This article was originally published on January 12, 2017.
Friday the 13th is mere days away — do you know where your rabbit’s foot is? Whether or not you believe in the superstitions behind the storied date, it’s hard not to be impressed by their ubiquity. In fact, fear of this date is so widespread that it’s actually cheaper to travel on Friday the 13th. Here, we take a look at why Friday the 13th has become a particularly dreaded day. But first, let’s take a look at its basic elements: Friday and the number 13.
Arguably the most vilified number (aside from 666), 13 has countless malevolent origins. It’s been associated with death, Satan, and witchcraft. You may have heard the old wives’ tale that, at a dinner table of 13 people, one person shall die — that superstition dates all the way back to Norse mythology.
Meanwhile, Friday hasn’t enjoyed a squeaky clean reputation, either. According to Snopes, Friday has been considered an unlucky day since the 14th century, thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer’s reference to it in The Cantebury Tales: “And on a Friday fell all this mischance.” However, the day’s notoriety wasn’t cemented until the 17th century — the literature of this time often linked Friday to meager harvests, bad business, and disastrous travel.
And, as we’ve mentioned in the past, Friday the 13th isn’t the only unlucky day on the calendar. But what makes Friday and 13 such a lethal combination? It’s actually unclear — the history around this supposedly unlucky date is murky at best (as it is with many other superstitions). Fortunately, there are some possible leads out there. Here are a few potential origins of Friday the 13th as an ill-fated date:
Friday has had a bad reputation in Christianity from the get-go. It’s believed to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit (which led to them being cast out of paradise), and if that wasn’t enough, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, too. Separate from Fridays, 13 took on negative connotations during the Last Supper. Judas was the 13th apostle to arrive and eventually betrayed Jesus, putting him on track to be crucified that very Friday.
The Knights Templar
We have The Da Vinci Code to thank for this theory. Dan Brown’s novel mentioned that this famous order of knights was arrested, tortured, and killed on Friday, October 13, 1307, and essentially credited that moment in history for the cultural connotations around Friday the 13th. For the most part, however, this is considered kind of thin reasoning — plenty of other bad things have happened on this date throughout history.
In his book 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition, Nathaniel Lachenmeyer credits another novel for the widespread fear of Friday the 13th. Published in 1907, Friday, the Thirteenth tells the story of a stock broker who chooses that day to incite a panic intended to take down Wall Street altogether.
We leave it to you to choose what to believe, but don’t be surprised if you catch yourself looking over your shoulder this Friday.
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