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Friday the 13th

Lock your doors and stay inside, the unluckiest of days is upon us, Friday the 13th. Superstition dictates that only a fool would start a journey, get married, make financial decisions, or take risks on this day because they are sure to end in disaster.

The fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in two long held fears, the fear of Fridays and the fear of the number 13. Individually they are bad enough but combined are enough to make the superstitious not even contemplate getting out of bed for the day. Particularly superstitious people may become so fearful that they develop a debilitating phobia about the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia) or Friday the 13th (paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia).

But where does all this fear come from? There is no single event that one can point to and definitively say this is where it all started. But there are quite a few events that have occurred related to the number 13, or on a Friday, or worst of all on Friday the 13th, that have contributed to our collective superstition.

The Church

Nothing has colored Western civilization more than the Church. Christian dogma teaches that Cain slew Abel on a Friday the 13th. Eve tempted Adam with forbidden fruit on a Friday. The great flood began on a Friday. Judas, the 13th guest at the last supper, betrayed Jesus leading to his crucifixion on, yes, a Friday.

Friday, October 13, 1307 is the most well known Friday the 13th in history. On this date hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of Knights Templar, an order of warrior monks, were rounded up on the selfish and politically motivated orders of King Philip IV of France and subsequently tortured into admitting heresies including spitting on the cross, idolatry, "unnatural vices", and devil worship. [1]

Jacques de Molay, the last known Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned to death on a slow fire outside Notre Dame on Friday, March 13, 1314. As he slowly burned he cursed King Philip IV of France, Pope Clemence V, and Prime Minister Guillaume de Nogaret to death within a year and 13 generations of their families to misery. [2] The subsequent deaths of King Philip, Pope Clemence V, and Prime Minister Guillaume within a year and the populace's belief that de Molay's curse also applied to them led many to fear the number 13 and Friday the 13th in particular.

The Church's suppression of pagan beliefs and general misogynism also played a role in the perpetuation of fear of the number 13 and Fridays.

There are 12 months in the solar-based Julian and the Church-created Gregorian calendars, a perfect, male number. Many pagan religions followed a 13-month lunar calendar, which also corresponds with the female menstrual cycle, an imperfect, female, number. In the Roman and later Norse calendars, Friday was devoted to the love and sex goddesses Venus and Frigg (or Freyja), respectively, and was considered a lucky and even sacred day.

Traditionally, there were considered to be 13 members in a witch's coven - 12 witches and the devil. Together they celebrated 13 Witches' Sabbaths where they cast spells and spread evil throughout the countryside. These strong female/pagan, and therefore unholy, associations posed a threat to the male-dominated and power hungry Holy Catholic church. [3]

As mentioned earlier, Judas was the 13th guest at the last supper and that dinner party didn't have the luckiest consequences. The idea that having 13 guests at a gathering is unlucky is not uncommon. In Norse mythology 12 gods were invited to a banquet in Valhalla. Loki, alternately known as the Evil One and god of mischief, was not invited but he attended anyway wreaking havoc by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good with a spear tipped with mistletoe. Balder died and the Earth darkened in mourning. [4] In France people made themselves available as professional guests, quatorziens or fourteeners, just to avoid any potential problems if only 13 guests showed up.

Modern History

Many non-religion related events have reinforced our collective fear either consciously or unconsciously.

One that is often cited as proof of the unluckiness of the number 13 was the ill fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon. Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970 or 11/4/70, which when added together equal 13 (4+11+70=85 8+5=13). Although launched from Florida, the time of launch at Mission Control in Houston, TX was 13:13 CST. Failure of the number 2 oxygen tank occurred on April 13th at 02:08:53.555 UTC, which when converted to the Eastern time zone is 9:08:53.555 and equals 13 (9+8+53+555=625 6+2+5=13). Finally it's estimated that had the explosion happened prior to launch the bill for repairing the damage would have been $13 million.

Other disastrous events include "Black Friday", Friday, July 31, 1987, when a F4 tornado ripped through Edmonton and killed 27 and injured more than 300. The Great Flood, Friday, July 13, 1951, which flooded over 2 million acres in Kansas, caused $760 million in damages and killed 24 people. The "Good Friday" earthquake, Friday, March 27, 1964, the largest Earthquake in North America's recorded history, struck Prince William Sound killed 131 and was felt around the world. A smaller quake hit Erzincan, Turkey on Friday March 13, 1992 and unofficially killed as many as 2,000 people and left another 50,000 homeless.

Famous people with unfortunate links to Friday the 13th include Al Capone who was arrested and sentenced to jail on Friday 13th, Tupac Shakur who was killed in Las Vegas on Friday the 13th, Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, who died on Friday, June 13th, 1986, and the 38th Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey who died on January 13, 1978.

Last but certainly not least there is the Friday the 13th series of horror movies. Certainly enough to make anyone think twice about spending any night at Crystal Lake let alone on specific nights of the year.

It's All Hooey?

Most superstitions don't have much if any basis in reality. Just because hundreds of 14th century knights were tortured on Friday the 13th and a biblical flood happened on a Friday, and Apollo 13 nearly ended its mission in tragedy doesn't mean evil has any particular grip on one day of the week, month, or year. Disasters strike somewhere every day of the year.

However, there is evidence to suggest that Friday the 13th is actually unlucky for some. Psychologists have found that some people are especially likely to have accidents or fall ill on Friday the 13th. This has been attributed to such people feeling a heightened state of anxiety on that day. [6] Similarly women drivers may have to be particularly careful on Friday the 13th as one study suggests there may be a 64% increase in the risk of death on Friday the 13th. [5]

So if you aren't the superstitious sort and like to thumb your nose at fate you may want to consider having a Friday the 13th party. Just invite 12 of your closest friends over and make a night of breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors, and letting black cats cross your path. Just make sure your female guests don't drive.

13 Interesting Facts

Belief that the number 13 is unlucky is the most common Western superstition.
Every month has a 13th but no single year has more than three Friday the 13th's and on average there are two.
Months with a Friday the 13th always begin on a Sunday.
It is from the Norse goddess Frigg, or Freyja, that we get Frigg's Day, or Freyja's Day which became the English Friday.
Black Sabbath's self-titled first album was released in the UK on Friday, February 13, 1970 and I will be listening to it on this Friday the 13th.
In a traditional hangman's noose there are 13 twists of the rope and 13 steps to the gallows.
There is no 13th Avenue in San Francisco, instead Funston Avenue is between 12th and 14th Avenues. There is however a 13 Street. It's covered by the Central Skyway making it one of the darkest and ugliest streets in San Francisco. 
In Formula 1, there is no car with the number 13. The number has been removed after two drivers were killed in crashes both driving cars numbered 13.
According to Dr. Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, more than 80% of high-rises lack a 13th floor.
Infamous murderers Charles Manson, Harold Shipman, Frederick West, Saddam Hussein, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Theodore Bundy, and Jack the Ripper each have 13 letters in their names.
Women drivers have a 64% increased chance of death when driving on Friday the 13th. [5]
Folklore remedies for triskaidekaphobia include climbing to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burning all the socks you own that have holes in them. Another is to stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle. [6]
According to at least one interpretation of the Mayan calendar the world will end on 13.13.13.13.13.13.13.0.0.0.0 or in the Gregorian calendar, Friday, October 13, 4772. [7]

  1. The Knights Templar, the Assassins, the Johannite Heresy, and Satanism, FreeMasonryWatch.org
  2. The fear of number 13 and Friday the 13th
  3. How Friday the 13th Works, HowStuffWorks.com
  4. Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky, About.com
  5. Traffic Deaths and Superstition on Friday the 13th, The American Journal of Psychiatry, Dec. 2002
  6. Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History, National Geographic News, Aug. 2004
  7. Maya Calendar, Wikipedia
 
   

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