A persistent superstition with roots in fourteenth

A persistent superstition with roots in fourteenth century folklore.

You're probably familiar with the age-old superstition that 13 is definitely an unlucky number, except perhaps in the case of a baker's dozen. Fear of 13 is so widespread, the amount is usually skipped when numbering floors in a building, house numbers, or rooms. In Italy, the house between 12 and 14 is 12-1/2.

You might have heard that Friday continues to be considered an unlucky day, although nowadays many of us look forward to the end of the school or workweek — TGIF! (Thank goodness it's Friday!)

It comes as no surprise then that after you put Friday and 13 together, around 17 million people consider the day doubly unlucky (Phobia Institute North Carolina). There's a clinical phobia — friggatriskaidekaphobics — that keeps some in bed, housebound, or grounded every Friday the 13th.

My children are especially thinking about superstitions and folklore similar to this. They would like to know:

    Why do people believe the superstition? In other words, where's the proof?How did it start? Where and when did Friday the 13th become unlucky?

Origin and History of Friday the 13th

At least from the fourteenth century, "13" and "Friday" individually happen to be considered unlucky in a number of cultures.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century, King Philip IV of France ordered all Knights Templar charged with heresy on Friday the 13th.At the end of the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer alluded to Friday as a bad day in The Canterbury Tales.The earliest written reference to Friday the 13th as an unlucky day occurred in a biography from the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini by Henry Sutherland Edwards (1869). Rossini died on Friday the 13th, November 1868.In the nineteenth century The Sailor's Word-Book, Admiral William Henry Smyth described Friday: "The Dies Infaustus, on which old seamen were desirous of not getting under weigh, as ill-omened." Thus the enduring sailor's superstition that it's unlucky to begin a voyage on Friday.

Brandi William lists a few of these yet others in her own creepy facts and statistics about Friday the 13th.

More on this topic

    Superstition, Folklore and Friday the 13thBlack Cats, Superstition and HalloweenFriday the Thirteenth: the Fearsome, the most popular and also the Unique

    Unlucky 13

    In numerous traditions, the amount 12 connotes completeness, i.e. Twelve months, 12 hours on the clock, 12 zodiac signs, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 Christian apostles, 12 tribes of Israel. Thirteen, then, is recognized as irregular, abnormal, or perhaps a transgress of natural completeness. Unluckiness, then, will be a consequence or result of that transgress.

    You might have heard the superstition: Having 13 people in a table will result in the death of one, as in the Christian Last Supper with 12 Apostles and Judas the betrayer or even the Norse myth with 12 gods and Loki the unwelcome dinner guest.In the italian capital, witches gathered in groups of 12 using the devil as the 13th.The ancient Egyptians thought that death was the 13th stage of the person's existence. Tarot card 13 is Death.Chapman had 13 letters in his name.

    Unlucky Friday

    In Christian tradition, Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit on a Friday, Cain killed Abel on a Friday, the Great Flood started on a Friday, and Jesus was crucified and died on the Friday.

    In ancient Roman times, executions traditionally happened on Fridays. In England, some still refer to Fridays as Hangman's Day. Traditionally, a noose was tied with 13 knots and 13 steps run up to the noose.

    My daughters are interested in anything mystical, mysterious, or strange. They want to demystify it. The more you realize, the less you fear. That's what we tried to do in our search for the interesting background and folklore surrounding Friday the 13th.


    Pappas, Stephanie. "13 Common (But Silly) Supersitions." LiveScience.com, 13 Jan 2012.

    Kanalley, Craig. "Friday the 13th Superstitions: Where'd They are available From?" HuffingtonPost.com, 13 May 2011.


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