Uncovering reasons, steeped in history, why date scares superstitious among us
Many people are superstitious and one of the dates they would most rather avoid is this week’s Friday the 13th!
If so, you’re not alone. But why is this date considered unlucky? Laura Steele of education resource experts PlanBee digs deep for some clues.
Many people are wary of Friday the 13th while others outright dread it, even going so far as to change their normal routines and any plans they may have. The 13th falls on a Friday at least once a year, and can occur up to three times a year.
Any month that begins on Sunday will have a Friday that falls on the 13th.
Thankfully for those who are superstitious, there is only one Friday 13th this year.
One possibility for its origins lies in Norse myth. Twelve gods held a feast. Loki, the trickster, was not invited, but turned up as 13th guest. He tricked blind god Hodur into shooting an arrow that killed god Baldur. This event caused the date to be considered unlucky.
Rooted in religion
Others believe that it has biblical origins – there were thirteen guests at the Last Supper before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which took place on a Friday.
A further idea traces the roots of this fear back to France in 1307, when King Philip VI ordered the arrest, torture and execution of hundreds of Knights Templar, a powerful religious and military order whose mission it was to defend the Holy Land.
A good day to travel?
While the origins of this belief are unclear, many people do have a real fear of Friday the 13th. This condition even has a name – friggatriskaidekaphobia. Frigg is the Norse Goddess of wisdom, after whom Friday is named, triskaideka is Greek for 13 and phobia translates as fear in Greek..
It is thought that this fear can have an adverse effect on some businesses, especially airlines, as people are reluctant to fly on the date. However, many studies have shown that there is no significant increase in the number of accidents, hospital visits or natural disasters on past Friday 13ths.
Even more people fear the number 13 specifically. This fear is called triskaidekaphobia. This is so widespread many high-rise buildings do not have a 13th floor (they go from 12 to 14, skipping the feared number altogether). Lots of airports do not have gates numbered 13 while some airlines do not have a row numbered 13 on their planes.
However, Friday the 13th is not considered unlucky by everyone. For example, in Spanish-speaking countries and Greece, Tuesday 13th is actually the unlucky date! This is because in Greek mythology, Ares, the God of war, is associated with Tuesday.
In Italy, Friday 17th is unlucky - in Roman numerals, 17 is XVII. These letters can be rearranged into the word ‘VIXI’, which means ‘I have lived’, implying death is imminent.
Captain William Fowler founded the Thirteen Club in New York in 1882 in order to debunk the theory that Friday 13th, and the number 13 itself, was unlucky.
There were only 13 members at any one time. They dined together at 8.13pm on the 13th day of each month in room 13 of Knickerbocker Cottage, a popular tavern. Before sitting down to a 13-course meal, they each walked under a ladder!
Whether or not you believe that Friday the 13th is unlucky, superstitions themselves are fascinating to many people. You may agree with poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, who said: “I love superstitions. They are the opponent of common sense”.