How did Friday, the 13th become a notorious famous day in the lives of most superstitious people? Fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia, derived from the Greek concatenation Paraskevi, meaning Friday, and dekatreis, meaning thirteen, attached to phobia, meaning fear. According to historians and folklorists, there was no Friday the 13th superstition before the 19th century. It was Rossini in 1869, who regarded the number 13 as unlucky, and Friday likewise, and died on Friday the 13th.
One theory from The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century considered Friday the least lucky day. And of course, Black Friday was associated with several stock market crashes. And many theories point to Jesus being crucified on a Friday. Another theory of superstition relates to the legendary Knights Templar, a monastic military order founded in Jerusalem in 1113. Finally, on Friday, Oct. 13, 1907, King Phillip secretly ordered the arrest of all the Knights Templar in France. Of course, the Da Vinci Code novel in 2003 popularized this superstition.
According to the phobia institute, about 17 to 21 million people fear this day. Some people avoid airline flights, or dangerous work, or even driving on freeways. It is estimated that $800-900 million is lost in business on this day.
However, fewer accidents, fires and thefts occur on this day, than other Fridays. Perhaps people are more careful or preventatively, just stay home. The longest period that can occur without a Friday the 13th is fourteen months. Some events are specifically planned for Friday the 13th to make them more dramatic.
Sure enough, there is a Friday the 13th website for blogging. According to experts, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people won’t go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t eat in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on the date, or buying a car, home, or other large purchase. Interestingly, the Chinese regard the number as lucky. And sports stars wear number 13, and have gone on the achieve great things in their uniform.
Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the “perfect” number 12 over the “imperfect” number 13, thereafter considered anathema.
As if to prove the point, the Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests, disciples, betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion. Did I mention the Crucifixion took place on a Friday?
(Originally sent in 2009)