Superstition holds that should the 13th day of any month fall on a Friday it will be an unlucky day. This entry looks at some of the origins of this popular superstition.
The Number 13
For almost as long as man has been able to count there have been those with a distrust or even outright fear of the number 13. Commonly called a 'Devil's Dozen', the number 13 even has it's own phobia known as triskaidekaphobia. Superstitions involving '13' can be found the world over with places, buildings and streets commonly missing out the number completely. There are traditionally 13 witches in a coven and it is said that to have 13 letters in your name grants you the 'devil's luck'.
A very popular theory for the origin of the number's bad reputation is that there were 13 present at the last supper of Jesus Christ, with Jesus' betrayal by the 13th guest, Judas Iscariot, leading to his execution. Much earlier theories and stories exist though including a tale from Norse mythology. There was a big dinner party at Valhalla with 12 diners invited. Loki, the trickster god and closest thing that Norse myth had to a devil, was not on the list. He did however gate-crash and caused the dinner to end in disaster with the death of the much loved god Boden.
Many today still believe it unlucky to have 13 people at a dinner table. The Savoy hotel in London, UK, counters the problem of dinner bookings for 13 by having a wooden cat statue named 'Casper' to act as the partys 14th guest.
In pre-Christian times Friday was not ill-associated at all. Linked with Venus, the goddess of love and all things to do with romance and fertility, it was considered a good day for marriages or anything romance related. Friday was also in some parts and faiths equalled to the Christian sabbath day. It is quite possible that whilst trying to eradicate the old beliefs that preceded them, early Christians created and fuelled Friday's bad reputation. They were no doubt aided by the fact that Jesus himself is believed to have been crucified on a Friday.
Interestingly there is a yet to be disproved urban myth that in the 1800's fear of sailing on a Friday was so strong amongst sailors that the British Government decided to try and prove they had nothing to fear. A ship named the HMS Friday was commssioned. Her keel was laid on a Friday, the crew were selected on a Friday and finally she was Captained by a man named James Friday. The ship set sail on a Friday and was allegedly never seen or heard from again.
We have no real reason to believe Friday the 13th to be more lucky or unlucky than any other day. Yes, there does seem to be at times more accidents on that day but coincidence no doubt plays its part along with our own self fullfilling beliefs.