The belief that Friday 13th is an especially unlucky day is one of the widest-known superstitions in Britain today, and is erroneously assumed to be of great antiquity. The notion that thirteen is a generally unlucky number has not been found earlier than 1852, and although Fridays have been regarded as unlucky since medieval times, it is quite certain that the fear of Friday 13th is a Victorian invention. Indeed, the first definite reference to Friday 13th we have is from 1913:
I have met a coach' of fine mental capacities, which had been carefully cultivated, who dreaded the evil luck of Friday the 13th.
Here is an interesting article, from the Daily Express Friday 13th October 2000, about the superstitions linked with the number Thirteen and Friday 13th.
"Every week most of us thank God it's Friday. However, an estimated live million people in Britain will spend today in such a state of anxiety and fear that they will feel compelled to stay at home until tomorrow. It is because today. Friday the 13th makes its only appearance this millennium year. Businesses lose money through absenteeism, while travel operators are hit as customers cancel trips or switch departure dates. So why in these ‘enlightened’ times, are we still so worried about such superstitions? Here are 13 things you need to know about the myths and legends surrounding this most auspicious date:
Friday the 13th (1980, USA)
- There is always at least one Friday 13th each year. Some years there are two, rarely three (most recently in 1998 and the next in 2009). In the event of it occurring in conjunction with a full moon, folklore has it that there is an increase in crime and mental illness.
- Legend tells us that the 13th of any month is unlucky, especially if it falls on a Friday. Only failure and doom awaits those foolhardy "enough to start a new venture such as a business or marriage.
- Strategies used to avoid catastrophes include carrying a four-leafed clover, crossing fingers, wishing on a star, tossing coins into a wishing well or fountain and even burning old socks on turned up on top of a mountain. And, until recently, a decree in Indiana required that all black cats must wear bells.
- The superstition is supposed to date from the early years of Christianity. Biblical references include the 13 people at Christ's Last Supper and the belief that the crucifixion took place on Friday 13th. Some theologians also claim that Adam accepted the apple from Eve on a Friday and that Cain killed his brother Abel on Friday 13th.
- Earlier cultures also considered the number 13 unlucky. In Norse mythology when Loki, the god of mischief, became the uninvited 13th guest at a banquet in Valhalla, the god of Light: Balhar died as a result. Ancient Norsemen had 13 knots in their hangman's noose. The Romans believed that witches gathered in groups of 13 and the 13th was the Devil. Greek mythology also tells of the violent death of the 13th member in a group of gods. The Chinese interpreted 13 as the number of obstacles in the way of good fortune.
- There are some societies that consider 13 lucky. The Mexicans believed the number symbolised the sun and energy. The Jewish Cabala confirms its lucky status; the Book of Moses mentions 13 attributes of God; and the bar mitzvah celebrates the passing from childhood into adulthood at the age of 13.
- Friday is considered a lucky day in Scandinavia. The word Friday comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Frigdaeg’, thought to have been a derivation of Frigg, the Norse god of love. Vendredi, French for Friday, derives from Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Some actors also believe that Friday is a lucky day, insisting they sign contracts only on that day Charles Dickens was said to have begun writing all of his books on a Friday. Even stock market traders on Wall Street regard Friday 13th a lucky day Over the past three years it has occurred five times and each time the market has risen substantially
- Celebrated paraskavidekatria- phobics include Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, who both avoided travelling on that day. The Royal Family has also been known to avoid the dreaded number. Princess Margaret's birth was not officially recorded, as the registration number was 13. The family waited three days until another baby was registered so Margaret could have the number 14.
- Disasters associated with Fridays and the number 13 include in the 19th century, the disappearance of the Royal Navy's HMS Friday, following which Lloyd's would not insure any ship launched on Friday 13th. Even today the US Navy will avoid launching a ship on Friday 13th. The Andes airline crash happened on Friday 13th 1970, and the survivors were forced to eat the flesh of the dead passengers. The ill-fated Apollo 13 launch took place at 13.13 hours whereupon an explosion in the fuel cell aborted the mission on April 13th.
- In the Twenties, 13 people sat down to dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. The following day their host died. Since then, whenever there are 13 people for dinner at the Savoy, the hotel provides an extra seat and places a statuette of a black cat called Kaspar on the chair. In France, a company exists which will always provide a last minute 14th guest for dinner parties.
- Many sceptics challenge or dismiss the concept of superstition. The London Thirteen Club, formed in the late 19th century by journalists, regularly meets to mock superstition by spilling salt, opening umbrellas indoors and walking on cracks. The Friday The 13th club, in Philadelphia, has been meeting for 63 years and celebrates the day by breaking mirrors, walking under ladders and crossing the paths of black cats. Greek-born Nick Matsoukas emigrated to the US, arriving on February 13th 1917. He was the 13th child in his family and his name consisted of 13 letters. He formed the National Committee of Thirteen Against Superstition, Prejudice And Fear.
- Finally, perhaps you might like to wonder who it was that actually sat down and worked out that an anagram of ‘eleven plus two’ is ‘twelve plus one".
So, whether you decide to spent today cower in bed, or burn your socks atop a mountain, or even book a table at the Savoy for 12 of your friends — just remember to put a four-leafed clover in your pocket, cross your fingers and stay lucky."