Origin of Friday the 13th: Why is the day considered cursed?
If asked, you could probably list all kinds of superstitions – don’t open an umbrella indoors, throw salt over your shoulder if you’ve spilled some, a broken mirror means seven years bad luck, and don’t ever step on a crack lest you want to break your mother’s back. There’s all kinds of funny little things humans do, some believe in them, some don’t, and others like to err on the side of caution & go with it – just in case.
Fearing Friday the 13th is one of many commonly known superstitions. The belief is that having the 13th day of a month fall on a Friday is bad luck. Considering the mess that 2020 has been so far, Friday the 13th is freaking people out more than usual – even the people who aren’t so superstitious.
But why is Friday the 13th such a spooky date? Where did the belief come from? Let’s take a look.
An ominous number
Most of the superstition is rooted in the number 13. At some point in your life you’ve likely seen a skyscraper elevator skip designating a button to the 13th floor, instead naming the floor coming after the 12th one as the 14th. And you’ve probably heard that the Apollo 13’s dangerous & messy mission was inevitably going to be filled with strife purely because it was NASA’s 13th Apollo mission.
Why fear 13 when the digits separately are considered fine and the digits in reverse (31) are also not considered bad luck inducing?
It’s believed the origin of 13 being unlucky is rooted in the Bible and the fear of the number was popularized in the middle ages. The main biblical reason 13 is considered a number to avoid is due to the story of the Last Supper, where 13 guests dined – Jesus and his 12 apostles. Of course, Judas betrayed Jesus and the crucifixion followed the day after.
Okay, why Friday?
If this is the reason 13 is considered unlucky, then why isn’t every 13th day of the month considered a day of fear? What happened on a Friday that has so many people unnerved? Well, the answers to this are less understood, but many believe it also has biblical ties. Jesus was crucified on a Friday, some believe that Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and that Cain killed Abel on a Friday.
In Britain, Fridays were likely even more associated with omens of death & bad luck since for centuries Fridays were the designated day for hanging people. Yikes.
We all love an excuse to say “thank goodness it’s Friday”, but apparently, according to superstition, Fridays aren’t something to be thankful for.
13 people at the table
For many years it was considered bad luck to have 13 people dining at the same table, which obviously shares the same roots as the fear of Friday the 13th. While this belief isn’t held as widely anymore, we’re certain there are still people who refuse to sit at a table with 12 others.
In the late 1800s, a man named Captain William Fowler sought to destroy this superstition and created the very exclusive Thirteen Club. The club would dine in the 13th room of the Knickerbocker Cottage on the 13th day of the month. And there would, of course, be 13 men dining at the table and enjoying a 13 course meal. Just to add a little extra sass members would also walk under a ladder before sitting at the table.
13 has a phobia
While most people can go about their days without giving much thought to the number 13, there are a number of people who actually have a diagnosable phobia of the number. The fear is called triskaidekaphobia and is literally a fear of the number 13.
The famous composer Arnold Schoenberg is known for having had this phobia and in some of his later works refused to number his 13th measure properly, instead opting to call this measure “12a”. He also especially feared death during years that were a multiple of 13 or when he was an age that was a multiple of 13.
Sometimes our beliefs can change our lives even if they’re unfounded, and Schoenberg certainly seems to be an embodiment of that. He did, after all, die on Friday the 13th in July of 1951.