Friday, July 13, 2012

Beware of Friday the 13th: Origins and Superstitions Abound

Beware of Friday the 13th! 
Cue the mysterious, eerie haunting music of the forbidden. Chills run up and down your spine. 3 Friday the 13ths this year each 13 weeks apart. Run for you lives! 

But....wait a minute, Allison

Why are we afraid of  Friday the 13? That is an excellent question. It all has to do with the number 13, Friday and our ancient origins. 

Friday...that auspicious day
Of all the days of the week, Fridays have been viewed as the most unlucky of days since antiquity. It was widely held that Fridays were the day evil did their work upon man. Christian mythology records these following biblical events happened on a Friday; 1) Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam and he ate from it, 2) God expelled Adam and Eve from the the Garden of Eden, 3) the day Adam and Eve died,  4) Cain murdered Abel,  4) Noah's flood began, 4) God destroyed the Tower of Babel and caused confusion of languages, 5) the temple of Soloman was destroyed by fire, and 6) Jesus was crucified. 
Fridays were execution days in ancient Rome and hanging days in Great Britain (there were 13 steps leading up to the noose). Superstitions surrounding the ill fated day of the week were first recorded in the late14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in The Canterbury Tales "and on a Friday fell all this misfortune." In the mid 17th references of the generalized fear of Fridays begin to make an appearance in Western Literature. One reference to the day written in 1656 reads, "Now Friday came, you old wives say, of all the week's unluckiest days." 

From the beginning of the 1800's to today there are many widespread superstitions concerning Fridays such as:
  • Clothing made on a Friday will never fit properly.
  • Most accident will happen on a Friday. 
  • Visiting your doctor on Friday will not have a good result. 
  • Never change your bed on a Friday, as it will result in nightmares and bad dreams. 
  • One should not move their residence or marry on a Friday, if they expect any good to come of it. 
  • Cut your nails of Friday and you cut them for sorrow. 
  • Friday is an inauspicious day to start a trip as "misfortune will bound to follow." 
  • Ships that set sail on Friday will have bad luck.  Don't believe me? Ever heard of the Urban legend of the H.M.S. Friday? Story goes, in an attempt to debunk the many sailors' superstitions centered around Fridays, the British government commissioned a special ship. They named it the H.M.S. Friday. The crew was selected on a Friday, the keel was set on a Friday, and she was launched on a Friday. They even went so far as to hire a man named Friday to captain her. It was on a Friday that she set sail on her maiden voyage, and as the story goes, was never heard of again. 
  • Never move or start anything new on a Friday.
The Dreaded Number 13

Whose afraid of the number 13? 

People who suffer from Triskaidekaphobia. Triskaideka...huh? Triskaidekaphobia is a phobia of the number thirteen. There are many people who suffer from this phobia. The avoidance of the number has even seeped through the American consumer culture. Here are some little known facts surrounding how people and society have avoided the number 13. 

1) Industrialist Henry Ford wouldn't do business on Friday, the 13th.
2) Multimillionaire Paul Getty once stated "I wouldn't care to be one of thirteen at a table."
3) President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would not dine in a group of 13 people.
4) Many hotel guests refuse to stay in Room 13, so rooms are frequently numbered 12, 12A, and 14.
5) Many tall buildings have no floor numbered as "13".
6) Some passenger airplanes skip 13 when numbering the rows of seating to avoid apprehension for the superstitious.
7) In Formula One and many other racing categories, no vehicle carries the number 13.
9) Hospitals and hotels routinely have no room number 13.
10) There is no sound stage numbered 13 at Universal Studios in California.The fear of the number 13 is a worldwide phenomenon. So where does our fear of this number come from?

Fears and superstitions surrounding this number are ancient as days.

  •  Early man could only count up to ten on his fingers and add two with his feet. Anything number beyond twelve was unknown this was viewed with suspicion. 
  • Ancient Egyptians believed the number 13 was related to the afterlife. A person took 12 steps in the living towards and the last step, 13, was taken into the afterlife.  
  • Ancient Romans saw the number 13 as symbol of death, destruction and misfortune.
  • In Norse mythology, 12 gods had a dinner party at their heavenly home of Valhalla. As they were dining, a thirteenth uninvited guest arrived to join them. His name was Loki. Loki tricked the blind god, Hodar, into shooting the god of joy and happiness, Balder the Beautiful, with a mistletoe tipped arrow that killed him. When Balder died the entire earth was plunged into darkness. 
  • Early Christians believed the number to be ill fated due to the Last Supper. Judas was the thirteenth man to sit down at the table and partake of the meal with Jesus. It is said that if thirteen people sit down at a table together someone at that table will die within the year.  
  • There are 13 knots in a hangman's noose 
  • The guillotine blade falls thirteen inches.
  • The thirteenth card of the tarot is the Death Card, depicting the Grim Reaper
  • A witch's coven has 13 members. 
  • Lizzy Bordon only spoke 13 words at her trial
Putting It All Together
Friday the Thirteenth is consider especially evil because of the convergence of the the number 13 and the day Friday. Just as some people suffer from the phobia Triskaidekaphobia, which is the fear of the number 13, there is a phobia for Friday the 13th called Paraskavedekatriaphobia. Symptoms can range from a sense of doom to full blown panic attacks. Some sufferers won't even crawl out of bed on Friday the 13th. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina estimates Paraskavedekatriaphobia affects 17 to 21 million Americans. Fear of Friday the 13th is not only limited to those suffering from the phobia. Americans share many widespread, generalized beliefs about Friday the 13th that affects our economy. Donald Dossey, the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, estimated $800 - $900 million dollars are lost in business every Friday the 13th because people won't fly or do business that day due to superstitions.

Are you afraid of Friday the 13th?


  1. Loved this! I always love learning how superstitions began.

    1. Thank you tamylee. I do too. I think its very interesting how superstitions begin.