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  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

Why Do We Fear Friday the 13th? The Historical and Cultural Origins of a Scary Superstition

Written by: Sam Orlando

STAUNTON, VIRGINIA - Many of us cautiously navigate the day when Friday meets the number 13, a date synonymous with superstition and foreboding. Even if you don't buy into the superstitions, most Americans are acutely aware of the bad vibes associated with this day. But how did Friday the 13th earn its reputation?

The origins are as varied as they are intriguing.

A Biblical Connection - Friday the 13th and the Crucifixion of Jesus

One of the earliest associations with the number 13's inauspicious nature hails from Christianity. The Last Supper, as depicted in the New Testament, had 13 attendees. The subsequent day, which was a Friday, saw the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In this narrative, both the number and the day take on a somber tone, as discussed in Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible.

Norse Gods, Unwanted Guests, and Friday the 13th

In the annals of Norse mythology, a banquet in Valhalla was attended by 12 gods. However, the trickster god Loki, not invited, gatecrashed as the 13th guest. His intrusion led to the death of the cherished god Balder, resulting in turmoil and distress, as detailed in The Prose Edda and The Poetic Edda.

The Fate of the Knights Templar - again, Friday the 13th

Historical events have also played their part in fueling the superstition. One significant event occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307, when King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of hundreds of the Knights Templar. This led to the eventual downfall of this powerful and influential order, a narrative thoroughly explored in The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones.

Numerology's Take on Friday the 13th

From a numerological perspective, 12 has always been viewed as a number symbolizing completeness – think 12 months, 12 zodiac signs, and 12 apostles of Jesus. On the other hand, 13 has often been seen as an irregular figure, representing imbalance and chaos, themes discussed in The Complete Book of Numerology by David A. Phillips.

Historical Claims and Allegories

Various sources over time have added to the narrative of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day. Some suggest that it was on this day that Eve offered Adam the forbidden fruit, and that Abel met his demise at the hands of Cain. These claims are frequently mentioned in general historical accounts or folklore compilations.

The Influence of Modern Culture

Of course, the "Friday the 13th" horror film series and other contemporary media references have played a pivotal role in embedding the superstition in the popular psyche. Such portrayals have certainly added to the day's eerie reputation, even if the origins are rooted in ancient tales, as explored in various retrospectives and analyses of the film series.

Today, as we tread lightly on Friday the 13th, it's fascinating to reflect on the patchwork of stories and events that have shaped its lore.

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