Fear of Friday the 13th is known as triskaidekaphobes.
When fear of the day started is up for debate. Some suggest little can be found about the day being negative or filled with bad luck prior to the late 1800s. But others link the phobia to older historical events and occurrences which symbolize the link between the number thirteen and Friday to disastrous events.
One thing many seem to agree to is that both the number thirteen and the sixth day of the week (Friday) have been associated with negative connotations from patriarchal societies and most definitely western cultures. Where as matriarchal societies associate both these objects with positive aspects and connotations.
Pagans Honor The 13th
We should begin with a short explanation for the layman about who and what are Pagans.
By academic definition, Pagans are any religion or spiritual path that does not follow Abrahamic doctrine. It’s a category of religions that would include Buddhism, Hinduism, Shamanism and Pagan Metaphysics (Witchcraft). It’s these last two that are largely associated with modern Paganism.
When we think of “witches”, most people think of Indo-European paganism, what some might know as neo-Paganism or Earth Based Spirituality. Here in the U.S. many would call this Wicca. But that’s a misnomer.
Wicca is a denomination of a larger religious belief system. It’s not a religion unto itself. It’s like saying Wicca is to Pagan Metaphysics, what Baptist is to Christianity. Wicca was established by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s and is based on previous traditions that he merged together from his own training and experience. Along with his first initiate, Doreen Valiente, these two primarily formed Wica in the U.K. As the interest grew, the tradition migrated to the U.S. and slowly evolved to Wicca. Today there are many versions of Wicca that have incorporated other interests and formed new traditions, Faery Wicca is an example of this.
There are thousands of denominations within Pagan Metaphysics. We call these traditions or trads. Wicca is the most popular trad here in the states. But it’s not the only one. There’s also the Italian tradition of Strega, many Celtic and Norse Shamanistic trads, Germanic trads, and more Family traditions than we could ever count.
If you’d like to know more about Pagans and Pagan Metaphysics, see the articles posted at this end of this post for Additional Reading.
What’s In A Number
To understand the 13th, we should start with comparing it to the 12th. In numerology ’12’ is the number of completeness. It is connected to the twelve hours of the clock and the twelve months of the year. But there are also several religious correlations:
- the twelve labors of Hercules
- the twelve tribes of Israel
- the twelve Apostles of Jesus
- the twelve successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam
- the twelve gods of Olympus
- the twelve signs of the zodiac
The number ’13’ is often referred to as the number of transition/change. It is seen as constantly at odds with ’12’, trying to undo the completeness. People in general are resistant to change and reluctant to take on change when times are going well. But change is inevitable and constantly moves us forward, often whither we want it to or not.
Thirteen is linked to Old Norse mythology where having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners. In this story, the Gods are having dinner in Valhalla when Loki walks in as an uninvited guest. Loki makes arrangements for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Once Balder dies, Earth falls into darkness and the whole world falls into mourning.
It is also linked to the thirteen Diners of the Last Supper with Jesus and his apostles. At this dinner Jesus proclaims one of his devoted friends will denounce and betray him. The 13th guest at this dinner is noted to be Judas, who did indeed denounce and betray Jesus.
Today more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
For Pagans however, 13 is the perfect number. It represents good luck and moving with the flow of Divine energy. Going with the flow is an important part of Pagan perspectives. Fighting against the tide is akin to fighting against change and making bad situations even worse than they already are. Where as going with the flow of change brings peace and harmony. Even if you’re flowing with the tide, you are always in control of the paddle of your ship. Guide it safely forward and you’ll reap the benefits of the opportunities that cross your path.
What’s In A Name
Friday has been considered unlucky since the late 1300s. Some link this correlation to the publication of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. But there are older occurrences that suggest Friday being unlucky resides in older events and lore.
Among Christians it is the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th. Tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday. The Knights Templar, the de Molay and other French Templars were slaughtered by order of King Philip IV of France on Friday, October 13, 1307. Not all of these tales are factual, but they are good examples of how early Christians then and today have altered history to enhance their own importance and influence in western cultures.
But it’s not only a religious thing. In the early days of Rome, Friday was execution day. In Britain, Friday became the Hangman’s Day.
Many cultures have linked Friday to being a bad day to travel or start new projects. In the modern era, it’s been linked to being a bad day for releasing new products on the commercial market.
Financially, Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.
As mentioned earlier, historically humans have an adverse reaction to change. We like things to say the same. “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t” is an old adage that reflects this lack of desire for anything to change. Even if it’s a bad thing. So anything that represents transition, therefore often takes on an ominous overtone of superstition.
Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina is also a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun. He has said “fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient, separate bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day“.
Friday the 13th remains the most prevalent superstition in the Western world. Many notable historical figures suffered from the phobia. Some you find surprising: Winston Churchill, Christopher Columbus, J. Paul Getty, Napoleon and President Franklin D. Roosevelt for instance.
According to the National Geographic “It’s been estimated that in the U.S. $800 or $900 million are lost in business on this day because people will not fly or conduct trade, negotiations, legal communications or contracts that they would normally do.”
According to the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) on June 12, 2008, they stated that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.” Not a big dip, but enough that the Insurance industry took notice.
It’s Not A Pagan Thing
Liking or honoring the 13th isn’t restricted to modern day pagans, it’s been in our history for quite sometime. In many pre-Christian cultures Friday is linked to a day of worship. In many pagan societies it’s the day to receive blessings from the gods. Many pagan cultures chose this 6th day of the week (Friday) to celebrate and honor their gods/goddesses for the gifts they had received in the days prior and to petition their chosen deity for favor in the days of the coming week.
Egyptians believe life was a quest for spiritual ascension. This journey walks through 13 levels. The first 12 in this life and after transition, the thirteenth in the eternal afterlife. The number 13 in this case symbolizes death as a glorious and desirable transformation.
Many suggest it’s from this practice that the idea of transition and change are not linked to negative energies, but rather to the positive energies of enlightenment and journey to the Divine upon physical death.
A 27,000-year-old carving known as the “Earth Mother of Laussel” found near the Lascaux caves in France is cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality. She is depicted as a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. Some suggest those notches represent the number of lunar and menstrual cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days; in one of the calendars of the ancient world).
The name “Friday” is derived from the Norse deities Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility), both of which are honored on the sixth day of the week. Frigg/Freya corresponds to the Roman goddess Venus and from who they named the sixth day of the week in her honor “dies Veneris.”
It’s possible that these very feminine correlations are another reason the early Christian Church denounced their associations and debased their concepts and practices. Instilling their masculine importance and authority over the female cultures and concepts of early pagans.
Friday is considered lucky by Teutonic people as a day to get married, probably because of the link to Frigg. Freya is also known as the goddess of the sixth day, and is often depicted with her sacred animal, the cat. In post Christian days, she is depicted as a witch with a black cat and becomes associated with evil.
The Thirteen Pagans
The number thirteen is linked to the perfect number for a witches coven. Norse Mythology tells of the witches of the north gathering under the dark moon near the entrance to Valhalla. On one moonless night that fell on a Friday, Freya herself came through the doorway and appeared before the gathering. Taking note there were only 12 witches present, Freya gave them one of her sacred cats to complete a full witches’ coven.
Even today, witches comprise the perfect coven with 13 members. More than that and the Coven splits into new groups, or what many call “Hiving” a new coven. But it’s not only indo-Europen pagan cultures that look upon 13 and Friday as items of good luck.
In China the number 13 is associated with good fortune and not bad luck. It holds the same distinction in Italy and it’s Friday the 17th that’s considered to be the bad luck day there. Friday or Shukravar is dedicated to Shakti, the Mother Goddess to Hindus and that makes the day to be a day of good luck.
With all the ‘good luck’ and ‘perfect associations’ from pagan practices, its easy to see how the number 13 and Friday began to be vilified by non-pagan cultures and especially by the early Christian Church. As Christianity spread and denounced the old pagan ways, the concepts held by pagans became linked to negativity and evil. If the Bishops couldn’t convert a pagan concept into its Christians practice, then it was defamed and cursed. The number thirteen and Friday are good examples of this.
While the mainstream Western World runs in fear from Friday the 13th, many pagans should shed those made up connotations and revel in the day as one to be celebrated with joy and excitement. It’s a time to let go of the old that maybe holding you back and welcome in the new. It’s a day to honor the Divine (whatever that is to you) and connect with spirit for progress, and positive transformation. It’s a good day to create new ritual tools, such as carving a new wand, fashioning a new broom or even simply cleaning off your altar and re-organizing your supply closet.
I received a comment today 07/13/2012; concerning the Knights Templar and asking why they aren’t part of this article. The answer is simple, they’re not pagan. But since they’re another example of how Christians (then and today) try to make everything about them, I’ve added a line about the Templar in this article.
In 2014 we observed a very rare occurrence that landed June 13th on a Friday and a Full Moon. It’s such a rare event that everyone in the news took notice. We did too: Friday the 13th and the Full Moon – What’s In A Day? You might also like: How Rare Is “Full Moon Friday the 13th”?
To learn more about Pagans and Paganism, you might be interested in these articles here on Springwolf Reflections:
- Pagans & Politics
- Paganism vs Satanism – Learning About Tolerance
- What Is Paganism? – A Basic Description of Paganism & Pagan Metaphysics
- What Is Pagan Metaphysics? – A View of Metaphysics from a Pagan Perspective.
- What’s In A Name? And What Does It Mean? – How Pagans Define Their Religion
- Who Are The Pagans – We’re The Other People (A Story from Oberon Zell)