Friday, August 13, 2010

The history behind Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is widely considered the unluckiest day of the year. But why?

We all have a dose of friggatriskaidekaphobia - or the fear of Friday the 13th. People have for centuries. In fact, the original thought behind why the date is so unlucky can be traced back to 1700 B.C. The number 13 has always been regarded as doomed. The ancient Babylon's Code of Hammurabi omits the number 13 in its list of laws. Many tall buildings still to this day do not have a 13th floor.

The number is not the only thing with a negative connotation. Fridays, in general, have had a heavy cloud hanging over them for decades. Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century's The Canterbury Tales, and many other professions have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.
What about the tie to Friday specifically? Another theory given by author Charles Panati, one of the leading authorities on the subject of "Origins," maintains that the superstition can be traced back to ancient myth. In Norse mythology, Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil — a gathering of thirteen — and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath."

Another theory as to why Friday the 13th has a bad rap is due to a monastic military order in Jerusalem in 1307. The Knights Templar became extraordinarily powerful and wealthy with their order to protect Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. According to one expert, King Philip was threatened by that power and eager to acquire their wealth, so he secretly ordered the mass arrest of all the Knights Templar in France on Friday, October 13, 1307 - Friday the 13th.
Jesus also died on a Friday and there were 13 people at the Last Supper. That is not the only calamitous event in the Bible that occurred on a Friday. Eve offered a devilish apple to Adam on a Friday. The Great Flood started on a Friday. The confusion at the Tower of Babel also happened on a Friday.

A further theory goes back to a combination of Paganism, Christianity, and the Battle of Hastings. For many, the number 13 was considered a lucky number (such as 13 lunar cycles each year), but with the efforts of Christianity attempting to degrade all things Pagan, they promoted 13 as an unlucky number, with Friday thus also being considered a bad day of the week. However, on Friday the 13th of October 1066, the decision was made by King Harold II to go to battle on Saturday Oct. 14, rather than allow his troops a day of rest (despite his army having made a long and arduous march from a battle near York just 3 weeks earlier).
Thirteen is so unlucky, in fact, that in 1881 an organization called the Thirteen Club attempted to improve the number's reputation. At the first meeting, the members (all 13 of them) walked under ladders to enter a room covered with spilled salt. The club lasted for many years and grew to more than 400 members, including five U.S. Presidents: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

Here are other superstitions that many people observe:
•Don't walk under a ladder

•Don't let a black cat cross your path

•If you break a mirror, you'll have seven years bad luck

•Don't open an umbrella indoors

•Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back

•It's bad luck to sing or sleep at the table

•A bird that comes in through a window is bad luck

•Don't refuse a kiss under mistletoe

•Don't chase someone with a broom

•Don't drop a dishcloth

•Only get out of bed on the same side that you got in bed

•Don't rock an empty rocking chair

•Don't wear an opal unless it's your birthstone

•Don't smell dandelions, otherwise you'll wet the bed

•Don't give someone a wallet without money in it

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