In Real History

Why is Friday 13th Unlucky, Anyway? Origins of the Superstition…

why is friday 13th unlucky
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As today is Friday 13th, I’ve put aside rations in the event of an alien invasion, am avoiding leaving my room as much as possible, and have shut off all and any electrical devices. Because you never know, right? But jokes aside, why is Friday 13th unlucky anyway?

Some airlines and residential buildings go as far as to remove the number 13 from their businesses because of the sheer volume of people who refuse to live at or sit in a number ’13’ seat. Plus, an entire film franchise of Horror Films has sprung up regarding ‘Friday 13th’ (with the films regularly being released on said day).

Oh, and that’s not to mention that people do anything to avoid flying on a Friday and are less likely to spend money on non-essential products. What I’m trying to get at here, is that superstition surrounding Friday 13th is pretty ingrained in our culture!

Fear of Friday 13th even has its own name paraskavedekatriaphobia. 

The Number 13 is, well, just bad…

Since biblical times, the number 13 has been regarded as superstitious. In many religions, 12 is the number of completeness. On Mount Olympus, in Greek Mythology there are 12 major gods. Today, there are 12 months in the calendar year, and so on. As 13 is the next number after 12, and so seen as a number of non-completeness.

In Norse Legend, Loki was the 13th mythological demigod and bringer of evil and misfortune. In Christianity, 13 was the number of those present at the last supper; with Judas being the 13th guest and the man responsible for Jesus’ ultimate execution and death.

Furthermore, in many cultures, 13 is associated with femininity and the lunar cycle (female menstruation). As there are 13 lunar cycles in a year, many goddesses have been associated with the number 13 throughout history. In an ultimate act of sexism, 13 has gone on to become associated with misfortune by misogynistic men. On another note, you also need 13 witches to form a coven…

why is friday 13th unluckyPersonification of death holding a scythe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Friday is the worst day of the week 

I think we can all agree that Friday is the toughest day of the week! As the 5th day in the office for most people, it’s a hard slog. Well, throughout history, Friday has been associated as the unluckiest day of the week as well. Yet again, Friday finds its associations with bad luck in the bible. After all, in the bible, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

why is friday 13th unluckyThe last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Jesus and his twelve disciples have been painted sat around the table, eating what is to be Jesus’ Las Supper. In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown speculates that the figure to Jesus’ left is not a disciple but Mary Magdalene. 

So why is Friday 13th Unlucky?

Well, when you add Friday and the number 13 together, you just get overall bad luck and general badness.

But wait, what about Tuesday 13th?

While Friday 13th may be seen as English speaking countries across the World, the same cannot be said for Spain. In Spain, it’s actually seen as lucky is a baby is born on Friday 13th. However, in Hic and Greek culture, Tuesday the 13th is best avoided if you can help it.

In Greek History, the fall of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) occurred on Tuesday 13th, 1204, and then again to the Ottomans. on another Tuesday 13th. I’d say if the heart of your empire fell twice, both times on a Tuesday 13th, then you’d probably feel that Tuesday 13th was kind of pretty unlucky.

Oh and the fact that in Ancient Greek, Tuesday was the third day of the is likely where we get the saying bad luck come in threes” from.

fall of constantinopleA depiction of the fall of Constantinople Constantine Palaiologos, 1932. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Er.. and then there’s Friday 17th?

So, you’re already avoiding Tuesday the 13th and Friday 13th. All good now? Well, no! Simply put it’s not the 13th that’s seen as unlucky in Italian culture but Friday 17th. Popular legend says that the tradition of fearing the 17th traces its roots all the way back to the Roman empire. When writing out 17 in roman numerals, you get XVII. Shift the letters a bit and you get Vixi in Latin (I have lived). Like, living is no longer an option and death is in the air. Yeah, super spooky.

Is there any truth to the matter? Should we be wary of Friday 13th?

So now we’ve established why Friday 13th is unlucky, should we be worried? Is there any truth to it? Well, maybe, but probably only because people are making it so. Your house is likelier to sell at a lower price on Friday the 13th and road accidents increase on the day. However, you may well be more likely to get into a road accident on Friday 13th because everyone is jittery and nervous about driving on an ‘unlucky day,’ making everyone more likely to have an accident.

Perhaps the only spooky statistic is that in the next 4800 months, the 13th day is likelier to fall on a Friday than any other day of the week…

Cover Image: The Salem Witch Trials, 1892 Baker, Joseph E., ca. 1837-1914, (public domain image)

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