Famous Sayings: #44 — ‘Friday the 13th’

January 13, 2017

Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.

Friday the 13th, Jason Vorhees, black cat, forest, ladder, mirror, full moon

Note: This post Friday the 13th was originally part of the Famous Sayings that was published on November 13, 2016.

As I was doing research about the superstition surrounding the number 13, I naturally came across information about Friday the 13th. But after promoting my post on The Daily Post’s Community Pool, one respondent suggested that I break up the original post.

That got me thinking: Why not create another post for Friday the 13th? Later on, after launching my second feature, I decided to move this feature to Fridays in order to place the newer feature on Sundays. So here we are.)

How Did Friday the 13th Become a Thing?

From talk of black cats and ladders, to the popular movie franchise, Friday the 13th is a common phrase.

Every year will have a Friday the 13th, and some will have three. Many people try to avoid shopping, going out, or traveling on the day because they associate it with bad luck.

  • Yorker Daz Baxter’s death occurred in 1976. Ironically, he stayed in his apartment because of his superstition, but the floor he was on collapsed (Malloy).
  • The October 13, 1989 drop in the Dow Jones was the largest single-day drop to that index in history at the time. It has been nicknamed the Friday-the-13th mini-crash (Greenberg). (Since then, there have been worse drops in indexes.)
  • During the 1990’s, retired bus conductor Bob Renphrey refused to go out on Friday the 13th because the Welshman had suffered a number of misfortunes on the day — crashing four cars, falling into the river, being made redundant (Malloy).

In Finland, people have tried to turn the day into a positive thing. Since 1995, one Friday the 13th a year is dedicated to National Accident Day in order to promote safety on the roads, at home, and at the workplace (“13 Facts”).

But why is Friday the 13th, of all days, singled out? The answers may surprise you.

Here Are Some Terms and Basic Information.

Before, I shared some definitions about the numerical superstition. I also shared that triskaidekaphobia was the fear of the number 13.

Here are two more words: praskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia. Either term can be used for the fear of Friday the thirteenth.

Paraskavedekatriaphobia is formed by using the Greek terms paraskeví (Friday) dekatria (13), and phobia (which means fear).

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is formed by taking the word Frigg from Norse Mythology and the Greek words trisadideka (which is also 13) and phobia (“13 Facts”).

As I said above, second word has Norse roots. The word Friday is based on the name Frija, the foremother of Frigg/Freyja.

Also: It would appear at times that Frigg, and Freyja (also spelled Freja) were two separate entities, but they were the same Norse goddess. In fact, the word “Freyja” was nothing more than a title, like the German “Frau” or the English “Mrs.” (McCoy).

Frigg was multitalented and the goddess of love, beauty, wisdom, war, death, and magic (Padden). She may have been promiscuous, although she was the wife of Odin (McCoy).

Now, how did the fear of this date develop?

There are a lot of rumors concerning the origin of Friday the 13th, and but there is little evidence to determine the exact origin of the superstition. There are numerous connections made between the number 13 and Fridays in literature, but none have clearly been made in religion.

Also consider the significance of Friday on its own. Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky in their own right. However, it would take some time for the two to be put together as part of another superstition.

Fridays Have Long Been Looked at As Unlucky Days.

In November, I talked about how and why the number 13 is viewed as unlucky. But did you know that Fridays have been viewed as the unluckiest day of the week in the much of the West?

In Religion

Many think that the fear of Friday and/or Friday the 13th could have origins in various religions.

Teutonic (Germanic) people avoided holding weddings on the day of the week because of how lovely the goddess the day was named after was (Frigg). They considered the day unlucky overall (Padden).

A number of negative events in the Bible were said to have occurred on Friday, including the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the start of the Great Flood, and Jesus’ crucifixion. The above Claims were found in Dictionary of Phrase and Fable by E. Cobham Brewer, which was published in 1898 (Pappas).

By the way: Tuesdays in Spanish-speaking countries and Greece are looked at as unlucky days, so Tuesday the 13th is looked at like Friday the 13th for much of the West. The reason is that Tuesday (called “Martes in Spanish) is named after the Ares, the Greek god of war (Mars in Roman mythology).

In Literature

In Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer stated that it was bad luck to start a journey or a project on a Friday. In the work, published in the 14th century, Chaucer states, “Friday is considered a day of misfortune and ill luck” (Greenberg).

Also, Julia Greenberg states:

In numerous publications in the 17th century, Friday the 13th was outlined as an unlucky day to take a trip, to begin a new project or to have a major life change (such as a birth, a marriage, among other events).

Many avoid setting sail on Fridays, unless it is Good Friday.

With Executions

Fridays were known as Hangman’s Day since many criminals were usually executed on that day of the week (Bull). Friday was the standard day for crucifixions in Rome. Executions were held on Fridays in 19th-century America (Hutchinson).

The History of Friday the 13th May Be Found in Literature.

From H. Sutherland Edwards, to Dan Brown, there are three works in particular that may point to the origin of Friday the 13th as a superstition. But one work in particular really makes a connection.


H. Sutherland Edwards was the author of Italian composer Gioachina Rossini’s biography, The Life of Rossini.

Here’s a passage from page 356:

Rossini had the happiness not to survive his capacity for production,—far less his reputation, which the performance throughout Europe of his last work cannot fail to enhance. He was surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends ; and if it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died.

It appears Edwards may have been one of the first to make the connection, but little was made of it (Padden).


Friday the 13th was mentioned again in the 1880’s but not really in a superstitious sense. From the poem entitled “The Good Dog of Brette” by John Godfrey Saxe (1882): Friday was “a day when misfortune is aptest [SIC] to all.” On that day, a butcher cuts off a poodle’s tail (Pappas).


Now, it appears that Friday the 13th was not associated with bad luck until 1907. That year, stockbroker Thomas Lachenmeyer published the novel Friday the Thirteenth (Little). The book was about a stockbroker who took advantage of superstition during that date, called “Wall Street hoodoo-day” (Pappas).

In Lachenmeyer’s book, the author said that 13 had been seen as an unlucky number before the turn of the 20th century and Friday was seen as an unlucky day. However, nothing had been made of the two together (Little).

The book was sold out (on its first printing). The story was eventually adapted into a full-length film (Buchanan and Worley).

The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were long believed to have been arrested, killed and tortured on Friday the 13th. This theory was popularized in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

The truth:

The Knights Templar was formed around 1119 A.D. The religious order consisted of unmarried men and it was formed with the express purpose of defining the Kingdom of Jerusalem and protecting Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. Christians donated money and land to the religious order over the following two centuries.

Some of the Knights were arrested on October 13, 1307, but that is not the origin of the superstition. In 1307, the French King Philip IV, was low on funds, so he decided to go after the Knights of Templar. He accused the order of heresy and he had some of the Knights arrested on Friday the 13th. This caused Pope Clement V to disband the order (Little).

The Thirteen Club May Have Played a Role in Raising Awareness to the Superstition.

The Thirteen Club may have had its roots on Friday the 13th, but it seems there was no focus on the day of the week.

Captain William Fowler was a Civil War veteran who had deep connections to the number 13. He attended P.S. 13 in New York, he built 13 structures, found in 13 Civil War battles, was a member of thirteen clubs, and he made sure to do specific things on the thirteenth of each month (Stein).

William Fowler fought in 13 major battles and was forced to resign on August 13, 1863. On September 13, 1863, he purchased the Knickerbocker Cottage, the site of the first meeting of a club he would create (“Number 13”).

In 1881, Fowler founded “The Thirteen Club.” It said in Fowler’s obituary that he wanted to combat the “popular superstition against thirteen” (Pappas).

According to the New York Historical society, the first meeting of the Thirteen Club took place on Friday, January 13, 1881. It was held at 8:13 pm in the thirteenth room of the Knickerbocker Cottage, which Fowler owned (Stein).

The meeting began as members walked under crossed ladders to a 13-seat table that had spilled salt. Club members also broke mirrors consumed thirteen courses under a banner reading “Morituri te Salutamus” (Stein).

There were offshoots of the first club, which met on the thirteenth of each month. This trend lasted for 40 years before all those clubs faded into obscurity (“Superstition”).

No Matter What Are You Doing for Friday the 13th

Whether you stay home decide to test your luck, or you have to work today, I hope you have a safe day (and evening).

I have things to do today, but I normally treat this day like any other.

Works Cited

Buchanan, Rose Troup and Worley, Will. “Friday the 13th: Where does it come from and why are we still so superstitious about the ‘unluckiest’ day?” The Independent. 13 May 2016. Web. Retrieved <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/friday-the-13th-where-does-it-come-from-and-why-do-we-still-care-a7027366.html>.

Bull, Simon. “7 reasons why Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky date.” News Shopper. 12 May 2016. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.

Friday the 13th: 13 Facts About the Unluckiest Day in the Calendar.” TimeandDate.com. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.

Edwards, H. Sutherland. The Life of Rossini. Oliver Ditson & Co. (Boston); C.H. Ditson & Co. (New York). 1869. Print.

Greenberg, Julia. “Friday the 13th: History, Origins, Myths and Superstitions of the Unlucky Day.” International Business Times. 13 Jan 2012. Web. Retrieved 12 Jan 2017. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.

Hutchinson, Sean. “Here’s Why Friday the 13th Is Considered Unlucky.” MentalFloss. 13 Nov 2015. Web. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.

Little, Becky. “Busting the Myth of Friday the 13th and the Knights Templar.” National Geographic. 12 May 2016. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.

Lim, Jillian Rose. “The Origins of Unlucky Friday the 13th.” Live Science. 12 June 2014. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.

Malloy, Mark. “Friday the 13th: where does it come from and why is it unlucky?” The Telegraph. 12 Jan 2017. Web. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/friday-13th-does-come-unlucky/>.

McCoy, Daniel. “Freya.” Norse Mythology for Smart People. Web. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.

McCoy, Daniel. “Frigg.” Norse Mythology for Smart People. Web. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.

McCoy, Daniel. Norse Mythology for Smart People. Web. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.

Number 13.” Mystical Numbers.com. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.

Number 13 Superstition.Psychic Library. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.

Padden, Kathy. “The Origin of Friday the 13th as an Unlucky Day.” Today I Found Out. 13 Sep 2013. Web.

Pappas, Stephanie. “Origins of Friday the 13th: How the Day Got So Spooky.” Live Science. 13, Feb, 2015. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov 2016.

Stein, Sadie. “Morituri te Salutamus.” The Paris Review. 13 Mar 2015. Web.


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