2015 will have three of the ultimate of unlucky days, Friday the 13th.? February, March and November will all host one.? While not common to have so many, it will happen eleven times this century.? For friggatriskaidekaphobics, they will be very bad years.? In case you didn’t guess, friggatriskaidekaphobia is an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, deriving from the Norse goddess Frigga, the wife of Odin who donated her name to Friday, combined with Greek tris (‘three’), kai (‘and’), deka (‘ten’), and good ol’ -phobia.? Don’t like that word?? How about paraskevidekatriaphobia, which combines paraskevi (‘Friday’) and dekatria (‘thirteen’) with our beloved -phobia.? But enough esoteric etymology, why is Friday the 13th the penultimate unlucky day?? Herein lies the rub.? No one really knows.? So let’s explore some of the conjectures posited.
Friday was the day Jesus was crucified after dining with 12 of his followers, one of whom betrayed him, although we do not know if it were the 13th day of the month.? That would seem to be very bad luck and should have credence, especially in so-called “Christian countries.”? Obviously, such a tradition of fear would have started a couple of millennia ago, right?? Wrong.? There is no ancient Christian tradition of Friday the 13th being unlucky.? While 13 has been considered an unlucky number to seat at a table for many years, even that cannot be definitely linked to Christianity.? Loki, the Norse god of mischief, was the 13th god at an unlucky Valhalla banquet and well may be the source of that superstition.? But, as far as the legend goes, we don’t know that the banquet was on a Friday.
Another theory is that it started when the fabled Knights Templar came under persecution by King Philip IV of France, known as “The Fair” because of his hair color rather than his equability, arrested Templar Grand Master Jaqcues DeMolay and other members of the order on Friday, October 13, 1307.? Now that really sounds like the source, right?? Unfortunately, (if you’ll pardon the pun) there is no reference to it being an unlucky day from that time hence.? In fact, as late as 1882 there is no record of Friday the 13th being considered particularly unlucky.
Friday itself had long been considered unlucky, again for reasons lost in time.? Perhaps it was because Jesus was crucified on a Friday, but pagan Germanic tribes considered it an unlucky day as well.? The number 13 has had a bad rap in most Western cultures so that up to 80% of high-rises are built with the floors numbered without a 13, but not in Asian ones, which consider 4 the unlucky number.? Why?? Oft times trying to attach logic to superstition is a wasted effort.? But when did 13 get attached to Friday as a double whammy?? It seems that a group of anti-superstitionists got together and officially formed the Thirteen Club in New York City on Friday, January 13, 1882.
The Thirteen Club was started by men who wanted to flaunt their disbelief in superstitions, including those about Fridays, when many hangings were done (we’re not talking pictures here), and of the number 13.? They also purposely broke many mirrors, which undoubtedly was good luck for the glass industry.? Ironically, the club may well have been the originator of the whole Friday-the-13th obsession, for they would hold a gala event when Friday and the 13th of the month intersected.? Branches of the club sprang up all over the States and Britain.?? And with them, Friday the 13th observations of anti-superstition by their members.
However, the Thirteen Club may well have been the founders of what they despised: a new superstition.? In 1907, stock promoter Thomas Lawson published a? book entitled Friday, the Thirteenth.? In it, the protagonist manipulated the stock market to destroy his enemies by playing on their fears of Friday the 13th.? Obviously, since 1882 and 1907, something had altered in the Western view of Friday the 13th and the Thirteen Club may well have been the agent of change.? The club whose motto was “that superstition should be assailed and combated and driven off the earth” might have started one of the biggest superstitions of all time.
The consequences of creating Friday the 13th fears are pervasive.? A whole series of slasher movies might otherwise have been called “Monday the 13th.”? Or, if made by an Italian, “Friday the 17th,” since 17 is an unlucky number in Italy.? A British study found that since fewer people drove on Friday the 13th than the Friday before.? Since that resulted in fewer fatal accidents, it was actually a lucky day for those who might not have otherwise survived it.? Perhaps that’s a bit of “making your own luck.”? Then again, a study claims that $800,000,000 is lost annually by businesses that day because people won’t marry, travel and, for the most fearful, even work on Friday the 13th.? No doubt, there are those who will cite bad things that happened to them on some Friday the 13th.? But then, other people could do that for any day and date.? As for me, I opt to go with the spirit of the now-defunct Thirteen Club and thumb my nose at the superstition.? I won’t, however, purposely break any mirrors.? It’s not that I fear seven years of bad luck, but it’s a waste of money.