Friday the 13th Superstitions

Friday the 13th…AND Black Friday in the same month – run to the hills!

Today is Friday the 13th, and two weeks from now it will be Black Friday –

Oh no! A black cat! From Wikimedia commons.

Oh no! A black cat! From Wikimedia commons.

now for some of us Friday the 13th means zilch, besides a series of increasingly ridiculous slasher flicks.  Since it is Friday the 13th, I thought I’d bestow a little knowledge on everybody – and you can put away thoughts of fast cash loans for cloves of garlic, or dream catchers, or anything else to ward off evil spirits.


Friday is associated with bad luck.  Part of the “unlucky” Friday tradition is that Jesus was crucified on a Friday (Good Friday).  Also, in Medieval Folklore, witches gather on a Friday for…whatever they do.  (Wearing obscene amounts of patchouli, for instance.)  Why is that? The very name for the day comes to us from Pagan tradition – the etymology (the origin of words) of Friday is Germanic.  Freitag (Fry-tahg) is the day (tag) of Freya/Freyja, a Germanic/Norse goddess of love and fertility. (In the Romance languages, the corresponding name for the day derives from Venus.)  So do other days – Thor’s Day = Thursday, Woden/Odin’s Day = Wednesday, etc.  As a result of these superstitions across cultures, Friday is a day of bad luck for stock markets, and especially bad luck for a ship to sail on a Friday. However, it’s just a word, and a day – signifying nothing.

The Number 13

The number 13 kind of goes both ways –  lucky to some, unlucky to others. A lot of it is to do with 13 coming directly after 12, which is symbolically relevant in and of itself.  12, for instance, the number of Apostles (well…13 if you count St. Paul), the number of months in the Gregorian (solar) calendar, though there are 13 months in the lunar year.  12 is also the number of notes in the Western musical scale.  (The Indian scale has 37, the Chinese has 60.)  In Christian tradition, there were 13 people at the Last Supper, and the 13th to be seated was Judas, 13 is when a Jewish male has a bar mitzvah, etc.   However, what makes 13 an unlucky number has to do entirely with the fact that some cultures consider it unlucky – that cultural tradition spread around the world, and through that cultural tradition, and also the tradition concerning Friday, the superstitions combined over time, most notably in the 19th century, where it starts to get mentioned at all.

Well I ain’t superstitious

If you think Fridays are “evil,” then you’ll see every bad event on a Friday as being caused by it being Friday.  If you think the number 13 is evil, you’ll find the number 13 as a cause.  Fear of the number 13, and of Friday the 13th are phobias, or triskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia, respectively.  (Try saying those 5 times fast.)  If you think Friday the 13th is unlucky, you’ll see bad events as being caused by it being Friday the 13th if they occur.  It’s called Cum hoc ergo propter hoc (“with this therefore because of this”), a logical fallacy, or Correlation Does Not Imply Causality.  Friday the 13th superstitions – though anything that happens on the 13th is purely coincidence – aren’t likely to go away – it’s ingrained in our culture, so it probably isn’t going anywhere.

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