Friday the 13th: A Brief Explanation of this Mysterious Day

Jason Voorhees.  Black cats and broken mirrors.  Unlucky events.  For as long as most of us can remember, Friday the 13th has been marked as a day of mystery and intrigue—and in some cases, bad luck or misfortune.   But why? Where do the myths come from and how can we pay homage to them? This October, take time to celebrate the macabre holiday and share these interesting facts with your friends!

Friday: The meaning behind the word

Let’s begin with the etymology of the word itself: Friday.  In Old English, it meant “Freya’s Day”.  Who was Freya? She was only the badass party girl of Norse mythology.  Her hubby? That’s right, folks, none other than the famous Odin.  Freya was known for her beauty and fertility.  As stated before, she was also known for being a bit scandalous and loving a good time.  She is often credited with having brought magic to humans and Gods alike.  I like to think that we party on Friday in honor of Freya.  Pour one out for you, babe.

Above: Portrayal of Norse Goddess, Freya

So why is 13 considered the magic number in this case?

Well, get ready for a list.  The number 13 has quite the history! While some of the claims are hard to prove (because they’re that old!), others can certainly be substantiated.

Let’s start off light, shall we?

Many ancient cultures seemed drawn to this number.  The Aztecs, for example, created a calendar made up of 13 day cycles.  Their version of a century was divided into four periods, each with 13 years.  The Celtics also seemed to show preference for this number.  The Celtic calendar was made up of 13 months, not 12, and was meant to follow the moon phases, creating 28-day months.  13 was often related to femininity because of the correlation with a woman’s menstrual cycle.  In India, the number refers to the term “Terah”, meaning “yours”, and is a representation of karma and the divine.  Also, there is a small pocket of people in Brazil who practice the religion known as Coperos.  In this particular culture, the number 13 is closely linked to God or the Divine.

Above: Aztec calendar                                                                                 Above: Celtic Calendar

Interesting stuff so far.

But when we get into the development of Christianity, things get weird. 

You may have noticed that religions and cultures that predate Christianity look at the number 13 in positive light.  With the development of the Gregorian calendar, which was an adaptation of the Julian calendar, the number 13 becomes less prominent.  Perhaps this has to do with the fact that all things Pagan were phased out with the rise of Christianity, including dependency on astrology and druid calendars.  As this transition took place, the number 13 became more ominous.

For example, many of us know that there were 13 people at the last supper.  One of them was a jerk.  It’s also speculated that the crucifixion of JC himself may have taken place on the 13th of Nisan (a Jewish month).   Fast forward some time and The Knights Templar, a Roman Catholic group charged with protecting Christianity, are accused of heresy by the King of France.  Hundreds were gathered up and executed on none other than Friday, the 13th (October, even!).  While Dan Brown (author of The DaVinci Code) and the good folks of the internet have perpetuated plenty of juicy theories on why this happened, most likely it was because they had become too powerful and rich, making them a target.  Regardless, we do know that many lost their lives and in not so pleasant ways.

Above: DaVinci’s The Last Supper

Also, the dragon is found 13 times throughout the book of Revelation.  It’s agreed upon by most that the Dragon is synonymous with Satan.  King Solomon spent 13 years building his humble abode and, according to the Bible, JC himself says that there are 13 things that defile a person (adultery, fornication, evil thoughts/ideas, murder, covetness, theft, wickedness, guile, blasphemy, pride, foolishness, licentiousness, and an evil eye—no, I don’t know what all those mean).  Let’s not ignore the theory that it was on a Friday when Eve tempted Adam with that Golden Delicious and it’s also believed that Cain murdered his bro, Able, on a Friday….the 13th.


A witches’ coven traditionally had 13 members.  Again, this is due to the 13 lunar months.  The moon plays a vital part in paganism and Wicca.

13 is part of the Fibonacci Sequence, in which a series of numbers are found by adding up the two before it.  The sequence is used to make the Fibonacci Spiral, which can be found all around us (google it: it’s fascinating).

Cultural influences…

In the early 1900’s, a man by the name of Thomas William Lawson wrote a book titled Friday the Thirteenth.  While the horror lover in me hoped it would have been a scream, sadly, it was about a broker and Wall Street (not my cup of tea).

In the 80’s, we were given our beloved Jason.  Poor, poor Jason drowned as a direct result of horny teenagers.  His devoted mother had to take action and hold those teenagers accountable.  Thus, the Friday the 13th series was born.  Arguably, this is the pivotal moment in Westernized culture that the day became infamous.

Many high rise buildings will not include a 13th floor.  Instead, you’ll go from 12 straight to 14.  It’s said that it’s unlucky to have 13 guests at a dinner party and, if you do, all of them will be dead in a year.  We can probably thank the Last Supper story for that one.

Have 13 letters in your name? You may be a serial killer.  Just ask Jeffrey Dahmer.  Or Charles Mason.  Or even the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, who killed 13 women.  Aileen Wuornos.  Saddam Hussein.  Osama bin Laden.  And, of course, Theodore Bundy, who was often referred to as Ted.  Coincidence?  Probably, but still…it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

So this Friday the 13th, watch your films.  Have a dinner party.  Hell, start a coven if that’s your thing.  The culmination of legend, history, and superstition has given us the perfect day for all of this.  Just maybe watch out for folks with 13 letters in their name (I’m good—I have 14).

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