Long considered a harbinger of bad luck, Friday the 13th has inspired a late 19th-century secret society, an early 20th-century novel, a horror film franchise and not one but two unwieldy terms—paraskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia—that describe the fear of this supposedly unlucky day.
The Fear of 13
Just like walking under a ladder, crossing paths with a black cat or breaking a mirror, many people hold fast to the belief that Friday the 13th brings bad luck. Though it’s uncertain exactly when this particular tradition began, negative superstitions have swirled around the number 13 for centuries.
While Western cultures have historically associated the number 12 with completeness (there are 12 days of Christmas, 12 months and zodiac signs, 12 labours of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus and 12 tribes of Israel, just to name a few examples), its successor 13 has a long history as a sign of bad luck.
The ancient Code of Hammurabi, for example, reportedly omitted a 13th law from its list of legal rules. Though this was probably a clerical error, superstitious people sometimes point to this as proof of 13’s longstanding negative associations.
Fear of the number 13 has even earned a psychological term: triskaidekaphobia.
Why is Friday the 13th Unlucky?
According to biblical tradition, 13 guests attended the Last Supper, held on Maundy Thursday, including Jesus and his 12 apostles (one of whom, Judas, betrayed him). The next day, of course, was Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The seating arrangement at the Last Supper is believed to have given rise to a longstanding Christian superstition that having 13 guests at a table was a bad omen—specifically, that it was courting death.
Though Friday’s negative associations are weaker, some have suggested they also have roots in the Christian tradition: Just as Jesus was crucified on a Friday, Friday was also said to be the day Eve gave Adam the fateful apple from the Tree of Knowledge, as well as the day Cain killed his brother, Abel.
The Thirteen Club
In the late-19th century, a New Yorker named Captain William Fowler (1827-1897) sought to remove the enduring stigma surrounding the number 13—and particularly the unwritten rule about not having 13 guests at a dinner table—by founding an exclusive society called the Thirteen Club.
The group dined regularly on the 13th day of the month in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage, a popular watering hole Fowler owned from 1863 to 1883. Before sitting down for a 13-course dinner, members would pass beneath a ladder and a banner reading “Morituri te Salutamus,” Latin for “Those of us who are about to die salute you.”
Four former U.S. presidents (Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt) would join the Thirteen Club’s ranks at one time or another.
Friday the 13th in Pop Culture
An important milestone in the history of the Friday the 13th legend in particular (not just the number 13) occurred in 1907, with the publication of the novel Friday, the Thirteenth written by Thomas William Lawson.
The book told the story of a New York City stockbroker who plays on superstitions about the date to create chaos on Wall Street, and make a killing on the market.
The horror movie Friday the 13th, released in 1980, introduced the world to a hockey mask-wearing killer named Jason, and is perhaps the best-known example of the famous superstition in pop culture history. The movie spawned multiple sequels, as well as comic books, novellas, video games, related merchandise and countless terrifying Halloween costumes.
What bad things happened on Friday 13th?
On Friday, October 13, 1307, officers of King Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar, a powerful religious and military order formed in the 12th century for the defence of the Holy Land.
Imprisoned on charges of various illegal behaviours (but really because the king wanted access to their financial resources), many Templars were later executed. Some cite the link with the Templars as the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition, but like many legends involving the Templars and their history, the truth remains murky.
In more recent times, a number of traumatic events have occurred on Friday the 13th, including the German bombing of Buckingham Palace (September 1940); the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York (March 1964); a cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh (November 1970); the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (October 1972); the death of rapper Tupac Shakur (September 1996) and the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 30 people (January 2012).
Before Patriarchal Times
Friday the 13th was considered the day of the Goddess. It was considered a day to worship the Divine Feminine that lives in us all and to honour the cycles of creation and death and rebirth.
Friday the 13th was considered a very powerful day to manifest, honour creativity and celebrate beauty, wisdom and nourishment of the soul.
Friday is Venus Day and we all know that Venus is the epitome of feminine energy.
Her energy joins us at the end of the week to honour the days gone by and to remind us that it is important to rest, relax and play.
As a society, we all look forward to Friday (Venus day), and we all naturally find ourselves unwinding and relaxing in her comforting energy.
Friday is the perfect day to embrace Venus-like energy and to focus on creativity, beauty and sensuality.
Venus energy also encourages us to tune into our receptive female energy in order to stimulate our creativity and bring art, music and healing into the world.
The Number 13 also holds an extremely potent feminine energy and is considered to be the number of death and rebirth, creation, fertility and blood.
This is because we have 13 Moon cycles every year and the average female also experiences 13 periods per year.
If a woman’s periods are in sync with the cycle of the Moon, she will shed her lining on the New Moon and ovulate on the Full Moon.
On average the 13th falls in the middle of the Moon cycle and represents that midway point between death and rebirth. The midway point between the New Moon, where a woman is shedding (the death) and the Full Moon, where the woman is ovulating (rebirth).
Long ago, when a woman was bleeding she was considered to embody divine and magical powers. She was regarded by all for her wisdom and ability to offer intuitive and psychic messages.
When she was ovulating, she was considered to be at the height of her power and was celebrated for her ability to receive, hold and create new life.
It was only when society became more patriarchal that women were made to feel shame when they were having their periods and to ignore their amazing potential to create and hold space for new life.
This attitude has helped to contribute to the idea that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.
The lunar calendar is also made up of 13 months, which further supports 13 as holding feminine power.
The Moon is also representative of feminine energy and helps us to understand and deal with our emotions and sensitivities.
In the astrology chart, the Moon not only governs our emotions but also our potential and how we choose to express ourselves through life. In fact, for many people understanding their Moon sign can often help to bring more awareness than their Sun sign.
Bringing Friday and the number 13 together, you can see that Friday the 13th is in fact, a very powerful day for feminine energy and creativity.
It is also an extremely powerful time of death and rebirth as it represents that mid-point in the cycle between something new emerging and something old slipping away.
Friday the 13th has often been held in high regard by women and the pagan community, and many rituals and spells are often conducted on this day in order to make the most of this beautiful energy.
This has also helped to contribute to the fear surrounding Friday the 13th, as it was an important day for many who worshipped the cycles of nature.
We all have feminine energy in us, so Friday the 13th is not just for women. It is a day for all of us to honour our own abilities to create and receive energy from the world around us.
Friday the 13th is not an unlucky day. Friday the 13th is the day of the Goddess and is a beautiful day for creating and celebrating life. It is a beautiful day for getting in tune with your emotions and sensitivities and giving thanks to the beautiful Goddess that lives in us all.
“The Origins of Unlucky Friday the 13th,” Live Science.
“Friday the 13th: why is it unlucky and other facts about the worst day in the calendar,” The Telegraph.
“13 Freaky Things That Happened on Friday the 13th,” Live Science.
“Here’s Why Friday the 13th is Considered Unlucky,” Time.
“Friggatriskaidekaphobes Need Not Apply,” New-York Historical Society.