So, today is Friday 13th! A day full of myth and superstition. But where does it all come from?
The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia”; the fear of Friday the 13th is called “paraskevidekatriaphobia”. Phew! Try saying that in one breath!
The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present the night before his death on Good Friday. There is also a suggestion that it could date back as far as 1307, when Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar on Friday 13th October; it is said upon their burning at the stake they condemned mankind to misfortune for the wrongs done to them. However, while there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky together before the 19th century, in which is it referred to in several popular novels; it seems to have gained popularity mainly during the 20th century and beyond.
Famous well-known indicators of bad luck include:
- A black cat crossing your path
- Breaking a mirror
- Walking under a ladder
- Opening an umbrella indoors
- Putting new shoes on the table
In addition to being considered a general day for bad luck, there are a number of more specific myths that have been perpetuated over the years in relation to Friday 13th. Some of the most popular myths are:
- A child born on Friday 13th will live an unlucky life
- If you start a long journey on Friday 13th, you will run into trouble
- Cutting hair or nails on Friday 13th may cause a family member to die
- Ships that set sail on Friday 13th are doomed
- If a funeral hearse passes you on Friday 13th, you will be the next to die
- Calling a doctor on Friday 13th indicates a fatal illness
The superstition surrounding the number 13 is so strong that some streets do not have a house with the number 13 on the door, while some of the world’s most famous hotels do not have a 13th floor, skipping instead from 12 to 14.
2018 has had 2 Friday 13th’s: one in April, the other today. Our next is not until next year where we will have one in September and December, so plenty of time to start working on generating some good luck, for example finding a penny or crossing your fingers. But remember, no walking under ladders in front of a black cat whilst smashing a mirror, OK?