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Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky?

6 min read

Originally written on August 13, 2021. Updated May 13, 2022

Ready for Friday the 13th?
Well, depending on where you are, August 13, 2021 (May 13 2022, or January 13 2023) is considered a lucky (or unlucky) day.
But why exactly is this day often associated with good or bad luck?
What is the meaning of Friday the 13th and how did this superstition even begin?

Friday the 13th occurs one to three times each year.
For example, 2015 had a Friday the 13th in February, March, and November, while 2017 through 2020 had two Friday the 13ths each, and the years 2021 and 2022 will both have just one occurrence each.
Friday the 13th occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday.
In many countries around the world, this date is considered unlucky and tied to misfortunate events.
For hundreds of years, Friday has been considered the unluckiest day of the week.
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th Century, he says “and on a Friday fell all this mischance”.
In Britain, Friday was once known as Hangman’s Day because it was usually when people who had been condemned to death would be hanged.
But let’s look back at the origins of this ominous date. Although no one knows for certain, the fear of the number 13 and that of Friday likely combined around the late 1800s.
An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:
“He was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.”

Do you know the story of Loki, a cunning trickster who had the ability to change his shape and sex?
It seems that the unlucky nature of the number 13 originated with a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla.
The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest, and arranged for the god Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. When Balder died, the whole Earth got dark and mourned. This major event in Norse mythology caused the number 13 to be considered unlucky.

However, the predominant 20th-century theory suggests that it stemmed from an event that occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307, when thousands belonging to an influential religious military order called the Knights Templar (officially, the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) were arrested for blasphemy and other affronts at the command of France’s king, Philip IV. Many were later tortured, coerced into making false confessions, and executed.
When the knights were burned at the stake in Paris, the order’s leader, Jacque de Molay, cried out, “God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon, a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.”
The holy warrior’s curse and wrongful death put a hex on Friday the 13th through the ages.

Another superstituion associates Friday the 13th with the Last Supper, attended by 13 people: Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples.
The number 13 is in fact associated with 13th disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ shortly after that Last Summer. Christ was handed to Roman soldiers the next morning and crucified on Good Friday.
Even today, it’s considered unlucky to have 13 people sitting at a dinner table, and some people pop a teddy bear in a seat to make the number of guests up to 14.

But no matter how the fear came about, as superstitions concerning it abound still today.
On this day some people refuse to cut their hair or nails, dine out, buy a house, start a job, conduct business, marry, or participate in any event.
Others are so terrorized that they fear even crawling out of bed or going anywhere, including Winston Churchill, who considered traveling on Friday the 13th unlucky!
And, as you may be aware, quite a few of today’s tall buildings ‘don’t have’ a 13th floor, jumping straight from 12 to 14, while hotels don’t have a room 13.
Some airlines also refuse to have a row 13 in their planes too.

In any case, more than 60 million people worldwide have a phobia of Friday the 13th to varying degrees, and it has also a name: friggatriskaidekaphobia.
Frigga refers to the Norse god for which Friday is named and triskaidekaphobia means, literally, fear of the number 13.
An alternate term is paraskevidekatriaphobia. Originating from Greek, paraskevi means Friday, dekatria refers to “thirteen,” and phobia translates as “fear.”

But it isn’t all so bad, as many of those who were born on Friday the 13th, or whose birthdays fall on the 13th and occasionally occur on a Friday, consider themselves immune to any negative repercussions.
While, in some countries, the day is considered normal or even lucky.
In other countries, the ill-fated date is a different one.
In Italy, for istance, it is Friday the 17th, while in some Hispanic countries, Tuesday the 13th is the unlucky one. Not by chance, the title of the 1980 American horror film Friday the 13th (now a cult classic) was changed to Martes 13 (“Tuesday the 13th”) for Spanish-speaking audiences.
The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the 13th) an unlucky day because Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares, the god of war (Mars in Roman mythology).
Not by chance, the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade occurred on Tuesday, April 13, 1204, and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday, 29 May 1453, events that strengthen the superstition about Tuesday. In addition, in Greek the name of the day is Triti (Τρίτη) meaning the third (day of the week), adding weight to the superstition, since bad luck is said to “come in threes”.
If Friday the 13th occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday, Tuesday the 13th occurs in a month that begins on a Thursday.

Sure, plenty of good things happened on Friday the 13th, but to someone with friggatriskaidekaphobia, that matters not.
Did you know that the horror novelist Stephen King is a friggatriskaidekaphobe?
While Franklin Roosevelt had such an irrational fear of Friday the 13 that he would avoid traveling on Fridays?
And, about Jack the Ripper, he claimed his final victim on Friday the 13th in 1888.

And did you know that an Asteroid will fly by the Earth in 2029?
Yes, On a Friday the 13th! Friday, April the 13th, 2029, to be exact. When 99942 Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was thought to have a small chance of colliding with Earth.
But you can rest easy because since then scientists have revised their findings which show that there is absolutely no risk of the asteroid impacting the Earth (or the Moon).

2021 – Friday, August 13
2022 – Friday, May 13
2023 – Friday, January 13
Friday, October 13
2024 – Friday, September 13
Friday, December 13

Images from web – Google Research

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