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Friday, November 13, 2009

Why is Friday the 13th So Unlucky?

Never change your bed on Friday; it will bring bad dreams. Don't start a trip on Friday or you will have misfortune. If you cut your nails on Friday, you cut them for sorrow. A child born on a Friday is doomed to misfortune.

Ever wonder where the Friday the 13th superstition originated? My interest was piqued today as multitudes of customers would come to my window, ask what the date was so they could fill out their deposit slip, and then gasp at the fact that today was Friday the 13th. To most of them, this ancient superstition is a joke, but to the other 21 million Americans, who suffer from Paraskevidekatriaphobia (people who have an irrational and morbid fear about Friday the 13th), the threat of misfortune is real.

The number 13 seems to be considered unlucky for many ancient cultures. The supersitition began from a Norse myth telling of 12 gods dining at Valhallah, their heaven. A 13th uninvited guest, Loki, arrived, persuading the god of darkness to slay the god of happiness. This supposedly started the unluckiness of number 13. In fact, people take this so much to heart that 80% of high rises lack a 13th floor. The city of San Francisco does not have a 13th Avenue. Rather, Funston Ave is located between 12th and 14th Avenue. Many airports skip the 13th gate and instead call it Gate 12B.

The origin of "Friday" began with the goddess, Frigg, also known as the goddess of marriage. Later, she was confused with Freya, the goddess of love, who also became identified with Friday. When the Norseman and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Freya was supposedly banished to the mountains as a witch. Friday then became known as the "witches sabboth" because this was the day when 12 witches plus the Devil met - 13 spirits in all.

These are the main theories for the origin of Friday the 13th, but no one knows for sure. We can assume that because 13 was such an unlucky number for most, and Friday was an unlucky day, that any Friday the 13th would inevitably become the unluckiest day of all.

Here are some historical Friday the 13th occurances:
  • October 13, 1307 - King Phillip IV of France tortured multitudes of monks on counts of blasphemy, heresy, and homosexuality.
  • July 13, 1951 - The "Great Flood" of Kansas resulted in over three-quarters of a billion dollars worth in damage and destroyed 2 million acres of land.
  • March 13, 1964 - The "Good Friday" earthquake became North America's largest earthquake in history and killed 131 people.
  • March 13, 1992 - An earthquake in Turkey killed 2,000 people and left 50,000 homeless.
  • October 13, 2006 - A major snowstorm occurred in Buffalo, NY that left 380,000 homes and businesses without power. Three people also died.
Many believe that these collections of dates prove that fateful events will happen on this day, but with so many horrific things happening in the world every day, this belief seems hard to prove.

For others who claim that unlucky things do happen to them on Friday the 13ths, I believe this can be explained through a heightened sense of anxiety which could create more falls or accidents. If you believe in something long enough, you will probably find reasons to make it true.

And lastly, for those who do not take superstitions seriously, then why not throw a Friday the 13th party? Feel free to smash a few mirrors, set up a couple ladders to walk under, and invite some of your black feline friends over. :)
Emery, David. "Why Friday the 13th is Unlucky." About.com. 22 January 2009. 13 November 2009 .


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