Culture

Friday the 13th


Friday the 13th occurs when the thirteenth day of a month falls on a Friday, which superstition holds to be a day of bad luck. In the Gregorian calendar, this day occurs at least once, but at most three times a year. Any month’s 13th day will fall on a Friday if the month starts on a Sunday.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen), or paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”) attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning “fear”). The latter word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.

Fear of the number 13—aka, triskaidekaphobia goes back to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, Norse mythology’s heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous god 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.

It’s well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Also, some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th. Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware in Newark, said the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12. According to Fernsler, numerologists consider 12 a “complete” number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus, he pointed out.

Triskaidekaphobia’s Architectural Effects

Triskaidekaphobia can be seen even in how societies are built. More than 80 percent of high-rise buildings lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.

On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 1/2. In France socialites known as the quatorziens (“fourteeners”) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.

DePauw University’s Dudley said nobody really knows why Friday the 13th has spawned so many superstitions. “You’ve got to have something that is unlucky, and somehow they hit on 13,” he said. “But all these explanations are just moonshine.”

Fact of the day

2012 had three Black Fridays that are 13 weeks apart… How weird is that?

  • Friday January 13, 2012
  • Friday April 13, 2012
  • Friday April 13, 2012

Some events are intentionally scheduled for Friday the 13th for dramatic effect, like:

  • Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut album was released in the UK on Friday, February 13, 1970.
  • The 13th book in A Series of Unfortunate Events was released on Friday, October 13, 2006 by Lemony Snicket, also known as novelist Daniel Handler.
  • Four of the twelve films in the Friday the 13th series, including the most recent (reboot of the series), were released on a Friday the 13th.
  • Long-running theatrical show, Supernatural Chicago, premiered on Friday, February 13, 2004.
  • AdventureQuest Worlds MMORPG features special in-game events featuring Voltaire (musician) and other guests for each Friday the 13th.

Events that have been notable for being linked to the concept of Friday the 13th include:

  • The renowned rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur was pronounced dead on Friday, September 13, 1996.
  • The asteroid 99942 Apophis will make a close encounter with Earth, closer than the orbits of communication satellites, on Friday, April 13, 2029.
  • An engineering train on the Northern Line of the London Underground became uncoupled and went on a 13-minute journey southbound from Archway station, finally stopping at Warren Street tube station on the West End branch of the line on Friday, August 13, 2010. The train in front was forced to skip several stations and was diverted to the City branch of the line.
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