Can you turn to the person next to you, look them in the eye, and honestly say that you’ve never felt even a slight pang of concern when waking up on the morning of Friday the 13th?
No? You’re not alone. Maybe it’s triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number thirteen, that gets you down. But if thirteens don’t bother you unless it’s Friday, you might be susceptible to what’s sometimes known as paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. Whether you plan on purposely walking under ladders with black cats this Friday or staying tucked into bed, it’s worth diving into why Friday the 13th has a bit of a reputation.
First, let’s get into thirteen. While many cultures have an issue with the odd number, there’s no one set of circumstances that would make it decidedly unlucky. Common theories behind the fear of thirteen include 1. Viking lore, where the unsavory Loki is believed to be the thirteenth god in the Norse pantheon, 2. a biblical reference to the thirteen people reportedly sitting at the table for Jesus’s last supper, and 3. numerology, where thirteen is in low regard because it follows twelve, a very “complete” number. But if you ask an architect why they omitted the 13th floor from a high-rise, they probably won’t bother citing a source for their superstition.
Friday was named for one of two Norse goddesses, Freya or Frigga. While exclaiming “TGIF” is common now, some traditions consider “Frigga’s Day” to be unlucky. That’s not the only theory, of course. Some Christians believe that Christ was crucified on a Friday. Friday was once known as “hangman’s day” in ancient Rome and Britain because it was usually the day that condemned people would be hanged.
It’s likely that these two sets of unlucky lists just add up to make Friday and thirteen an intense combination for superstition. And of course, if you’re expecting luckless things to happen, you might remember the day differently – or even change your habits. Multiple studies speculate that businesses lose millions of dollars in revenue each Friday the 13th because some people avoid regular behaviors like traveling or making investments.
For the superstitious out there, be aware: in 2017, Friday the 13th happens twice, in January and October. And for the unsuperstitious, you should make note of those dates too. Maybe you’ll find a great deal on a flight.
Feeling lucky? Try your hand at our Friday the 13th quiz here.