s an ancient story which has been laid down as follows:
Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.
As if to prove the point, the Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests — err, disciples — betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion.
Did I mention the Crucifixion took place on a Friday?
The Knights Templar:
One theory, recently offered up as historical fact in the novel The Da Vinci Code, holds that the stigma came about not as the result of a convergence, but because of a catastrophe, a single historical event that happened nearly 700 years ago. The “catastrophe” was the decimation of the Knights Templar, the legendary order of “warrior monks” formed during the Christian Crusades to combat Islam. Renowned as a fighting force for 200 years, by the 1300s the order had grown so pervasive and powerful it was perceived as a political threat by kings and popes alike and brought down by a church-state conspiracy, as recounted by Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995):
On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force “confessions,” and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake.
The 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, made a connection between the superstition and the Knights Templar, which many believe to be recent and merely a modern-day invention. Since people are so terrified when this day comes by, it is said that $800-900 million dollars of business is lost on every Friday the 13th. It is also said that people are fearful of driving that the rate of accidents on this day of superstition is lower than any other.
It is said that on Friday, April 13, 2029, the asteroid 2004 MN4 is said to make its close encounter with Earth.
What will this day of superstitution bring forth to us in the near future? I guess only time with tell.