Among the superstitions that have lasted for decades, if not centuries, despite the evolution of modern science is Friday the 13th. The irrational fear of the number 13 is called ‘triskaidekaphobia’ or ‘ or ‘Paraskevidekatriaphobia’ and some suggest that it’s linked to the idea that 12 is a number of perfection. Though not believed everywhere, people in the West consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky as they associate it with death and deceit.
It is not a rare phenomenon that 13 and Friday fall on the same day in the Gregorian calendar. It happens every year and sometimes even two or three times in the same year.
It is unclear how Friday the 13th started carrying negative connotations, but there have been various recorded instances throughout history where something ominous has taken place.
Friday the 13th has Biblical roots
The fear seems to have stemmed from the story that Jesus Christ’s last supper and crucifixion took place on Friday.
The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci shows 13 people gathered on the night before Good Friday – the date of Christ’s death – with Judas the 13th member of the party.
The superstition has resonance with the Norse folklore as well which claims that when 12 gods were partying in Valhalla, Loki arrived uninvited as the 13th guest, and got Balder killed.
The first recorded mention was found in a biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on Friday the 13th.
‘Friday the Thirteenth’, a 1907 book by American businessman Thomas Lawson, also used this premise. It is believed that the book popularised the superstition.
In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.
What about other countries?
In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th (or Martes Trece) is considered a day of bad luck, occurring in months that start on a Thursday.
Greek people also believe Tuesday, and especially Tuesday the 13th, to be unlucky.
In Greek mythology, Ares, the god of war, is associated with Tuesday. Apart from that, there are many unfortunate historical events that have taken place on Tuesday 13th, like the fall of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade on Tuesday, April 13, 1204.
Italy, on the contrary, considers 13 to be a lucky number, which was also the case in ancient Egypt and China.
For Italy, Friday 17th rather than the 13th is the day of bad luck as it has links to Roman numerals (XVII).
According to local beliefs, if one re-arranges the Roman numerals, you will get the word VIXI, which means ‘I have lived’ in Latin, implying death in the present and an omen of bad luck.
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