As a history nerd, I decided to delve into the history of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day. According to statistics I unearthed, approximately one-tenth of Americans and British consider this the most unlucky of days. Some suffer from a true phobia of Friday the 13th. This is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a term coined by a therapist named Dr. Donald Dossey, who treats people with irrational fears. His term is an offshoot of triskaidekaphobia, which is fear of things associated with the number thirteen. (Let us hope they don’t also have Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, a fear of long words.) Since Friday the thirteenth happens two to three times a year, this can be difficult for those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia.
So many people are afraid of the number thirteen, that some high-rises do not have a 13th floor–it skips from 12 to 14. Airline employees often have to change seat assignments for passengers who fear sitting on the 13th row on a plane. Many people consider it bad luck to have thirteen people gathered in any one place.
Why did this day become so notorious? The number thirteen is considered bad luck by many cultures, for variety of reasons. And Friday was generally known as Hangman’s day in England because that was a common day for executing criminals. Naturally, combining the two–Friday and the unlucky number thirteen–must be terribly unlucky, right? Yet, it goes even deeper.
Some historians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday the 13th. Although if this were true, why do Christians refer to that day as Good Friday and not Bad Friday, or Unlucky Friday? Other Christians believe that thirteen is an unlucky number because Jesus and his twelve disciples were present during the Last Supper, creating a total of thirteen–including Judas who betrayed him. This belief suggests that this was the only time they gathered in one place–which I consider unlikely.
Some researchers believe that the Pope had the Knights Templar arrested and, if you believe rumor, executed, supposedly on Friday the thirteenth. However, that date does not appear to be recorded in any credible sources, and many religious historians believe they were merely disbanded rather than executed.
Friday the thirteenth may actually date further back than Christians. According to Today I Found Out:
Others theorize that Friday being unlucky predated Christianity. The name “Friday” was chosen in honor of the Norse goddess Frigg, also known as Freyja, who was the multitalented goddess of love, beauty, wisdom, war, death, and magic. Teutonic people are thought to have considered the day extremely unlucky, especially for weddings, due in part to the lovely goddess the day was named for. Later, the Christian church attempted to demonize the goddess, so that may or may not be a contributing factor as well.
This is a reason why the fear of Friday the Thirteenth is also called friggatriskaidekaphobia.
People’s beliefs often stem from entertainment. Books, movies, and TV shows often depict terrible misfortunes befalling people on Friday the 13th, dating all the way back to Chaucer. These events were entirely invented by the authors. Even Alfred Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899–some claim that was a Friday but according to three calendars I found here, here, and here, it was, in fact, a Sunday.
From all I researched, there is no measurable rise in the number of accidents or disasters that occur on Friday the 13th. In fact, some hospitals and clinics report a drop in accident-related injuries, probably because people are more careful, or because they stay home to avoid bad luck on such a notorious day.
While I often embrace traditions and holidays, I flout this one. Friday the 13th is a day I’m more likely to walk under a ladder, try to cross the path of a black cat (even pet one if it will let me), and even throw a party.
Oh, and by the way, despite all the Memes floating around social media sites, tonight’s moon will not be full. It will be a “First Quarter” or half-full moon. So don’t add fear of werewolves showing up to your list of fears about Friday the thirteenth.
Image courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=369749