Where Did Friday the 13th Come From?

So you know the stories, and how Friday the thirteenth brings nothing but bad luck, horror and curses surrounding black cats, walking under ladders, cracked pavements. But where do these superstitions come from? Where do the spooky superstitions set to ruin all your impending future plans come from?

This superstitious day has its earliest roots in the time of the Romans – on Maundy Thursday (13th of Nisan in the Assyrian calendar,) 13 people were present in the ‘Upper Room’ for the last supper. Of course, the next day, Jesus died. Subsequently, it has been held in Christian traditions that having thirteen at the table was a bad omen, toying with the idea of death. This is also why specifically Friday the 13th is a bad omen, rather than just any old 13th. 

However, the widespread origin is also argued to have come from 1307, where hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested and burnt across France.

In the Western world, the number 12 has been associated with completeness, with twelve days of Christmas, twelve months, 12 zodiac signs, 12 gods of Olympus, all contributing to the idea that the thirteenth brought incompleteness.

The main basis of the modern superstitions that we believe today came from 1907, with the publication of ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ by Thomas William Lawson. This tells a story of New York city stockbroker who manipulates superstition about the date to create chaos on wall street.

Similarly, the horror movie ‘Friday the 13th, ‘ released 1980, introduced the notorious character Jason, who only murders on (you guessed it) Friday the 13th.

During the 1880s, a club was founded in attempts to debunk superstition, by holding a regular meeting on the 13th of each month. Here members gathered to break mirrors, spill copious amounts of salt, walk under ladders, all the while recording how many members died. While membership was initially 13, it soon exploded over the course of the decade. Could the attention they drew to the date actually have increased the superstition around it? 

The truth is, is that although you may not die from putting new shoes on a table, or need to run away from a black cat crossing your path… the fun comes from the superstitious, the different and the excitement. It’s a tradition that deserves to stay.

Published by Heather Dalgleish

21-year-old journalism student. Author and illustrator for In Full Bloom Magazine

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