I’m really interested in finding out the origins of words, phrases and other parts of our language that we take for granted. My mum therefore knew I was the perfect person to write her a blog on Friday the 13th. I know there is much controversy regarding the origin and superstition around this dreaded day so I was keen to delve deeper. There are a number of possible reasons which I have found.
One explanation is that it encompasses two things which are both regarded as unlucky; Friday and the number 13. When these things coincide, it is no wonder Friday 13th is seen as a doubly bad day! One reason 13 is evidently unlucky is because 12 was seen as the pinnacle of completeness - the number of months, the hours on a clock and so forth. Consequently 13 was seen as over complete; I’m slightly unconvinced by this argument. 13 seems more likely to be deemed unlucky due to the fact that there were 13 people at the Last Supper. This correlates with the Hindu belief that if you gather 13 people together, let’s say for a meal, one of them will die within the year. The negative connotations of Friday may also have Christian origins with it being the day that Jesus was crucified. The Bible also recounts many misfortunes which took place on a Friday - this was when Eve ate the apple, when Noah’s flood began and when the Temple of Solomon was destroyed. Friday was also the hanging or execution day in various parts on the world, including Britain. Despite this somewhat flimsy evidence, throughout history Friday 13th has been viewed negatively and is seen as a day to avoid taking risks or starting a new adventure.
On a side note, evidently having 13 letters in your name is unlucky. I’m safe with just 10! But ever wondered how many letters are in the name of J.K.Rowling’s villain. Yes, Lord Voldemort is 13 letters long… Similarly, lots of buildings don’t have a floor 13 due to the belief that it’s unlucky!
Friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga - one of the goddess' who Friday was named after and triskaidekaphobia - a fear of the number thirteen) or paraskevidekatriaphobia (a Greek translation meaning the same thing) is surprisingly common. Unsurprisingly, the figures in America are ridiculously high with an estimated 8% of the population, that’s 21 million people suffering from it. Just to be clear, this isn’t just people who are extra careful or would avoid planning a big occasion (even I may be a bit sceptical about getting married on Friday 13th), but people who actively will not leave the house, go to work, get in a car or on a plane - they literally stop their world for the day. Some of my favourite superstitions I’ve come across are that if you change your bed on a Friday you’ll have nightmares and if you receive bad news on a Friday you’ll get more wrinkles than if you hear it on any other day!
If I were you I wouldn’t bother shutting yourself up in your house this Friday 13th. After all, most other countries see it as any normal day and seem to get on just fine. Do you stop your world on Tuesday 13th like some do in Spain or Friday 17th like in Italy? No, I thought not. So why do it on Friday 13th? If that hasn’t persuaded you then try this. Friday 13th is statistically one of the safest days in the calendar because everyone is being so careful! For some 13 is even seen as the lucky number for example in Chinese culture. Friday was also considered to be fortunate as it was linked with marriage and fertility.
I can’t sugar coat the fact that some bad things have happened on Friday 13th. In 1939, Australia recorded their worst ever bush fire on Friday 13th. Earlier this year on Friday 13th January, France, Austria, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain all had their credit ratings downgraded. There have been numerous disasters and horrors on this day in history. But find me a date where nothing bad has ever happened.
As you can see, there is absolutely no concrete reasons as to why people seem to think Friday 13th is unlucky. There have been numerous suggestions ranging from those in The Da Vinci Code to ancient traditions. In my opinion, these aren’t worth the paper they are written on! Once negativity became associated with this day, the press, society, writers and film makers seem to have taken advantage of it. Anything bad that happens is reported and exaggerated more than any other day and any vague link with bad things relating to a Friday or the number thirteen are pointed out and enhanced. My advice for staying happy, healthy and well on Friday the 13th is to treat it like any other day of the year - after all, that’s all it is.
I’ll leave you with this quote to think about on this Friday 13th, “It is bad luck to fall out of a thirteenth story window on Friday” - American Proverb
Thank you for reading and please let me know if you have any comments, stories about your bad Friday 13th experiences, or completely disagree with me and would like me to stay in bed all day out of fear for my safety (any excuse will do when you need to be revising!!)
Photo by Flickr Kire