The Origins of Friday the 13th

Friday the 13ths is considered the most unlucky day of the year.  Most people aren't entirely sure where this bad luck comes from, but fear of Friday the 13th  can affect as many as 1 in 4 people.   The fear of Friday the 13th is known as triskaidekaphobia. 

"It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

So where does this fear that can cripple a nation come from?   There really seems to be no consensus on the origin of Friday the 13th.  Everyone has a story, but most of them are different.  The fear comes from an unknown source.  Here's a look at a few of the Friday the 13th origin stories I've found.

One folklorist traces the origins back to Norse mythology.   There were 12 gods who had a dinner party in Valhalla.   A 13th guest, Loki, was uninvited.  Always the trickster, Loki tricked the god of darkness, Hoder, into shooting Balder, the god of joy.  Balder died and darkness descended on the earth.  Joy was lost to man and from then on 13 was considered unlucky.

In 1307, on October 13, 1307, King Phillip IV of France ordered every member of the order of the Knights Templar executed on charges of  high treason and heresy.  King Phillip owed the Templar's a good deal of money and they had amassed an enormous amount of wealth on their crusades.  It is thought that the order was actually to strip the Templar's of their wealth.   The Templar's were tortured horribly and forced to confess  to crimes they didn't commit.  They all died, but as the grandmaster died he cursed King Phillip and the day making Friday the 13th unlucky for future generations to come.

Many believe the fear comes from the number 13 itself.  According to numerologist, the number 12 is associated with completeness.  There are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles, 12 Olympian gods, 12 tribes of Israel,  12 hours in the clock, 12 labors of  Hercules.  The list goes on and on.  The addition of the 13 ruins perfection is utterly bad and unlucky.  In many stories, the 13th guest is always a bad sign.  Think Judas at the last supper and Loki in the above story.  It is the number 13 that lends the curse to Friday the 13th.   Combine that with the unlucky Friday, when Jesus was crucifies and Adam tempted Eve and you have a recipe for an unlucky day.

It is clear there are many reasons to fear the dreaded Friday the 13th, but for me Friday the 13ths have always been lucky.  So have a happy Friday the 13th, watch one of the 12 million Friday the 13th movies (I like the one in space), and wish me luck on my lucky day!


magikalseasons said…
I have heard some of those tales about Friday the 13th. I had no idea about the millions lost associated with today. Wow!
Jessica Penot said…
Oops! I was half done with this, walked away and my son hit Publish. Hopefully, anyone who read this while it was filled with typos and only half done won't hold it against me! Happy 13th!
Jeffery said…
13 was demonized deliberately in the Catholic Churches quest to dominate over Paganism. You are quite right about the Norse Lunar calender and Loki. Fascinating subject isn't it. 13 has always been lucky for me too!
Courtney Mroch said…
THANK YOU!!! I'm so excited you wrote this. I was wondering today, like I do every Friday the 13th, why the bad rap? I had heard some of this before after reading your post, but I always just enjoy what you write so I'm glad you covered this like you did...even if your son helped you pub it before you meant it. ;)
Lewis Powell IV said…
It's fascinating that Friday the 13th is so bad for the economy. Perhaps we should legislate it from our calendars? Great article!
Anonymous said…
great info; i hadn't heard any of these theories. friday the 13th is just like any other day for me. i don't even think about it.
LynNerdKelley said…
Interesting post. I'd heard the King Phillip version before, but not about Loki. I never would have guessed that it affected so many people and that it affects business so drastically. That's wild.

I just finished Death's Dream Kingdom and enjoyed it. It was as intriguing as I hoped it would be, and I especially love the descriptions, which make for great visuals.
Unknown said…
Great post, I loved reading it. Just one thing, I think Eve was the one who tempted Adam, though I would much prefer it the other way around. What a different world it would be!

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