Friday the 13th superstitions have history

Lisa Goudy
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Lisa Goudy

I am not a superstitious person.

I do not think bad luck will come my way if I walk under a ladder or if a black cat crosses my path. I do not believe a rabbit’s foot or a four-leaf clover will give me good luck.

I also don’t think Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but rather it is just another day that happens quite frequently. Today happens to be one of those days.

A lot of fear surrounds Friday the 13th for reasons I don’t quite understand. Sure, 13 is a prime number, but so is seven. Why isn’t seven an unlucky number? What is it specifically about Friday the 13th that has so many people worried?

Well, after a little digging, it turns out the superstition originated from religion and from Norse mythology, according to the Business Insider website. In the Bible, Judas betrayed Jesus at the Last Supper. He was the 13th guest and last apostle. Jesus was crucified on a Friday. The article said some academics believe Adam tempted eve on a Friday.

In ancient Egypt, Egyptians believed the afterlife was the 13th phase of life. As such, their ancient Code of Hammurabi skips No. 13.

However, what caught my particular interest as new information was the Norse mythology background.

As detailed in an article, according to Norse mythology, Odin, the father of all gods, and his 11 closest friends dined together. The god of evil and chaos, Loki, was uninvited to the party of 12.

Loki crashed the party and the god of joy and happiness, Balder, died on that night after Loki fooled Balder’s brother “into throwing a sprig of mistletoe at Balder’s chest,” said the website. Mistletoe was the only thing on Earth that could kill Balder.

The superstition only grew when, on Oct. 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the “persecution of the Knights Templar,” said the article on the Business Insider website. It was also a Friday.

“In the following years, several thousand faced torture and execution,” the article said. “if those tales don’t convince you, math also has a stake in why people get bad vibes from the number (13).” in

It continued on to say the number 12 appears a lot in the culture, such as the number of months a year, the number of hours on a clock, the number of zodiac signs and the number of Jesus’ apostles.

“Thirteen has a tough act to follow,” the website said. “Regardless of where, when, or how this superstition started, we’ve perpetuated our own fear.”

Stuart Vyse, psychology professor at Connecticut College in New London told National Geographic the world would be better off if no one learned about the superstitions.

I have to agree. As interesting as it is to learn about the origins of the superstition, it doesn’t change my beliefs. I do not have friggatriskaidekaphobia, which is the technical name for fear of Friday the 13th.

I do think, though, that if we believe in a superstition, we will find the evidence to match the theory and give us reason to continue believing in it. We’re far better off making our own luck by the choices we make.

After all, we should learn from Sherlock Holmes’ logic. In the 2009 film starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, Holmes says, “Never theorize before you have data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Connecticut College, Business Insider, New London National Geographic

Geographic location: Egypt, France

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Recent comments

  • Joe Goudy
    December 18, 2013 - 02:51

    Great article. Love the history behind the number 13. Personally, the number 13 was always my mom`s favourite number - my three oldest siblings were all born on the 13th day of the month.