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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why is Friday the 13th unlucky? by Kaye Spencer #PrairieRosePubs @PrairieRosePubs #superstions #Fridaythe13th

Friday the 13th — A date for the superstitious to keep a low profile.

According to that model of excellence in accuracy, Wikipedia, Friday the 13th occurs at least once a year, and can occur up to three times in one year. For 2018, the dates are April 13th and July 13th. Also, according the Wikipedia article, there are many origin stories for the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th.

It appears that, historically, there is ‘…evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, [but] there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century”*. This article also states that an estimated 21 million people in the U.S. are seriously affected by this day and they are unable to go about their normal activities.  Businesses, particularly airlines, report millions of dollars in lost revenue on any given Friday the 13th.

While Friday the 13th is a superstition, it is not a worldwide superstition. Other days of the week are associated with the number 13 in different cultures.

Apparently, the origins of the superstitions surrounding Fridays and the number 13 are found in the ancient world. Here are a few of the more interesting examples from an article on the website National Geographic News, Reporting Your World Daily – April 12, 2004**:

  • In a Norse myth, 12 gods had a dinner party at Valhalla. In walked the unlucky number 13 guest: Loki. Loki wreaked havoc by “…arranging for the blink god of darkness, Hoder, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow… Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day…From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding”.
  • Biblical reference to 13 as unlucky in that Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. There are numerous other biblical references.
  • Ancient Rome’s superstitions for the number 13 involve the belief that witches gathered in twelves and the thirteenth was the devil.
  • Numerology: There is a negative association with the number 13. As 12 is considered a complete number (12 months in a year, 12 signs in the zodiac, 12 gods on Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus), 13 is considered ‘a little beyond completeness…restless and squirmy’.
  • High rise buildings often skip the 13th floor.
  • Airports will avoid having a 13th gate.
  • Hospitals and hotels tend not to have a room marked 13.
  • In some countries/cities, if a house address should be 13, it will be designated 12½.
Two older literary sources regarding Friday and/or the number 13 as unlucky are:
  • Chaucer wrote of Friday being an unlucky day to undertake a journey or to begin a new project in the Canterbury Tales*.
  • Thomas W. Lawson's 1907 novel Friday, the Thirteenth in which “…an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th”*.
The origin story that I find the most intriguing is the persecution of the monastic military order the Knights Templar. In 1307, King Philip IV of France in collusion with Rome and the Pope ordered the arrest of hundreds of members of the Knights Templar, which resulted in their ultimate demise, so to speak. Here is an oh-so-painfully brief and white-washed summary:

As the Crusades came to an end, the Templars had gained wealth and power. King Philip, as head of an impoverished kingdom, and in collusion with the Pope in Rome, not only viewed the Templars with suspicion of their intentions to gain even more European power, they viewed their wealth as a ‘get out of debt card’. So, ‘evidence’ of Templar heresy toward the church popped up and, in an amazing feat of clandestine planning and orchestration, King Philip and the Pope had hundreds of Templars simultaneously arrested in diverse locations. They were charged with all manner of heresy, blasphemy, and sacrilegious offenses, none of which were ever proven. All of the accusations were fabricated and confessions were gained under duress and torture. Nonetheless, the Templars’ assets were seized in a masterful move fueled by  jealousy of their wealth and fear of their power.

The date was Friday, October 13, 1307.

So, if you’re worried about staying safe from the unluckiness of the upcoming Friday the 13th in two days, here are ways people throughout the ages have protected themselves:

  • Wake up on the right side of the bed
  • Sleep facing south
  • Carry an acorn in your pocket
  • Avoid black cats

  • Wear your clothes inside out
  • Pick up a penny (heads up or tails up)
  • Don’t walk under a ladder
  • Make a wish on a wishbone
  • Don’t open an umbrella indoors

  • Don’t step on cracks in the sidewalk
  • Throw salt over your left shoulder
  • Stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle
  • Sprinkle salt in the corners of rooms and underneath windowsills
  • Burn sage in your house

  • Climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them
  • Light a white candle in a white dish with a cup of water nearby – candle burns, negative energy is absorbed into the water
  • Wear red
  • Carry a rabbit’s foot (obviously not so lucky for the poor rabbit)
  • Knock on wood (doesn’t bring good luck, but keeps bad luck away)
  • Hang up a horseshoe (ends pointing up) – iron, not aluminum – iron counters all evil and keeps harm away

And the number one safety precaution to take on Friday the 13th is NOT to break a mirror, because the broken mirror represents the broken soul, and a mirror is said to reflect a person’s soul. Hence, your soul, which is now in pieces, will bring you seven years of bad luck and misery in its desire for vengeance for breaking it into pieces.

Do you have Friday the 13th superstitions or favorites you’ve heard of? Share them…if you dare.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

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Images from
Clover: Michelle Bulgaria
Horseshoe: Seeman
Cat: lisaleo
Mirror: Dee

Knights Templar image:
Public Domain:

-The Criminal Element website:
-*Friday the 13th:
-**National Geographic News:
-*Knights Templar:


  1. I loved the info about Loki being the 13th guest at a party in Valhalla. Nice to know they have parties there, too.
    Who knew we humans were such a superstitious bunch? I hate flying so every day would be the 13th for me. LOL
    You did a great job putting this blog together about unlucky Friday the 13th and all the ramifications of that superstition, Kaye.

    1. Sarah,

      I'm not superstitious, per se, but I do watch for patterns in nature or in my daily routine and encounters for signs and omens--like things happening in threes, brooms falling, magpies, and such.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Great post. I didn't know many of those myths. I think I'll just stay in bed that day lol.

    1. Kristy,

      I've wondered if what we're scared of (concerned about) happens because we subconsciously make it happen and that's partly where superstitions come from. *shrug* Self-fulfilling prophecies.

  3. Hubby says Friday the 13th is his lucky day--13 was his lucky number, and he always wanted 13 on his sports jersey--BUT many teams don't allow it!

    I'm very superstitious. I think maybe I was that way because my mom was full of little homilies and sayings and "OH, don't do that's!" LOL I am sooo careful. The only thing I can think of that I don't believe in is that black cats are bad luck. I love all animals, and the black ones are beautiful to me.

    Great post, Kaye. I really enjoyed this.

    1. Cheryl,
      The earliest superstition I remember hearing is "step on a crack, break your mother's back". That one really bugged me, because I reasoned there was no way a person could avoid stepping on cracks, and I never knew anyone's mom who had a broken back. lol

  4. So enjoyed this history. For me, well, Friday 13th has always been lucky. I also have two black cats, so...

    Now to find a story to use this great wealth of information. Doris

    1. Doris, I've never been bothered by the number 13 or Friday the 13th, either. I have one black cat among my many other colored ones. He's a sweetie pie. :-)