Is fear of the number 13 more troubling than fear of Friday 13th? After all there is a 13 in every month.
In any year there will be at least one Friday 13th but never more than three. If the month starts on a Sunday the thirteenth day will be a Friday. This year’s Friday 13ths fall in January, April and July.
However, there is little evidence that Friday 13th was considered unlucky before the 19th century. The superstition seems to be a combination of two older ones, namely Friday is an unlucky day and 13 is an unlucky number. Friday was the day for executions in ancient Rome. Christ was crucified on a Friday. In Britain hangings were carried out on Fridays.
On Friday 13th October, 1066, William of Normandy demanded that King Harold II relinquish his throne. Harold refused and the Battle of Hastings took place the next day, Harold’s troops falling to William the Conqueror’s army. Life for the Anglo-Saxons was never the same again!
In recent times, stock market crashes have occurred on Fridays, spawning the phrase ‘Black Friday.’
The ancient Egyptians believed that people passed through twelve stages of life on earth and the thirteenth stage was the happy afterlife. When this belief was adopted by other cultures the association with happiness after death was lost and thirteen related simply to bad luck or death.
Witches’ covens are thought to have thirteen members and thirteen guests at a table presages disaster. In an Old Norse myth the god Odin invited eleven of the gods to a banquet. He did not invite the mischievous Loki to the feast but he heard about it and attended anyway. Loki caused an argument which resulted in the death of one of the gods.
Jesus sat down to the Last Supper with his twelve disciples. Judas Iscariot was one of the party of thirteen. He betrayed his master and killed himself.
Some hosts will seat a teddy bear or doll at a table where only thirteen people will gather. Towns often omit thirteen when numbering their streets, as do some hotels and airlines. Many high-rise blocks do not have a thirteenth floor. Italy’s national lottery doesn’t have a number thirteen.
So perhaps Friggatriskaidekaphobia is greater – it seems that the combination of an unlucky day with an unlucky number is just too terrifying to ignore.
However, in Spanish-speaking countries and in Greece it is Tuesday 13th that is considered unlucky.