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A brief, dark history of Friday the 13th

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Oct 10th 2017 02:00 pm
Photo taken from Dennis Skley's Flickr account
Friday the 13th is considered bad luck in English, German, Polish and Portuguese speaking cultures.
Photo taken from Dennis Skley's Flickr account Friday the 13th is considered bad luck in English, German, Polish and Portuguese speaking cultures.

On Friday, Oct. 13, 1066, the last day that King Harold II of England ruled. After refusing to hand over his crown to William of Normandy, Harold was killed by William at the Battle of Hastings. This is the first known origin of Friday the 13th.

Whether or not you believe in superstitions, many people believe that Friday the 13th is a day to keep an eye out for bad omens; such things as walking under ladders, picking up a face down penny, spilling salt and so many more.

The most famous superstition, according to HuffPost, is the breaking of a mirror. Originating in ancient Rome, they believed that everyone’s lives reset every seven years to coincide with the moon. Breaking a mirror will give you seven years of bad health.

In the Victorian era, parents with young children and infants would cover up any mirrors, for fear that their child’s soul would be sucked into a backwards dimension. A modern-day tradition of covering up mirrors is during a Jewish funeral, where the family covers up the mirrors in their homes so the spirit of the deceased doesn’t get confused and trapped in a mirror.

The Romans also had a saying: “Jupiter Preserve you,” or as we say today, “god bless you,” yet another superstition involving souls. Sneezing, back then, was a sign your soul was trying to escape. Because of this, it is tradition to do the sign of the cross after a sneeze.

Another one of the best known superstitions is the black cat. Starting in Europe during the witch trials, a black cat was considered a bad omen. The color black alone was bad luck since it was associated with the devil. Crossing paths with a black cat in the Netherlands meant the cat could walk around town, spreading gossip about your family.

Perhaps one of the most haunted superstitions is the number 13: a number said to bring bad luck, especially on a Friday, which is known as Friday the 13th. Oddly enough, HuffPost ranked the most well-known superstitions, and number 13 on the list was the bad luck brought on by the number 13.

Though it is not where this misfortune originates, many associate the number 13 with the Last Supper, where Judas, best known as the disciple to betray Jesus in the Bible, sat at the 13th seat. That Friday, Jesus was crucified, which is remembered today as “Good Friday.”

In Norse mythology, it is said that the 12 Norse gods gathered for a dinner in Valhalla, heaven. While they sat together, Loki, an evil god, crashed the event, becoming the 13th party goer, another reason the number 13 is associated with evil.

The number 13 has been known as evil for so long  that to this day, a lot of hotels and hospitals do not have a 13th floor and some airports don’t have a gate 13.

Friday the 13th was taken very seriously even in the 1900s. The New York Times published an advertisement in 1913 for a pastor who was offering to wed any couple for free on Friday the 13th to prove a point that the day is not unlucky.

Some people take Friday the 13th less seriously than others, though. Five of our former presidents, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, were all members of the Thirteen Club, a club to bust the myth that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. The superstition goes that if someone sits in the 13th seat at a table, one of the people there will die within a year. On the 13th of every month they would meet, filling 13 seats during dinner, where all of them were served.

Not only is the number 13 considered bad luck, but Friday’s were the days to stay inside and do nothing to ward off bad luck. From the 17th century all the way to the early 20th century, several rules about Fridays were written in Western literature. For example, on Fridays, it is bad luck to do needlework, harvest, travel, give birth, get married, start a new job and much more.

This Friday, Oct. 13 will be one of two Friday the 13ths in 2017. The other fell in January, at the beginning of the year.

Bad things, whether it be coincidence or not, seem to take place on Friday the 13th. In 2010, a 13-year-old boy was struck by lightning on Friday the 13th at 13:13, military time, at the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival in England, according to BBC.

In the United States, there are approximately 17-21 million people who have paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th (also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia).

Donald Dossey, founder of Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute located in North Carolina, explained that businesses lose up to $800 million every Friday the 13th. Due to the superstitions, there are actually people who fear going about their daily lives on this date. They avoid going out, working, shopping and doing anything else outside the comfort and safety of their home.

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