Is Friday the 13th unlucky? Know the origins of this superstition

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When it comes to bad luck, there are few superstitions as pervasive in Western culture as that of Friday the 13th. Like crossing a black cat or breaking a mirror, the notion of a day that brings bad luck is deeply ingrained—and not even the more superstitious can explain why.

If there is a group that loves to get together to enjoy the most macabre movies on this date, there are also those who suffer from a true fear of the day so badly talked about. And it can be so serious that it was considered a syndrome, paraskevidekatriaphobia, created by doctors and with a name of Greek origin: “paraskeví (Friday) and “dekatreís” (13).

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But it is still curious that, following the Gregorian calendar, the 13th is much more likely to fall on a Friday (of any month) than any other day of the week. In 2023, we will experience this twice: in January and in October. Although the superstition surrounding the date is not universal (in Italy, for example, Friday the 17th is the most feared day), the whole concept is widely known. You know the reason?

Origin of “bad luck”

It is difficult to say exactly what the origins of the stories about Friday the 13th are, but it is known that, in certain cultures, both the 13th and Friday are considered “unlucky”. In the book “Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things”, Charles Panati traces the concept of “cursed” in Norse mythology, when Loki, the God of Evil, invades a feast in Valhalla bringing the number of gods present to 13.

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In Scandinavia, according to the same author, the superstition spread south across Europe and became established in the Mediterranean at the beginning of the Christian era. It was then that the “unlucky” numbers gained even more strength, as great biblical episodes happened on a Friday the 13th:

  • – Jesus Christ and his disciples attended the last supper on Thursday the 12th, but the 13th guest, Judas, appears on Friday;
    – Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge on a Friday the 13th;
    — It is also the date on which Cain murdered Abel his brother;
    – The Temple of Solomon was demolished on a Friday the 13th;
    – Noah’s Ark set sail in the Great Flood also on a Friday the 13th;

But it was in the 19th century that the day of the week and the number gained the reputation of “misfortune”. Steve Rud explains, in “The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland”, that the combination of the sixth and the number 13 is a Victorian invention. In 1907, the publication of the novel “Friday, the Thirteenth” (Friday, the 13th), was a resounding success with the story of an unscrupulous broker who takes advantage of the superstitions surrounding the date to crash the stock market.

In 1980, the hockey-masked serial killer also made waves in the “Friday the 13th” horror movie franchise. In 2003, writer Dan Brown published “The Da Vinci Code” and argued that the superstition began when hundreds of members of the Knights Templar were arrested on a Friday the 13th in October 1307.

pagan deity

It’s not everyone who believes that a date like this can be loaded with so much misfortune. There is also evidence that Friday the 13th is a harbinger of good luck. In pagan times, Friday was believed to have a unique association with the divine feminine.

Derived from Old English, Friday means “Frigg’s day”, the Queen of Asgard and a powerful goddess in the sky in Norse Mythology (also known as Frigga) who was always associated with love, marriage and motherhood. Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility and war (with whom Frigg was often confused), was gifted with the power of magic, predicting the future and determining who would die in battle. It was also said that she used a carriage drawn by two black cats.

The two goddesses were widely worshiped throughout Europe and, due to associations, Friday was considered, by the Norse and Teutonic peoples, a lucky date for marriage. The number 13, in turn, was considered a miraculous number by pre-Christian cultures and worshiped by goddesses because of its connection with the number of lunar and menstrual cycles. Fertility was highly valued in pagan times and it was common to see works of art related to menstruation, fertility and the phases of the moon.

The approximately 25,000-year-old limestone sculpture Venus of Laussel depicts a female figure cradling her pregnant belly with one hand and holding a crescent-shaped horn with 13 notches in the other. Scholars believe that the statue may have represented the goddess of fertility in some ceremony of the time, while the 13 lines are understood as a reference to the lunar and / or menstrual cycle, both symbolizing female power.


With the boost of Christianity in the Middle Ages, many of the worship and customs of paganism were erased, especially the celebration of Friday, the number 13 and the goddesses who invoked love, sex, fertility, magic and pleasure – considered, then, profane .

We do know, however, that such deities were so revered that it was a challenge to get people to ignore them. It was then that the persecution of witches began. “When the Nordic and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished to a mountaintop in shame and branded a witch,” writes Panati. “It was believed that every Friday the spiteful goddess called a meeting with eleven other witches plus the devil – a meeting of thirteen – and plotted evil twists of fate for the coming week.”

At the moment

Today, Friday the 13th still haunts the Western imagination, but perhaps the narrative of that date and the female deities associated with it are coming back to prominence. Taylor Swift, for example, has 13 as her lucky number, since, according to the singer, her greatest achievements happened on this date and on a Friday. “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first gold album was in 13 weeks. My first No. 1 song had a 13-second intro,” he told MTV in 2009. “Every time I’ve won an award, I’ve sat in the 13th seat, 13th row, 13th section or M row, which is 13th. letter. Basically, whenever a 13 comes up in my life, it’s a good thing.”

In any case, whether with rituals, parties to the sound of the pop diva’s music or horror movies, every Friday the 13th deserves to be celebrated.

Source: CNN Brasil

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