For some people, the most feared day is the one on which they or a loved one will die. For others, it is the one on which someone finds the bodies in their basements, and for yet others, that day is Friday the 13th. Any Friday that falls on this day should be spent far away from ladders, mirrors and black cats, and if you play at an online casino, stick to games like Blackjack that require skill and strategy rather than just luck!
The belief that the 13th day of a month falling on a Friday is unlucky is an old one, as least for westerners. Even though the superstition is widespread, not many people, including those who believe the day is riddled with misfortune from sunrise to sunset, know the reasons behind it.
We did a bit of modern-day sleuthing (AKA Google) and learned that there are several different reasons for the superstition – some of which may make even dyed-in-the-wool sceptics think twice about leaving the house on Friday the 13th.
A Numbers Game
In western numerology, the number 12 signifies completion. This is obvious when you think of the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 months of the year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 zodiac houses, 12 Olympian gods, 12 tasks of Heracles, and the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ.
The number 13 disturbs that unity, which is one of the reasons the number traditionally has been considered unlucky. Of course, that does not explain the link with Friday. We need to look a little further for that answer…
The Most Famous Supper
Some folklorists think that Friday the 13th’s reputation for bad luck is connected to one of the most famous meals in history; namely, the last supper that Jesus ate with his 12 disciples. Altogether, 13 people were present at the supper, which was eaten on the Thursday before Good Friday, the day on which Jesus was crucified.
The person who is usually identified last in the list of disciples who attended what Christians believe was the first Eucharist is Judas Iscariot. According to the bible, Judas betrayed Jesus to the chief priests in Jerusalem.
The Templar Connection
Another reason that Friday the 13th is believed to be unlucky is connected to the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. The mediaeval Catholic military order better known as the Knights Templar was founded in 1119 with the mission of protecting Christian pilgrims.
In 1305, Pope Clement V and Templar grand master Jacques de Molay discussed charges against the order made by a disgraced knight. The pope asked King Philip IV of France, who was heavily indebted to the orders, to help with the investigation. The king seized the opportunity, and he had De Molay and many other Templars arrested at dawn on Friday 13 October 1307. Trumped-up charges were brought against the knights, including that they denied Christ, spat on the cross, worshipped the Baphomet, had heretical beliefs, practised magic, and engaged in homosexual activities.
De Molay and Geoffroi de Charney, the order’s Preceptor of Normandy, were found guilty of heresy. They were burned at the stake near Notre Dame Cathedral on 18 March 1314. As the flames burned, De Molay was recorded as saying that God knew who was wrong and who had sinned, and that misfortune would befall those who had condemned them to death. The pope died a month later, and the king died in a hunting accident not long after.
Recent Unlucky Events
Unlucky events on Friday the 13th are not limited to ancient and mediaeval history. The past hundred years saw their share of drama on the unluckiest day of the year.
On Friday 13 September 1940, German forces bombed London’s Buckingham Palace. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I were in residence, but were unharmed. Four workers, one of whom later died, sustained injuries. On 13 March 1964, Kitty Genovese was brutally raped and murdered in Queens, New York City.
From 3 until 13 November 1970, the Bhola cyclone tore into East Pakistan and the Indian province of West Bengal. One of the deadliest natural disasters the world has ever seen, the storm claimed the lives of 500,000 people. On 13 October 1972, a Uruguayan plane crashed on a glacier in the Andes. The survivors stayed alive by eating those who died in the crash. 16 people were rescued 72 days after the plane went down.
American rapper Tupac Shakur died of internal bleeding on 13 September 1996, after being shot in a drive-by incident on the 7th of that month. On 13 January 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship struck a rock, ran aground, and overturned off the Italian coast. 30 people died in the wreck.
Whether you believe in superstition or not, you have got to admit that is a whole lot of bad juju for one day. No wonder fear of Friday the 13th is formally known as Paraskevidekatriaphobia!