The Story Behind Friday the 13th


Crossing paths with a black cat and Friday the 13th are both associated with misfortune in many cultures around the world.

Kanika R., Lead Writer

Conventional wisdom holds that if one breaks a mirror or crosses paths with a black cat, then one will have a day of misfortune. What’s surprising is that no one has an explanation for the occurrence of these superstitions. There is, however, a particular superstition that has been pervasive and haunting in its demeanor Friday the 13th. There are multiple origin stories to explain the stigma around it. There’s even a name to describe the almost irrational dread of the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia — a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a fear of the number 13. 

Fear of the number 13 It is a common western belief, as the fear of the number 13 is shown in both  Norse Mythology and Christianity. In Norse mythology, Loki, the god of mischief, crashed a banquet in Valhalla, bringing the number of gods to 13. Deceived by Loki, the blind god Hodr shot his brother Balder, the god of light and joy, with a mistle-toe-tipped arrow killing himself instantly. From there, the fear of the number spread and even affected the dominating religion at the time, Christianity. It is believed that a similar thing occurred at the “‘last supper.”’ The 13th and most infamous member to arrive was Judas, who betrayed Jesus leading to his crucifixion on Good Friday. But the day, Friday, is also infamous in biblical culture: Eve ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday, the day Cain murdered his brother, Abel, leading to the temple of Solomon being toppled and the day ‘Noah’s Ark’ set sail.

The two superstitions, Friday and 13, were later joined together in the 20th century by an author, Thomas Lawson who published the novel, “Friday, the Thirteenth” which is a story of an evil man who deliberately crashed the stock market using superstitions for his own benefit. Then in the 1980’s the movie, “‘Friday the 13th”’ was released and in 2003, the book, “‘The Da Vinci Code”’ was released which added another debunked belief that this superstition originated from the arrests of members of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307. Another popular belief is in Norse mythology. Frigga was, a famous goddess who was associated with love, marriage, and motherhood, and she was worshiped widely around Europe. But, as Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, which at the time was against the idea of multiple gods, and goddesses representing sex, love, and marriage, they came up with the idea of Frigga being unholy. It was then that it was believed that she convenes with the devil and 11 other witches (13 beings) every Friday to plot to curse those against them. 

Even though there are multiple cynical beliefs against the day, there are many people who believe that its of luck and not misfortune. Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is one of these people: “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first No. 1 song had a 13-second intro,” she told MTV in 2009. “Every time I’ve won an award I’ve been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section, or row M, which is the 13th letter. Basically, whenever a 13 comes up in my life, it’s a good thing.”

Perhaps with more positivity surrounding this number and day, Friday the 13th can be destigmatized and can be considered just another day.