In trying to find the origin of the superstition of Friday the 13th, I have found more old wives tales, legends and superstitions then I ever wanted to know. From various sources and the many different theories of the origin of Friday the 13th, it is very obvious that no one knows the true origin. With no written record we will probably never know the true origin of this bad luck, peril ridden day that still makes most people take notice of the date. Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun, said fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient, separate bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day.
Dossey traces the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.
“Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day,” said Dossey. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.
National Geographic reminds us of the Christian biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper. Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.
• If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. In France socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.
• The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894).
• Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. This fear of 13 is strong in today’s world. According to Dossey, more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
• If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names).
• Is Friday cursed? Many theories are suggested as to why Friday came to be regarded as a day of bad luck. Among the most common are linked to the Christian events that are said to have taken place on Friday. Such as the Crucifixion, Eve’s offering the apple to Adam in the Garden of Eden, the beginning of the Great Flood, and the confusion at the Tower of Babel. Many biblical scholars believe those events happened on a Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th.
Personal belief can be said to be the key to one’s reaction to Friday the 13th. There are some, I’m sure, who attach no superstitious acknowledgment at all to the day, or the number 13. However, you will be hard-pressed to find someone who has not at least heard of the dark connotation of the number 13 and the alleged bad luck potential of Friday the 13th.