- Charles Panati, author
The superstitions and fear surrounding Friday the 13th has murky origins. There are references that can be found as far back as the 1300s with the Knights Templar through modern times. In my opinion, much of the demonization has come from the Judeo-Christian sect and their oppression of the feminine divine. Both the number thirteen and the sixth day of the week (Friday) have been associated with negative connotations from patriarchal societies and most definitely western cultures, whereas matriarchal cultures associate both number and day with positive aspects and connotations.
What’s In A Number
To understand the number thirteen, we should start by comparing it to twelve. In numerology ’12’ is the number of completeness. It is connected to the twelve hours of the clock and the twelve months of the year. But there are also several religious correlations:
- the twelve labors of Hercules
- the twelve tribes of Israel
- the twelve apostles of Jesus (even though this makes the group 13)
- the twelve successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam
- the twelve gods of Olympus
- the twelve signs of the zodiac
- In China, the number 13 is associated with good fortune and not bad luck. It holds the same distinction
- In Italy, it’s Friday the 17th that’s considered to be the bad luck day
- Thirteen also represents the number of revolutions the moon makes around the earth in a year
- 13 was the number of regeneration for pre-Columbian Mexicans
- In ancient Israel, 13 was a sanctified number
- Thirteen items were decreed necessary for the tabernacle
- At 13 years of age, a boy was (and still is) initiated into the adult Jewish community
- In Wicca, participants gather in covens of 13
- Thirteen was also auspicious for the Egyptians, who believed that life has 13 stages, the last of which is death — the transition to eternal life
Thirteen is linked to Old Norse mythology where having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners. In the myth, the Gods are having dinner in Valhalla when Loki shows up as an uninvited guest. Loki makes arrangements for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow (the only thing that can kill him). Once Balder dies, Earth falls into darkness and the whole world falls into mourning.
Thirteen is also linked to the thirteen Diners of the Last Supper with Jesus and his apostles. At this dinner, Jesus proclaims one of his devoted friends will denounce and betray him. The 13th guest at this dinner is noted to be Judas, who did indeed denounce and betray Jesus.
Today more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
What’s In a Name?
Friday was associated with the early Mother Creation Goddesses for whom that day was named. In Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Icelandic, and Teutonic cultures she was called variously, Freya, Freia, Freyja, Fir, Frea, and Frig. Friday is Frig’s Day, Frigedaeg, in Old English, Fredag in Danish, Freitag in Dutch, and German. In Mediterranean lands, she reigned as Venus. In Latin, Friday is the Day of Venus, Dies Veneris; Vendredi in French, Venerdi in Italian, and Viernes in Spanish.
in western culture, Friday has been considered unlucky since the late 1300s. Some link this correlation to the publication of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. But there are older occurrences that suggest Friday being unlucky resides in older events and lore.
Among Christians, it is the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th. Tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday. The Knights Templar, the de Molay and other French Templars were slaughtered by order of King Philip IV of France on Friday, October 13, 1307. Not all of these tales are factual, but they are good examples of how early Christians then and today have altered history to enhance their own importance and influence.
But Friday’s negativity is not only a religious thing. In the early days of Rome, Friday was execution day. In Britain, Friday became the Hangman’s Day. Many cultures have linked Friday to being a bad day to travel or start new projects. In the modern era, it’s been linked to being a bad day for releasing new products on the commercial market. Financially, Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s, which is amusing to think that in modern times Black Friday is the largest commercial shopping date of the year!
Liking or honoring the 13th isn’t restricted to modern-day pagans, it’s been in our history for quite some time. In many pre-Christian cultures, Friday is linked to a day of worship. In many pagan societies, it’s the day to receive blessings from the gods. Many pagan cultures chose this 6th day of the week (Friday) to celebrate and honor their gods/goddesses for the gifts they had received in the days prior and to petition their chosen deity for a favor in the days of the coming week.
With all the ‘good luck’ and ‘perfect associations’ from pagan practices, it’s easy to see how the number 13 and Friday began to be vilified by non-pagan cultures and especially by the early Christian Church. As Christianity spread and denounced the old pagan ways, the concepts held by pagans became linked to negativity and evil. If the Bishops couldn’t convert a pagan concept into its Christian practice, then it was defamed and cursed. The number thirteen and Friday are good examples of this.
While the mainstream Western World runs in fear from Friday the 13th, many pagans shed those made up connotations and revel in the day as one to be celebrated with joy and excitement. It’s a time to let go of the old that may be holding you back and welcome in the new. It’s a day to honor the Divine (whatever that is to you) and connect with spirit for progress and positive transformation.
Do you celebrate Friday the 13th?