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Today is Friday the 13th. Here’s why people think it brings bad luck

Most folklore historians believe that the bad luck associated with the number 13 and historically with Friday gets compounded when the two come together.

more lifestyle Updated: Apr 13, 2018 13:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Friday the 13th,Norse mythology,The Last Supper
There’s even a word for the fear of Friday the 13th – friggatriskaidekaphobia.(Shutterstock)

If you had a bad start to the morning or are not having the best day today, you can blame it on the date. The associations of Friday 13 with misfortune are so popular in cultures across the world (there’s even a word for the fear of Friday the 13th – friggatriskaidekaphobia) that it is quite difficult to pin down the origins of this superstition.

However, there are some theories. Most folklore historians believe that the bad luck associated with the number 13 and historically with Friday gets compounded when the two come together.

13 is a bad number

The number 12 is considered the number of completeness (12 months of the year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 hours of the clock, and so on...) while 13, which comes after, lacks that balance. But so widely held is the belief that 13 is unlucky that many hotels do not have a 13th floor and some people prefer not to take the 13th row in a plane.

The Norse myth

According to Norse mythology, the grand feast of 12 gods was gatecrashed by a 13th invited guest – the evil god Loki. Loki tricked Hoor (the blind god of winter) into shooting his brother Baldr (the god of summer) with a magic spear. And because of this 13th unwanted guest, the number acquired negative connotations given that it led to such a great loss in the pantheon.

The Last Supper

Judas Iscariot was the 13th disciple at the last supper (held on a Thursday) who later betrayed Jesus (the next day observed as Good Friday). This might also be the origin of the superstition that if 13 people dine together, whoever leaves the table first would die within the year or become seriously ill.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper ( Wikimedia Commons )

The hangman works on Friday

Not only was Friday the day designated for crucifixions in Rome, but all executions in late-19th century America were also traditionally held on Fridays and it came to be called hangman’s day.

The execution of the Knights Templar

In his 2003 bestseller Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown highlighted the myth’s most popular origin. It was on Friday 13 October in 1307, when hundreds of Knights Templar were executed across France. According to legend, Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay cursed the King and the Pope for these murders.

The Americans bought into it big time

According to The North Carolina Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute about 800 to 900 million dollars are lost in USA every year because people choose to stay indoors and not travel or shop on Friday the 13th.

Donald Dossey, the founder of the institute and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun, says the fear of Friday the 13th, afflicts 17 to 21 million people in the United States.

The phobia associated with the date is responsible for the enduring success of the “Friday the 13th” horror film franchise that debuted in 1980, and featured a machete-wielding psychopath. The last film in the series came out in 2009.

A still from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988). ( )

There have been studies on it!

There have been studies conducted on how accident-prone the date actually is. One study by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) found that fewer accidents, reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of a month falls on a Friday as compared to an average Friday.

“I find it hard to believe that it is because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home, but statistically speaking, driving is a little bit safer on Friday 13th,” CVS statistician Alex Hoen was quoted by a Reuters report on the study.

Should you be worried?

It is unlikely that Friday the 13 will do you any harm, though believing in it might. Just remember the idea of time as linear is artificial, and calendars were created for our convenience.

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First Published: Oct 13, 2017 08:41 IST