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Fear of Friday 13th and the Number Thirteen
Are you terrified of Friday 13th or the number thirteen? After being a Hubber for a few weeks, I was faced with the challenge of writing my thirteenth Hub. As I was pondering what topic to choose to write about, I suddenly started to think ‘What if this Hub is unlucky in some way because it’s the thirteenth!’
While I put that thought to the back of my mind as irrational and superstitious, it got me to thinking about why is the number thirteen so powerful? Why does it have so many myths and stories, both positive and negative, attached to it? So to celebrate my thirteenth Hub, I have researched and put together some facts about the fated number and why Friday 13th is supposed to be such an ill-fated and unlucky day.
Can you spell 'triskaidekaphobia'?
The Egyptians had a positive association with the number thirteen. They believed that there were twelve steps towards immortality and by moving onto the final – and thirteenth – step, it meant that they had paid their dues and could move on from this mortal life and death into a sunlit, eternal life of happiness and abundance.
The Knights Templar did not have such a happy experience of the number thirteen. They were arrested on the orders of Philippe IV of France, who wanted to break their power and influence as he owed them too much money, on Friday 13th October 1307, and were condemned to be tortured and executed. The Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at the stake in Paris on March 18th, 1314 and according to legend as he was being burned he prophesied that both King Philippe and Pope Clement V, who had worked with King Philippe for the Templar’s downfall, would soon meet him in death. Pope Clement passed away only a month later and King Philippe was killed in a hunting accident before the year was over. Some say that the fear of Friday 13th dates from this time.
The fear of the number thirteen in modern life is such that tall buildings often are built with no thirteenth floor designated by the architects, streets may not have a house numbered thirteen and it is unlucky to have thirteen to dinner. In the Savoy Hotel in London, if you booked a table for thirteen in the Savoy Grill, they will set an extra place for you and your uninvited guest will be Kaspar, a three foot high statue of a ‘lucky’ black cat. It is thought that if by some chance thirteen people did sit down for dinner, that the first person to rise from the table would very soon die. There have been some very famous and powerful people who had a fear of this number. The American President Franklin D. Roosevelt would never have this unlucky number of people of people to dine and also would never travel on the 13th of the month, and the Emperor Napoleon also had a great fear of the number thirteen.
Norse legend adds to fear that thirteen is not a good number of guests to have to dinner. Twelve Norse gods were having a banquet in Valhalla, and the evil god Loki turned up uninvited. While he was at the banquet, he guided the blind god Hodr to kill his brother Baldr with a missile made of mistletoe. This slaying triggered Ragnarok the ‘final destiny of the gods’ where a series of major natural disasters and a great battle led to the death of many of the major Norse deities, including Odin, Thor, Freya and Loki himself.
In the Christian tradition Jesus sat with his twelve disciples at the Last Supper to break bread for the last time before his arrest and crucifixion. The disciple who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot, was believed to have been the last and the thirteenth to sit at the table. In addition, Jesus was also crucified on a Friday, which has contributed towards it being considered an unlucky day. Other biblical reasons for Friday being considered an unlucky and inauspicious day are that the first humans, Adam and Eve, are thought to have plucked and eaten the forbidden apple on a Friday, and also that the flood that destroyed the earth and that Noah built his ark to survive started on a Friday. It seems then that 2012 could well be on course for being an exceptionally unlucky year as the 13th falls on a Friday in three separate months – January, April and July – which is very unusual and will not occur again until 2026.
Fishermen and sailors, who are generally very superstitious due to the peril of their work, are very wary of all Fridays. It was considered to be a very inauspicious day of the week and was thought by many mariners to be the Devil's day. They thought that any work that was started on a Friday would never be completed. Years ago, sailors would not set sail on a Friday if they could help it and if a fishing vessel was unlucky enough to already be out at sea on that day, the fishermen would be careful not to switch from one fishing method to another. Similarly, shipyards would not launch a new vessel on a Friday because it would attract bad luck or on the same day of the week that the work had commenced on building the ship.
Some people are so worried about the number thirteen that they develop a phobia about it and this phobia is known as Triskaidekaphobia. If it is specifically Friday 13th that you panic about, you are known as aParaskevidekatriaphobic, and you are in good company as apparently around 60 million people worldwide admit to this fear. Sailors are an unusually superstitious bunch of people, and their dislike and fear of Friday is such that they regard it as very unlucky to set sail on a voyage on that day of the week.
The number thirteen is also said to be a powerful and sacred number. Witches covens are made up of thirteen members, King Arthur had twelve knights sitting around his Round Table and of course, Jesus had twelve disciples. On a more ghoulish note, it is also said that to make a hangman’s noose that is strong enough to break the condemned prisoner’s neck takes thirteen turns. Thirteen is a number that reflects certain patterns in the natural world; there are thirteen major joints in the human body, the solar year has thirteen lunar cycles and the moon travels thirteen degrees across the sky each day.
So are you one of those people who worry about the number thirteen or are scared and nervous when every Friday 13th approaches? I personally have not experienced a particularly bad Friday 13th; maybe we just notice things more on those days, like the bus being late, and blame it on the date? While I was at College, I had a friend who used to stay in bed all day every Friday 13th. I used to tell her that if something bad was really meant to happen to her on that date, the ceiling could always fall in on her! So stay lucky and be happy with the number thirteen!