Friday the 13th: Superstition Origins and Why the Day is Considered Unlucky

Today is Friday the 13th (August 13), a day famously associated with bad luck.
Friday the 13th wariness has been linked back to Biblical times, with Judas being the 13th person at Jesus' table.

So, why does this day continue to have such a supernatural feel? Newsweek delves into the history behind the superstition.

Friday the 13th Origins

References to Friday the 13th date back to Medieval times but some believe that it was inspired by the Bible. At the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot, who went onto betray Jesus to the Romans, was the 13th person at the table, potentially inspiring further fears of the number 13. Jesus was also said to have died on a Friday—also known as Good Friday—which has potentially resulted in Christians carrying the superstition from there.

Moving through to the Middle Ages, references to Friday being an unlucky day in general appear as early as the 14th century. The Canterbury Tales writer, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote: "On a Friday fell all this mischance."

Then there are the Knights Templar. The Catholic military order was arrested on Friday the 13th in October 1307 by order of King Philip IV. The Grand Master Jacque de Molay and scores of other French Templars were accused of asking recruits to spit on the Cross, deny Christ and engage in "indecent kissing." They were charged with numerous offenses such as financial corruption, fraud and secrecy, and were also accused of idolatry. These prisoners were tortured and burned at the stake later on. This started a movement to arrest and disband the Knights Templar.

Friday the 13th Origins
Stock image: Friday the 13th has been considered unlucky since Biblical Times and the Middle Ages. iStock

Gioachino Rossini, the Italian composer, died on Friday 13th according to Henry Sutherland Edwards' 1869 biography. In it he wrote: "He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away."

So it's not surprising that some link it to Friday the 13th. However, today Italians actually consider 13 to be a lucky number and Friday 17th to be an unlucky day.

Also known as triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13 has also created traditions such as builders skipping the 13th floor when designing buildings, in an effort to avoid bad luck, or restauranters missing out the 13th table. In Norse legend, there were 12 people sharing a meal in Valhalla when a 13th person, Loki (not the Marvel character but the spirit of strife) crashed the dinner and one person ended up dead.

Some believe that the fear of the number 13 comes from numerology. Numerologists consider the number 12 to be a complete number, so 13 is considered to be useless.

But Friday the 13th doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Newsweek has compiled a list of memes for readers to share with their friends and family.