According to History.com, many Western cultures associate the number 12 with completeness. There are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 disciples of Jesus. Because 12 is so complete, it only makes sense that 13 would be considered unlucky. The ancient Code of Hammurabi even skips the 13th law (though experts say this was probably a clerical error).
There are also two famous stories of an unlucky 13th guest: in the Bible, Judas Iscariot is the 13th person at the Last Supper, and he goes on to betray Jesus. In Norse mythology, Loki is the uninvited 13th guest at a feast for the gods, and he causes plenty of chaos.
The number 13 was considered so unlucky that in the late 19th century, a club dedicated to debunking superstitions named itself after it. According to How Stuff Works, members of the Thirteen Club (which, at various points, included five U.S. presidents) met on the 13th of every month and sat at 13 tables with 13 place settings. They also spilled salt before eating, broke mirrors, and embraced black cat decor (cute!).
So that’s why 13 is considered unlucky. But what about Friday? In Christianity, Jesus is believed to have been crucified on a Friday. There are other, less well-known, instances of Friday being seen as unlucky in Christian tradition: Eve is said to have given Adam the apple on a Friday, and Cain is said to have killed Abel on that day, too. It’s not just Christianity, either. According to the Daily Mirror, the Norse goddess Frigga gathered the devil and 11 witches (so 13 altogether) together every Friday, which was known as the “Witch’s Sabbath.” Thirteen is also the number of the Death card in Tarot.
How did these two superstitions combine into one? Some believe that Friday the 13th is seen as unlucky because on that day in October 1307, King Philip IV of France arrested members of the Knights Templar. However, some say that although Friday and 13 have long considered unlucky separately, they were combined only recently. In the Daily Mirror, psychologist Dr. Ciaran O’Keefe writes that there’s “virtually no written reference to the superstition prior to the 1900s.” He credits the bestselling 1907 novel Friday, The Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson with jump-starting the superstition. Of course, the 1980 movie Friday The 13th didn’t hurt, either.
Today, some modern witches are reclaiming Friday the 13th. In 2012, urban shaman and ritual expert Donna Hennes wrote for the Huffington Post, “Up until the patriarchal revolution, both Fridays and 13s were held in the very highest esteem. Both the day and the number were associated with the Great Goddesses, and therefore, regarded as the sacred essence of luck and good fortune.”
She explained, “Thirteen is certainly the most essentially female number — the average number of menstrual cycles in a year. The approximate number, too, of annual cycles of the moon… Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility, and lunar potency.” She added that in Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Iceland, and Teutonic cultures, Friday is associated with “ the early Mother Creation Goddesses for whom that day was named,” called Freya, Freia, Freyja, Fir, Frea or Frig.
In 2016, intuitive astrologer Tanaaz Chubb wrote on her website Forever Conscious, “Friday the 13th has often been held in high regards by women and the pagan community, and many rituals and spells are often conducted on this day in order to make the most of this beautiful energy.” She added that day is associated with the goddess Venus.
And in 2017, holistic intuitive Gina Spriggs told VICE, “My mother always told me that something good always happened to her on Friday the 13th. On this day with Goddess’ energies doubled, consider the lucky blend of just the right conditions, chemistries, elements, and energies, and work your own magic.”
Whether you see Friday the 13th as lucky, unlucky, or just another day, we have one this September — and another in December. So start making plans now.
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