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Friday the 13th – What Does This Superstition Mean?

Have you heard some warnings or stories about the well-known “Friday the 13th”? Both number 13 and Friday have a long history of bad luck. Whether you’re aware of the actual meaning or not, some feel uneasy just by hearing the superstition.

To actually have a day 13 on a Friday, the start of a month should fall on a Sunday, which is not likely to happen most of the time. Every year, there is at least one incidence of this unlucky date, and up to 3 months in some years.

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Despite being embedded deeply with misfortune, it’s not easy to pinpoint the exact origin of this tradition. So, to understand the fear behind Friday the 13th, let’s dig deeper into the famous superstition and find out the meaning and events associated with this.

What’s With the Number 13?

Two statues
The 13th guest – Judas Iscariot

“13 is just a number,” you might think. But in some events, associations with the number 13 usually come with negative happenings or connotations. While 12 is considered a standard of completeness, the number after it doesn’t have a good impression.

In the Bible, Judas Iscariot was the infamous 13th guest to arrive at the Last Supper of Christ, who ended up betraying Jesus. Similarly, ancient Norse lore says that evil and chaos came along with the treacherous god Loki when he crashed the party in Valhalla as the 13th guest, which resulted in a doomed world.

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Following these two major references, you can notice that some buildings don’t have 13th floors or Room 13. Most cruise ships skip the 13th deck, while some airplanes don’t have a 13th row in it. The superstition of the bad luck of 13 continues as strong as ever.

Indeed, this fear of number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia. We might even fear pronouncing the word itself. 

Fridays and Bad Luck

While 13th is bad luck, when you add Friday to it, it gets even worse. Friday has been regarded as the worst day of the week. Basically, it’s the unluckiest day, according to different myths and theories over the years.

In religious traditions and references, some events in ancient times were associated with the “unlucky” Friday. It is believed that these events happened on a Friday: The death of Jesus, the day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and the day Cain killed his brother Abel.

Tainting the reputation of Fridays even more, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote back in the 14th century that Friday is “a day of misfortune.” After 200 years, the term “Friday-faced” was coined by playwright Robert Greene as a description to a face of depression and anxiety.

The list doesn’t get any better. There was once a known day in Britain called “Hangman’s Day,” which refers to the time when people sentenced to death were hanged. And guess what? That day happened on Fridays! What a day to watch out for.

The Unlucky “Friday the 13th”: A Coincidence?

Friday the 13th superstition

Thirteens and Fridays – when these two deemed unlucky terms combine, what good would come from it? There’s even a phobia named after this fear –  Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the special word for the fear of Friday the 13th, is even scary to pronounce! 

While Friday the 13th is as familiar as the superstitions of a black cat and a broken mirror, it gets even worse when we learn about some tragic events in history on this unlucky day.

  • On the Friday of September 13, 1940, Buckingham Palace suffered destructive bombing led by Nazi Germany in the midst of World War II.
  • One of the most brutal murders ever occurred in New York on Friday the 13th of March 1964. This tragic event eventually opened a way to illustrate the “bystander effect” in psychology classes, also known as the “Kitty Genovese syndrome.”
  • A Friday the 13th plane crash tragedy occurred on October 1972, when the Ilyushin-62 airplane, traveling from Paris to Moscow, crashed on its way to the airport, killing all 164 passengers and 10 crewmembers.

These tragic events are only some of the incidents that could be related to the feared superstition of Friday the 13th.

Things to Avoid on This Unlucky Day

Here are some strange superstitions related to Friday the 13th:

  • No to combing your hair. If you comb your hair on Friday the 13th and the birds use the strands to make their nests, you might go bald. Bad hair day is already a stressful day. What more if you totally lose those locks?
  • Cancel your haircut appointment. Reschedule your next haircut on a different day, as it is believed that when you go for a haircut on Friday the 13th, it could result in the death of a family member.
  • Be careful from breaking a mirror. Just like the known superstition about broken mirrors, experiencing this on an unlucky day is said to bring your bad luck for the next seven years.
  • Putting your shoes on the top, sleeping, and singing. Never do these at the table, as it could increase bad luck for you.
  • Don’t knock over the salt. This has been believed to be bad luck on any day, but even worse on Friday the 13th. So, the next time you go to the kitchen or dining, be careful with the condiments section.
  • Avoid funeral processions. Going past such processions is believed to lead you to your own demise the very next day.

Rewriting the Connotation of Number 13

Enough with the negative and scary superstitions and events. Why don’t we look for a lucky encounter with number 13?

Award-winning singer-songwriter Taylor Swift shared that her lucky number is 13, which continues to bring her good things throughout her career. Taylor was born on December 13, 1989. Her 13th birthday happened to fall on Friday the 13th. A track with a 13-second intro became her first No. 1 song. 

Swift also shared in 2009 that whenever there was an award show where she won, she happened to be assigned most of the time to any of the following: 13th seat, 13th row, 13th section, or row M (13th letter in the alphabet). Number 13 is definitely her number!

In Brief

Feared and hated, Friday the 13th has a long history of bad luck and unfortunate happenings. It’s still unclear to many if this superstition is somewhat true or just merely a coincidence. But who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to get out of this “unlucky” stigma someday.

Affiliate Disclosures

Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.