These days, most folks welcome Fridays, the beginning of the week-end. "TGIF" day (Thank God Its Friday) can mean cheap drinks and free food in some bars that serve the 9-5 working crowd. We get excited about Fridays, that is, except for one particular Friday, Friday the 13th.
Known scientifically as “Tridecaphobia,” fear of the number 13 is probably the most common of all superstitions. Buildings avoid numbering the 13th floor. Airplanes avoid the 13th aisle. And almost every North American knows that Friday the 13th is considered a bad luck day.
For most folks, Friday the thirteenth is considered the unluckiest of days, unless you were born on Friday the 13, when the number 13 promises good fortune for you.
The origins of Friday superstitions are many. One of the best known is that Eve is said to have tempted Adam with the apple on a Friday. Tradition also has it that the Flood in the Bible, the confusion at the Tower of Babel, and the death of Jesus Christ all took place on Friday.
Long before the Bible was written, Friday was considered an important day. Primitive people set aside Fridays as a special time to worship their deities and ask them for good crops, health and happiness. Those who worked on this day were told not to expect “good luck” from the gods.
Friday came to be called “witches’ Sabbath.” For it was believed that on this day, each week, twelve witches and the Devil met – thirteen evil spirits up to no good! This is one of the reasons for today’s superstition about Friday the 13th.
On The Other Hand….
I have always found Friday the 13th and the number 13 to be lucky. Back in the 70's I was transferred by Imperial Oil (Exxon) from Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta…. in the midst of the oil boom…. vacancy rates were less than .001%. I had camped with my six-year old for 10 weeks by this point, while working full time and trying to find us a place to live. We were desperate for a hot bath, a real bed and a stove to make an easy cup of tea… day after day we searched… nothing, nothing, nothing…. then came Friday the 13th… a beautiful sunny day… I opened the paper with the thought that today, being Friday the 13th, I would find the perfect home for us… and there it was…. shared accommodation at 9909 159th St… we moved in by nightfall and stayed for three years.
TGIF or No?
It seems that we have carried forward the Friday the 13th fears, but our medieval ancestors saw all Fridays as less than fortunate. It is only in recent years that we have been so happy to see Friday roll around at the end of the week. And even then, we are urged to avoid dating on a Friday night. Here are some of the superstitions from our past.
A voyage begun on a Friday is sure to be an unfortunate one.” and ” The fishermen say: “A Friday’s sail, Always fail”.
By 1656 "Now Friday came, you old wives say, Of all the week’s the unluckiest day."
From 1883 "I knew an old lady who, if she had nearly completed a piece of needlework on a Thursday, would put it aside unfinished, and set a few stitches in her next undertaking, that she might not be obliged either to begin the new task on Friday or to remain idle for a day."
From 1885, we hear "Fisherman would have great misgivings about laying the keel of a new boat on Friday, as well as launching one on that day."
In 1890 a woman named Mrs. Henry Wood summed it up this way – "Sailors are more foolish on this point than you can imagine: and I believe…that ships, sailing on a Friday have come to grief through their crew losing heart. No matter what impediment is met with – bad weather, accidents, what not – the men say at once it’s of no use, we sailed on a Friday."
"If you have been ill, don’t get up for the first time on Friday." Or this is a good one – "If you hear anything new on a Friday, it gives you another wrinkle on your face, and adds a year to your age."
From 1879, we find "As to Friday, a couple married on that day are doomed to a cat-and-dog life."
(1957) "Never court on a Friday or you’ll never meet again."