Some History on Friday the 13th

We are not really a superstitious bunch. So when Friday the 13th comes along we remain quite unfazed, although it is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year. Friday the 13th occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday.

But why is the number 13 considered unlucky? Well 13 comes after 12. 12 is considered a complete number. We have 12 months, not 13. There are 12 zodiac signs, the 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus and 12 tribes of Israel, just to name a few more. According to folklore historian Donald Dossey, the unlucky nature of the number "13" originated with a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest, and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Dossey: "Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day." This major event in Norse mythology caused the number 13 to be considered unlucky.

Though Friday’s negative associations are weaker, some have suggested they also have roots in 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. Also, 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 defense of the Holy Land. Imprisoned on charges of various illegal behaviors (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 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).

Even knowing all that, there is not much to fear.n And remember: Friday the 13th is still better than Monday the whatever.