In Western superstition, Friday the 13th is considered a bad day. It occurs when the Gregorian calendar’s 13th day of the month falls on a Friday, which happens at least once a year but up to three times in the same year.
The irrational fear of the date has been given a name: paraskevidekatriaphobia. So why are people scared of Friday the 13th? Here is everything you need to know about superstition.
The History of Friday the 13th
While the origins of superstition are unknown, Friday and the number 13 have been considered unlucky in some societies throughout history.
According to History.com, the origins of superstition may be traced back to ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi. Some say that the lack of a 13th law in the Code proves a superstition around the number 13; however, the website argues that the missing number was just a clerical error.
The fear of the date is most likely Christian in origin. Because Jesus was killed on a Friday, the day has been linked with bad luck ever since. For example, the Last Supper, the night before Jesus’ death, including thirteen guests. The disciple who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot, is believed to have been the 13th guest. Similarly, Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. As a result, Friday the 13th was said to be a misfortune in the 19th century.
Furthermore, the belief appears to be linked to the tragedy of the Knights Templar trials. The Knights Templar was a strong religious and military order founded in the 12th century to defend the Holy Land. Unfortunately, they were captured by officials of King Philip IV of France on Friday, October 13, 1307. They were imprisoned on different allegations of unlawful activity, but the actual reason was that the king wanted access to their financial assets. A large number of Templars were later executed.
Many attribute the genesis of the Friday the 13th superstition to a link with the Templars. However, the reality is hazy like many other stories surrounding the Templars and their history.
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Charles Panati traced the notion of the curse back to Norse mythology, when Loki, the god of mischief, gate-crashed a feast in Valhalla, raising the total number of gods present to 13. Loki misled and persuaded the blind god Hodr into shooting his brother Balder, the god of light, gladness, and kindness, thus killing him.
The unlucky aspect of the number “13” stems from a Norse tale about 12 gods attending a supper party in Valhalla. Uninvited deity Loki appeared as the 13th guest. As a result, he misled and persuaded the Blind God Hör to kill Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.
Balder was the god of light, gladness, and kindness. So, when he died, the entire Earth became dark. This symbolized that the whole world was mourning his death. Therefore, due to this horrible and unfortunate event, Norse mythology considers number 13 unlucky.
Friday the 13th in Modern Days
Captain William Fowler (1827-1897), a New Yorker, founded the Thirteen Club in the late 1800s to combat the long-standing stigma associated with the number 13. The club came mainly because of the unwritten rule that no one should have more than 13 guests at a dinner table.
On the 13th day of each month, the company ate dinner in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage. Fowler held from 1863 to 1883. Members would pass beneath a ladder and a banner saying “Morituri te Salutamus,” Latin for “Those of us who are going to die, salute you,” before sitting down for a 13-course supper.
As known, that four former U.S. presidents — Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and Theodore Roosevelt, were a part of this club. They would often join the Thirteen Club’s ranks when feasible.
However, when Thomas William Lawson’s novel “Friday, the Thirteenth” was out in 1907, it let the bad link between Friday and the 13th of the month grow. The story follows a stockbroker who uses date superstitions to cause turmoil on Wall Street and profit from the market.
In modern days, the fear of Friday the 13th has been solidified because of the franchise of the same name. Friday the 13th is a horror film produced in 1980 that introduced the world to a hockey mask-wearing murderer named Jason. It is arguably the most well-known example of popular superstition in pop culture history.
Several sequels followed, along with comic books, novels, video games, merchandising, and a slew of scary Halloween costumes — making Friday the 13th a multi-million dollar franchise.