Friday 13th

Myth and Legend

Friday 13th

Friday the 13th happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year. It occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday, and will only happen once this year. But why is it considered a day of ill omen?

There are several theories for this superstition.

It is thought that Fridays were considered ill-omened from the medieval period because Friday was the day of the crucifixion. Therefore, Fridays were always regarded as a day of penance and abstinence, and Geoffrey Chaucer recorded in his Canterbury Tales that it was bad luck to start a journey or a project on a Friday.

Then an urban legend started circulating sometime in the 1690s that it was unlucky to have 13 people around a table or in a group. This may be traced to the Bible, where Jesus is dining with his twelve disciples at the Last Supper, and is betrayed by one of them. Norse myth has a similar story where twelve of the gods are feasting together when the trickster god Loki, who has by now turned traitor and murderer, gatecrashes the party - making his final break with them and signaling the coming of the Twilight of the Gods.

It is thought that it was the Victorians, who were intrigued by folklore, who put Friday and 13 together and created a doubly unlucky day.

However, some say the connection was made much earlier than that, and came from Friday 13th October 1307. This was the date that the French king moved against the Knights Templar and destroyed this powerful and wealthy Christian sect throughout Europe.

Our superstition about Friday 13th is shared by several other western European countries and North Americans. However, In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck. The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the 13th) an unlucky day. Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares, the god of war (Mars in Roman mythology). The fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade occurred on Tuesday, April 13th, 1204, and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday, 29th May 1453, events that strengthen the superstition about Tuesday.

In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th is considered a day of bad luck. The origin of this belief could be traced in the writing of number 17, in Roman numerals: XVII. By shuffling the digits of the number one can easily get the word VIXI ("I have lived", implying death in the present), an omen of bad luck.

Further reading

Links to external websites are not maintained by Bite Sized Britain. They are provided to give users access to additional information. Bite Sized Britain is not responsible for the content of these external websites.