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The Many Theories and Superstitions That Make Friday 13th Unlucky

Secret societies, dinner guests and legal codes

By Sam H ArnoldPublished 6 months ago 6 min read

Friday the 13th has long been considered a superstitious day. Fewer people fly on this date; some even refuse to leave the house. It is considered as bad as walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror or seeing a black cat. It affects some so bad that it has its own phobia.

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th. Although this sounds humorous, it is no laughing matter if you suffer from this, as it can change your life. There is also no escaping your phobia as a least one day in a year will be a Friday the 13th.

The day has inspired secret societies, novels, and the popular horror franchise. As a child, I remember being asked to babysit my sister and letting her watch these films. Then, of course, I was grounded for a month, roughly the same time my baby sister didn't sleep.

So, where has this superstition of bad luck from a single day come from? Many will think they have the answers, but it can not be put down to just one historical event. Instead, there are several containing many heroes and villains.

Hammurabi's Code

Code of Hammurabi

The earliest mention of thirteen being bad luck comes from the ancient Code of Hammurabi. The code is a legal text that was composed between 1775–1750BC. It is considered the best preserved legal text from the ancient East and is written in Babylonian.

The stele was discovered in 1901 in present-day Iran. It had been taken and hidden some six hundred years previously. Hammurabi claims that he was granted the rules he passed on by the gods. Many have admired its perceived fairness and respect for the rule of law.

When the text was discovered, it had listed several rules. However, there was no 13th law. It ultimately was admitted from the document, pointing many to state that 13 must be an unlucky number to be omitted. In fact, it was an admin error at the time of writing and not a deliberate omission.

Lucky Number 12

Other academics will argue that it is not that thirteen is unlucky but more that twelve is very lucky. Twelve being the luckiest number, by default, thirteen is unlucky. The reason that twelve is such a lucky number is that twelve is associated with completion.

You only have to look at our modern calendar to see the power of twelve. There are twelve months in a year. Twelve zodiac signs and twelve gods sat in Olympus.

The God of Olympus

Gods of Olympus

It is the ancient gods that some say makes thirteen unlucky. The trickster Loki turned up as the thirteenth uninvited member when the twelve gods sat down for dinner at Valhalla. It was from here he reeked his brand of chaos.

He persuaded Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder, the god of joy. Balder was a particular favourite of Odin, so he had made it that all living and dead things had promised not to hurt the god. He had asked all the living things except Mistletoe, which he had forgotten.

Loki persuaded Hoder to dip his arrow into Mistletoe and shoot it at Bader. When Bader died, the earth turned dark. From that moment, thirteen was considered an unlucky number.

Christian Beliefs

Last Supper

The concept of dinner is mentioned in the Christian faith as to why thirteen is unlucky. Observers will state that there were thirteen dining at dinner for the last supper, Jesus and twelve disciples. During this supper, Jesus was betrayed, leaving Christians for years balancing their table guests to ensure that thirteen people were never invited.

With the Christian faith, we see the emergence of Friday the 13th as bad luck. Christians have long thought that Friday is unlucky as it was the day Jesus was crucified, hence the holiday, Good Friday.

Other references to Friday the 13th have consequences in the Christian bible. For example, it is said to be the day that Eve gave the apple to Adam and the day that Cain killed Abel.

The Knights Templar

Knights Templar

I like the theory that Friday the 13th is unlucky because of the extermination of the Knights Templar. I have long been fascinated with the Templars and have always thought that this was the only reason Friday the 13th was unlucky.

The Templars were founded in 1118 as a monastic military order. They were tasked with keeping the Pilgrims safe as they travelled the holy land during the crusades. It was not long before they were an extremely rich and influential group.

Having amassed considerable wealth through lavish donations, power was not far behind. These were a group of men that travelled widely and worked for many regimes. It was not long before they knew the secrets of the lands. The power and money made some countries apprehensive.

One of the countries most concerned about this power was France. Months before the attack on the Templars, secret documents had been sent throughout France by couriers. The documents included details on black magic and secret sexual rituals.

It was this propaganda that King Philip IV of France used to his advantage. Having got hold of these documents, he said that the Templars could not be trusted and urged that they were all arrested immediately. The date they were arrested was 13th October 1307. This included the grand master Jacques de Molay.

Over the following days and weeks, over six hundred Templars were arrested. In addition, the French arrested working-class men and women who had also worked for them. They were taken to prison, where they were tortured and starved.

The torture was so torrid that many Templars confessed to false charges to end the pain. Amongst these was De Molay. The Templars were charged with heresy, devil worship, corruption and homosexuality. Many were then tied to a stake in town squares and burned alive.

Having heard about the arrest of the Templars in France, Pope Clement V became fearful of the repercussions. King Philip convinced him this was the correct action by showing him the charges of heresy against them. Clement's then ordered all Kings of European countries to arrest all Templars.

The fate of the Templars was sealed. The inquisition trials were shut in 1308. In two years, approximately fifty Templars had been murdered; others were imprisoned for life. Two years later, there is little mention of the Templars in history. The society had all but dissolved, leaving many to fear Friday the 13th.

Are you scared of Friday the 13th?

People quote these main theories when they talk about Friday the 13th being unlucky. However, many historical events happened on the date, adding to the superstition. Germany bombed Buckingham Palace in 1940 on Friday the 13th. Kitty Genovese was murdered on Friday the 13th as many stood by and did nothing to help.

A cyclone killed over three hundred thousand in Bangladesh in 1970. More recently, the death of Tupac Shakur happened on Friday 13th October 1996. In 2012, the Costa Concordia Cruise ship crashed off Italy. Although, this was put down more to captain error than bad luck.

Study any day in history, though and you will find events that happened that could point to bad luck. The truth is that bad luck can occur on any day. More people are cautious on Friday the 13th, which has caused a switch; the day may fast become one of the safest. For me, Friday the 13th is a lucky day as it was my son's birth date this year.

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my writing, share it and give it a heart. As a writer tips and pledges mean a great deal to me, so a massive thank you if you send one.

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About the Creator

Sam H Arnold

I know where the bodies are buried and I’m not afraid to tell you - author of True Crime, History and Fiction. Find me on Twitter [email protected]

Or find my crime magazine here -

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