It’s Friday 13th, thought by many to be one of the unluckiest days of the year. So many people believe that the day holds back luck that it can now be classed as a real phobia, called paraskavedekatriaphobia. But where does this superstition come from? Here we examine the history of this superstition.
Why is Friday the 13th Unlucky?
The origins of the fear of Friday the 13th are slightly unclear. Throughout history, both Friday and the number 13 have been considered unlucky separately, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that people began to believe that together, they made up the unluckiest day of the year.
Friday is believed to be unlucky by a number of different people, for a number of different reasons. Sailors believe that it is bad luck to begin a journey on a Friday. It is also the day that public hangings were traditionally carried out in Britain, and so is a day that is associated with death.
The reasons that Friday is considered bad luck stem from the Bible; it is believed to be the day that Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, leading to the downfall of man. Cain supposedly murdered his brother Abel on a Friday. It is also said to be the day that the great flood began, wiping out everything not saved by Noah’s ark. There are also links to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who died on Good Friday.
The fear of the number 13 can also be linked to Jesus; there were 13 people seated at the last supper on Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday. It is now widely believe that is unlucky for 13 people to dine together, as the first to rise from the table will be the first to die.
Another, similar root of this superstition comes from a Nordic myth; 12 gods were having a dinner party at Valhalla when Loki entered, bringing the number to 13, and then arranged for one of the gods to be shot, bringing everybody into mourning.
It is not only in Christianity that the number 13 is considered bad luck; a gathering of 13 people is also considered extremely bad luck in the Hindu religion.
Friday the 13th throughout History
There are many unfortunate events throughout history occurring on Friday 13th, adding to the superstition that the day is bad luck. Here are some of the best known unlucky occurrences:
- One suggestion for the origin of the combined suspicion is Friday 13th, 1307. On this day, Philip IV of France arrested the Knights Templar. This event is referenced in several works of fiction, including The Iron King by Maurice Druon; The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown; and The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry. When the Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was executed, he cursed the Pope and King of France, and this bad luck was believed to have carried on for generations.
- On Friday 13th September, 1940, Buckingham Palace was hit by five German bombs during the second world war. Both the King and then-Princess Elizabeth came close to being killed, whilst one member of staff unfortunately perished, and the palace chapel was destroyed.
- In 1976, a man in New York names Daz Baxter decided to stay in bed to avoid any bad luck in the streets. Unfortunately, the floor of his apartment block collapsed, and he was killed.
- The rapper Tupac Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by in 1996, but didn’t die until 6 days later, on Friday 13th September.
- On Friday 13th January, 2012, the Costa Concordia crashed off the western coast of Italy, and 30 people died.
Is Friday the 13th Unlucky?
Everybody from scholars to scientists to philosophers have debated the truth behind the superstition that Friday the 13th is indeed an unlucky day. In 2008, the Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics released data in a bid to discourage the idea that it was unsafe to travel on Friday the 13th, but actually proved the opposite; there were fewer recorded traffic accidents on Friday 13th over the span of two years compared to other Fridays, proving that it’s actually safer to travel due to the phobia keeping many people off the road, and making others be safer than usual.
Another theory is that Friday the 13th is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that the fear of something bad happening on the day causes people to be more anxious and distracted than usual, making them more likely to have an accident.
What do you believe? Have you had a bad experience on Friday the 13th? Or do you think it’s just another day?