How Did the World Start Dreading Friday the 13th?
Aug 13, 2021   •   Jon Christoffer Obice
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Aug 13, 2021   •   Jon Christoffer Obice
Friday the 13th is a date that we’ve been taught to dread. Maybe your parents used to remind you not to cut your hair and nails, not to eat outside, avoid being reckless, and go home as early as possible on this unluckiest of days. Buying a house, starting the first day on a job, or even marrying on this day is also considered a bad omen. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. That’s how this number is so scorned.
If you still think of it as an unlucky day, we’re not judging. In fact, it’s a global thing that more than 60 million people worldwide have a phobia on this day and it’s called “friggatriskaidekaphobia.”
But why exactly do we believe that Friday the 13th is unlucky? Let’s take a look at Friday the 13th history to find out.
There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.
― Homer, Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles#Friday, day of Frigg, Norse goddess of fertility and love; in Latin, day of Venus; the day of Aphrodite in Greek. pic.twitter.com/viXGd7XK75
— ONASSIS USA (@OnassisUSA) March 2, 2018
Hearing “thank God it’s Friday” is already a relief, right? Before Friday the 13th was considered ominous, Fridays were generally believed to bring good fortune. With a name derived from the Old English phrase which means “day of Frigg,” Friday was actually dedicated to the Frigga, the Norse sky goddess who is associated with love, marriage, and motherhood. Frigga was often conflated with another goddess named Freyja, who was associated with love, fertility, and war and had the power to perform magic and foretell future events.
Meanwhile, the number 13 was regarded as an auspicious number by pre-Christian civilizations because of its link to fertility — there are approximately 13 lunar and menstrual cycles in a calendar year. This is why many ancient artworks related to fertility would feature the number. For example, the Venus of Laussel (a 25,000-year-old carving of a female figure), holds a crescent-shaped horn with 13 notches.
Good morning, it’s Friday 13th 😱 and Left Handers Day. No coincidence , the Latin word for left. In Britain in the Middle Ages, “lefties” were associated with the devil and often accused of the crime of witchcraft, meaning they would get burned at the stake. 😬 pic.twitter.com/mDHZnQ3UNu
— BIPC Hull (Hull Libraries) (@BIPCHull) August 13, 2021
As Christianity became more widespread in the Middle Ages, paganism and the practice of worshipping multiple gods, goddesses, as well as the tradition of celebrating prosperity and fortune on Fridays were gradually considered immoral and sacrilegious. The people who believed in this tradition, particularly women, were tagged as witches. Fridays slowly then earned a bad rap.
Fridays were also considered unlucky because of some unfortunate events that were said to have happened on this day. Biblical events such as the death of Jesus, Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Cain murdering his brother Abel, the fall of the Temple of Solomon, and the day when Noah’s ark felt the wrath of the Great Flood, were said to have happened on Fridays. Jesus was also said to have been crucified on a Friday, which is why we still celebrate Good Friday to this day.
When the influence of Christianity gradually became widespread during the Middle Ages, some Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christians. Frigga was then banished to the mountains and tagged as a witch. Some believed that every Friday, the goddess would meet with 11 witches and one devil, to plot evil for the coming week. This gathering of 13 individuals was believed to have been one of the medieval beginnings of associating bad omen with the number 13.
Another unfortunate event recorded in Norse mythology was the dinner of 12 gods in Valhalla. Loki, the god of mischief, who was not initially invited, gate-crashed this event, making this event a gathering of 13 individuals. Having been offended by his exclusion, Loki tricked the blind god Hodr to kills his brother Balder, the god of light, joy, and goodness, resulting in a commotion.
Britain and Ancient Rome, Friday was called ‘Hangman’s Day’ as hangings took place on this day. Some believe that the First ever #FridayThe13th was in October 1307 King Phillip IV of France arrested some of the Knights Templar for heresy.#History https://t.co/cBm1B9SAVn pic.twitter.com/GOcClpp28y
— The History Project (@HistoryProject_) April 13, 2018
Friday was the day when criminals in Great Britain were hung, thereby giving calling it the “Hangman’s Day.” On the Friday of October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered his men to arrest thousands of people who were associated with the religious military order called the Knights of Templar (now known as the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon). A lot of these people were tortured and executed.
#ThursdayThoughts For the Chinese, 4 is regarded as an unlucky number. This is the same as the number 13 in the western world. 4 is pronounced as “Si” in mandarin which is homophonous to the word 死 (death). The Chinese avoid phone numbers and home addresses with the #Number 4. pic.twitter.com/G4PqWz6dQf
— PingtanChina (@pingtanchina) September 20, 2018
Several cultures and countries have different interpretations as to why the number 13 was considered ominous. In China, adding the number 1 and 3 would result in 4, a number that is believed to bring bad luck because the way it is sounds like the Chinese word for “death“.
An old superstition says that having 13 letters both in your first name and last name is also a bad omen. Some of the individuals who have 13 letters in their names are quite notorious, including German dictator Adolf Hitler, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Ladan.
But if you think the number 13 should be dreaded, despised, and feared, the truth is that at the end of the day, it’s just a number. Some people even gravitate towards it. Take, for example, Taylor Swift, who considers 13 to be her lucky number. She was born on December 13th and turned 13 on Friday the 13th. Her debut album, the self-titled Taylor Swift, turned gold in 13 weeks. And for numerous times when she has won an award, she was seated on either the 13th row, 13th section, or in row M, which is the 13th letter of the alphabet. Maybe 13 isn’t unlucky, after all.
What are your beliefs about Friday the 13th? Share with us your thoughts!
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