When it comes to bad luck, there are few superstitions that are as widespread in Western culture as the belief that Friday the 13th will bring bad luck. The notion of a day that can bring disaster is strongly ingrained in our culture — even if believers are unable to explain why. For example, crossing encounters with a black cat and breaking a mirror are both associated with bad luck.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of the number 13) is a term used to express an irrational fear of the date. It is considered to be a subset of triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
However, our Gregorian calendar ensures that the 13th of any month is somewhat more likely to fall on a Friday than it is on any other day of the week, despite the fact that Friday the 13th may seem like an uncommon occurrence. The belief does not, however, apply to everyone everywhere: Tuesday the 13th is regarded a day of bad luck in Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, but Friday the 17th is a day of dread in Italy and other European countries.
However, there is only one on the calendar this month: Friday, August 13th, which falls on a Friday.
There are the beginnings of a superstition.
It is impossible to determine the exact roots of Friday the 13th, as it is with many superstitions that have developed over time and across civilizations. The fact that both Friday and the number 13 have historically been seen as unlucky in certain cultures is something we can all agree on. “Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things,” by Charles Panati, connects the concept of the cursed all the way back to Norse mythology, when Loki, the god of mischief, gatecrashed a meal in Valhalla, bringing the total number of gods present to thirteen. Because to Loki’s deception, the blind god Hodr was misled into shooting his brother Balder, the god of light, gladness, and goodness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow, resulting in Balder’s instant death.
According to Panati, the superstition originated in Scandinavia and subsequently expanded southward throughout Europe, becoming firmly established throughout the Mediterranean by the beginning of the Christian epoch. During the Last Supper, which was attended by Jesus Christ and his apostles on Maundy Thursday, the disturbing force of the numerals was solidified, and it was here that the account of the Last Supper was told. Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot was the 13th and most notable guest to arrive, and he was the one who betrayed Jesus, ultimately leading to his crucifixion on Good Friday.
Historically, the concept of unlucky Fridays dates back even further than the crucifixion: Friday is said to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge; the day Cain murdered his brother, Abel; the day the Temple of Solomon was toppled; and the day Noah’s ark set sail in the Great Flood, among other events.
Friday the 13th was not associated with bad luck until the nineteenth century, according to Steve Roud in “The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland.” According to Roud, the combination of Friday and the number 13 is a Victorian creation. Friday, the Thirteenth, by Thomas W. Lawson, was published in 1907 and immediately caught the public’s imagination with its storey of an unethical broker who took use of superstitions surrounding the date to purposely crash the stock market.
Fast forward to the 1980s, and a hockey-masked assassin by the name of Jason Voorhees, star of the slasher film franchise “Friday the 13th,” insured that the character would become well-known. Later, Dan Brown’s 2003 novel “The Da Vinci Code” helped promote the inaccurate idea that superstition arose with the arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307, which was later proven to be untrue.
An alternate version of history
Given the abundance of doom-laden folklore, you’d be forgiven for believing that Friday the 13th is a particularly ominous date. If we look a little deeper, however, we will discover that both Fridays and the number 13 have long been viewed as harbingers of good fortune. The day of the week Friday, for example, was thought to have a special relationship with the divine feminine in pagan times. Actually, the first clue can be found in the name of the day of the week, Friday, which is derived from Old English and literally means “day of Frigg.” Frigg (also known as Frigga) was a powerful sky goddess in Norse mythology who was linked with love, marriage, and maternity. She was both the Queen of Asgard and a powerful sky goddess in Norse mythology.
Frigg provided security to homes and families, helped to maintain social order, and had the ability to weave fate much as she did with the clouds. She also possessed the gift of prophecy, and she had the ability to grant or take away fertility. The goddess Freyja, who was often confused with Frigg as the goddess of love, fertility, and war, was endowed with the ability to perform magic, predict the future, and determine who would die in battles, and was said to ride a chariot drawn by two black cats, as opposed to Frigg’s chariot pulled by two white cats. These goddesses were widely worshipped throughout Europe, and as a result of their links with marriage, the Norse and Teutonic people believed Friday to be a lucky day for getting married.
Meanwhile, the number 13 has long been considered ominous by pre-Christian and goddess-worshipping societies because of its association with the number of lunar and menstrual cycles that occur in a calendar year. In pagan times, fertility was highly cherished, and artwork would frequently make associations between menstruation, fertility, and the phases of the moon.
Take, for example, the Venus of Laussel, a ca. 25,000-year-old limestone carving depicting a voluptuous female figure clutching her pregnant stomach with one hand and grasping a crescent-shaped horn with 13 notches in the other, as an example. According to several academics, the figurine may have represented a goddess of fertility in a rite or ceremonial, while the 13 lines are often read to be a reference to the lunar or menstrual cycles, both of which are symbols of feminine power in ancient times.
Changing one’s public image
In the Middle Ages, however, as Christianity gained popularity, paganism became increasingly at odds with the new patriarchal religion. Not only did its leaders oppose to the worship of various gods and goddesses, but they also disapproved of the celebration of Friday, the number 13, and goddesses who summoned love, sex, fertility, magic, and pleasure, all of which were judged unholy by the community.
People were so devoted to these deities, however, that convincing them to give them up proved to be a difficult task. Despite this, Christian authorities continued with their campaign, labelling both the deities and the women who worshipped them as witches in their own right.
As a result of the Christianization of the Norse and Germanic nations, Frigga was banished to a mountainside and called a witch, according to Panati’s account. In the belief of many, the spiteful goddess met with eleven other witches and the devil every Friday to plot misfortune for the next week, a gathering of thirteen in total.
Friday the 13th, of course, continues to haunt the collective consciousness of the Western world. However, with discussions about the role misogyny has had in silencing powerful women throughout history now in the mainstream, it is possible that the narrative of this unfortunate date and the female deities linked with it will be revised in the near future, if not already.
Take, for example, Taylor Swift, who views the number 13 to be her lucky number and who, early in her career, frequently performed with the number written on her hand as part of her performance attire.
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