The Strange Origins of Friday the 13th Superstitions

The Strange Origins of Friday the 13th Superstitions
Martin Cid Magazine

Ever wonder why Friday the 13th is considered such an unlucky day?You’ve probably heard about it and know it has something to do with superstition, but have you ever really looked into why this seemingly random date is associated with bad luck and misfortune? Well, it turns out the origins of the Friday the 13th superstitions are pretty bizarre. Believe it or not, they date all the way back to the 1300s and have roots in Christianity, Norse mythology, and a secret society. How’s that for strange? While today most people don’t take the unluckiness of the 13th seriously, some still avoid major life events and choices on Friday the 13th just in case. If you’re curious to learn the peculiar stories behind how this spooky date came to be, read on. We’ll explore the twisted histories of how Friday and the number 13 became linked with misfortune and bad luck.

The History Behind Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition, but where did this notion come from? The origins trace back to both Christian belief and Norse mythology.

Christianity and the Last Supper

Jesus’ last supper was on a Friday, and there were 13 people in attendance. Judas, the 13th guest, betrayed Jesus leading to his crucifixion. This helped cement Friday and the number 13 as a day of bad luck in Christian belief.

Norse Mythology and 12 Gods

In Norse mythology, 12 gods were having a dinner party when the 13th uninvited guest, Loki, showed up. Loki arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of light, with a mistletoe arrow. Balder died as a result. This furthered the idea of 13 guests at a dinner being unlucky.

The Knights Templar

On Friday the 13th, 1307, King Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar. This influential military order had gained power and wealth, frightening the king. He orchestrated their demise on a day that was already considered ominous.

Fear of the Unknown

Triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13, impacts our view of Friday the 13th. Along with the historical associations, the day just feels disconcerting because it’s an irregularity in our rational world. We like to find order and meaning, so we imbue the day with a sinister quality.

While Friday the 13th may give some folks the heebie-jeebies, there’s no scientific evidence that the day itself causes more accidents or mishaps. So don’t change your routine or plans. Just enjoy an ordinary Friday and cast aside any silly superstitions! The day’s unluckiness is really just in our heads.

Origins of the Number 13 Being Unlucky

So where did the idea that 13 is an unlucky number come from? It turns out this superstition has been around for centuries and has complex origins.

Early Christianity

Some historians trace 13’s bad reputation back to Christianity. At the Last Supper, there were 13 people present – Jesus and his 12 apostles. Judas, the 13th guest, betrayed Jesus. This helped cement 13 as a “bad” number in Christian belief.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar, a religious military group, were rounded up and executed on Friday the 13th, 1307. This further promoted the “unluckiness” of the number 13 and Fridays.

Norse mythology

In Norse mythology, 12 gods were dining at Valhalla when the 13th uninvited guest, Loki, joined them. His presence led to the death of Balder, the god of light.

13 steps to the noose

Some folklore suggests the number 13 was feared because it took 13 steps to reach the noose when hanging criminals. The 13th step symbolized imminent death.

While there are certainly more theories, these early origins have helped cement 13 as an “unlucky” digit in Western culture. Of course, many view 13 as just another number and Friday the 13th as any other day. But for those who do believe, steering clear of 13 at the dinner table or walking around ladders just in case isn’t a bad idea! When it comes to superstitions, it’s often better safe than sorry.

Folklore Surrounding the Day

Superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th have been around for centuries and originate from a combination of Christian tradition, Norse mythology, and popular culture.


According to Christian tradition, there were 13 guests at the Last Supper on the 13th day of the week (Thursday), and the crucifixion of Jesus took place on a Friday. The number 13 and Friday have since been considered unlucky by some in Christian nations.

Norse mythology

In Norse mythology, 12 gods were having a dinner party when the 13th uninvited guest, Loki, showed up. Loki then arranged for the god of darkness, Balder the Beautiful, to be shot and killed by an arrow made of mistletoe.

Popular culture

No one knows exactly when Friday the 13th became known as an unlucky day, but it has been considered ominous at least since the 19th century. Some historians believe the superstition stems from the publication of Thomas William Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth in 1907. The popularity of the slasher film franchise Friday the 13th in the 1980s further cemented the day’s notoriety.

Many people refuse to fly, make business deals or get married on Friday the 13th out of a belief that the day brings bad luck. Estimates show that $800 to $900 million in business is lost each Friday the 13th due to people’s unwillingness to start a new venture or make a purchase on that ominous date.

While there are certainly spooky stories surrounding the origins of the Friday the 13th superstition, most historians agree there is no real evidence that the day itself is unluckier than any other. For those who remain skeptical, you can try your luck by walking under a ladder or letting a black cat cross your path on this infamous day. Just don’t be surprised if Freddy or Jason are waiting around the corner!

Infamous Events That Happened on Friday the 13th

Some of the most infamous events in history occurred on Friday the 13th, fueling superstitions that the date is unlucky.

The Munich Massacre

During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took nine Israeli athletes hostage in their Olympic Village apartment on September 5—a Friday the 13th. A failed rescue attempt led to the deaths of all nine hostages and one police officer. The horrific events stunned the world and overshadowed the Munich games.

The Chilean Mine Collapse

On Friday, August 13, 2010, a copper and gold mine collapsed in Chile, trapping 33 miners underground. The men survived for a record 69 days before emerging with the help of rescue workers. While the story had a happy ending, the initial collapse and uncertainty during the long rescue mission supported the notion of Friday the 13th misfortune.

Hurricane Andrew

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida as a Category 5 hurricane on August 24—a Friday the 13th. Andrew was the most destructive hurricane to hit the state at the time, causing $26 billion in damage, destroying more than 25,000 homes and killing 65 people. The widespread devastation added to the unpopularity of the supposedly unlucky date.

Tupac Shakur Shot

On Friday, September 13, 1996, famous rapper Tupac Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. He tragically passed away six days later at the age of 25. His murder has never been solved and remains an infamous unsolved hip hop mystery, linked in legend to the ominous date of the shooting.

These catastrophes and the sinister events surrounding them have cemented Friday the 13th as a notoriously unlucky day in popular culture and folklore. For many, even minor inconveniences on the date seem more ominous, showing how powerful perception and superstition can be.

Worldwide Superstitions and Traditions

While Friday the 13th is considered unlucky in many Western cultures, other parts of the world have their own unique superstitions for this fateful day.


In China, the number 13 is actually considered lucky, so Friday the 13th holds no negative connotations. However, the number 4 is viewed as unlucky because its pronunciation is similar to the word for “death” in Chinese. Many buildings in China skip labeling the 4th floor!


In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is viewed as the unluckiest day. The Spanish word for Tuesday, “martes”, has origins in the name of the Roman god of war, Mars. Combine this with 13, and you have a double whammy of misfortune.


Greeks consider Tuesday the 13th to be the unluckiest day. In Greek mythology, Tuesday is named after Ares, the god of war, who was the equivalent of Mars in Roman mythology.


In India, Friday is considered lucky. However, the number 13 is viewed as inauspicious by some. An Indian superstition holds that if 13 people sit together to eat, the first person to rise will die within a year. To avoid this, Indians may skip numbering the 13th floor in buildings or make offerings to appease the gods.


In Thailand, the number 9 is considered lucky, so Friday the 13th does not have negative associations. However, Thais view even numbers as unlucky, so many will avoid driving a vehicle with an even-numbered license plate on an even-numbered date.

While Western culture popularized Friday the 13th as an unlucky day, many parts of the world have their own unique superstitions and traditions for this date. Cultural beliefs regarding luck, numerology and mythology all shape how different societies view the 13th day of the month.

How Different Cultures View the Date

Cultures and countries around the world view Friday the 13th differently. Some shrug it off as just another day, while others consider it extremely unlucky.

Greece and Spain

In Greece and Spain, Tuesday the 13th is actually seen as the unluckiest day. The number 13 is associated with Judas, the 13th guest at the Last Supper who betrayed Jesus. Tuesday is named after the god of war, Mars, in Latin. So together, Tuesday and 13 are a “double whammy.”


In India, 13 is seen as a lucky number by many. Some buildings skip labeling the 13th floor, but many businesses like hotels and casinos actually favor the number. Thirteen signifies purity and divinity in some Indian cultures.


The number 13 is not traditionally unlucky in Chinese culture. However, the pronunciation of 13 in Chinese sounds similar to the word for “must die” or “certain death.” Some hospitals and businesses in China do skip floor 13.


In Italy, Friday the 17th is considered the unluckiest day. The number 17 is seen as ill-fated because when rearranged, it resembles the word VIXI meaning “I have lived” which implies death in Latin.

United Kingdom

In the UK, Friday the 13th is viewed as the unluckiest day, like in the US. The idea stems from Christian beliefs around the Last Supper, where Judas, the 13th guest, betrayed Jesus on a Friday. Many Brits avoid major life events like weddings or business deals on this date.

While cultures interpret luck and numbers differently, Friday the 13th remains an ominous date for many in Western societies. Whether or not you’re superstitious, it’s always interesting to understand the origins behind cultural traditions and beliefs.

Impact on Business and Travel

The superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th have had some impact on businesses and travel. Many people avoid major purchases, business deals, or travel on this supposedly unlucky day.

Lost revenue

Businesses may experience a dip in sales or revenue on Friday the 13th simply due to people’s reluctance to make significant financial transactions on this date. Surveys show that around $900 million in business is lost in the U.S. on Friday the 13th compared to an average Friday. Some companies even close for the day rather than deal with the drop in customers and productivity.

Fewer travelers

The travel industry is also affected, with many people choosing to stay home rather than fly or take a trip on Friday the 13th. According to studies, around 11% fewer cars travel on highways and as many as 21% fewer people fly compared to other Fridays. Amtrak and Greyhound report decreased ridership as well. The lost revenue from vacant hotel rooms and decreased tourism on these Fridays is substantial.


Some workplaces find that more employees call in sick or don’t show up for work on Friday the 13th due to anxiety and fear of the date. This costs companies in lost productivity and wages. While absenteeism is usually only slightly higher than average, over time it amounts to a significant unnecessary expense. Some companies hold special events or treats on Friday the 13th to encourage staff attendance.

Friday the 13th superstitions clearly have a measurable economic impact, though many people consider them unfounded and silly. However, for those who do believe in the bad luck associated with the date, staying home and avoiding major decisions just seems like the smart and prudent thing to do. The origins of these superstitions may be murky, but their effects in today’s world are quite real.

Tips for How to Celebrate and Embrace the Day

To embrace the spooky superstitions of Friday the 13th, here are some tips for how you can celebrate this ominous day:

Don’t Change Your Normal Routine

Continue with your usual Friday routine and activities. Sticking to familiar habits and schedules will make the day feel more normal and help avoid bad luck. Keeping a regular routine is comforting.

Watch a Scary Movie

Curl up on the couch with some popcorn and watch a spooky horror film. Classic Friday the 13th movies from the 80s slasher genre are always a fun choice. A scary movie marathon is perfect for this unlucky day.

Cook Up Some Comfort Food

Indulge in some comfort food like pizza, pasta, or mac and cheese. Warm, hearty meals are soothing and help make you feel safe at home. Baking cookies or other treats can make your place smell inviting and bring good cheer.

Stay Indoors

Avoid taking any big risks or important trips today. Staying home indoors is the safest way to steer clear of potential bad luck or misfortune outside. Run your errands another day if possible.

Surround Yourself With Black Cats

Black cats are a symbol of good luck, contrary to popular superstition. Snuggle up with your own black cat or look at photos of the adorable felines online. Their cuteness will brighten your day and bring you good fortune.

Make the Most of It

Have some spooky fun with the day and spread positivity. Friday the 13th only comes around once or twice a year, so you might as well make the most of it! Do small things to bring you joy and comfort. With the right mindset, Friday the 13th can be an exciting day.

Friday the 13th FAQs: Answering Common Questions

Friday the 13th brings with it many myths and superstitions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this unlucky day.

Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky?

The unluckiness of Friday the 13th is traced to several origins. Some believe it stems from Christian religious beliefs around the Last Supper, where there were 13 guests on the 13th day of the week, a Friday. Others point to Friday being an unlucky day in general, as Jesus was crucified on a Friday according to the Bible. The number 13 itself is also seen as unlucky by some. When these two unlucky factors combine, it creates a “double whammy” of misfortune.

What are some of the most well-known Friday the 13th superstitions?

There are many superstitions associated with Friday the 13th:

•Don’t take risks or start new projects. Any venture begun on this unlucky day is doomed to failure.

•Don’t get married. Friday the 13th weddings are believed to end in divorce.

•Don’t travel. Accidents and disasters are more likely to occur. Many people avoid flying or taking long trips.

•Be extra careful. Bad luck and mischief are thought to be more probable, so take extra safety precautions.

•Expect the unexpected. Prepare for random chaotic or unforeseen events, as the day is associated with disruptions of all kinds.

•Carry an object like a rabbit’s foot for good luck. Or wear something red, which is thought to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.

•Stay home if possible. You can’t have bad luck if you avoid going out!

•Be on the lookout for black cats. Seeing one on Friday the 13th is thought to be an omen of coming misfortune.

Are there any positives to Friday the 13th?

Despite the superstitions, Friday the 13th isn’t all doom and gloom. Some good things associated with the date:

•Special deals and discounts. Many stores and companies offer sales and promotions on Friday the 13th.

•An excuse to stay in. If you’re superstitious or just want an easy day, Friday the 13th is the perfect reason to relax at home.

•Less traffic and fewer crowds. Those who do venture out may find less congested roads and smaller lines at stores and restaurants.

•A day to face your fears. If you’re feeling brave, Friday the 13th can be an opportunity to challenge superstitious beliefs by taking a risk or starting something new!

So there you have it, the weird and wacky origins of Friday the 13th superstitions. Whether you’re triskaidekaphobic or just mildly superstitious, these old tales and beliefs have endured for centuries and shaped how many view this supposedly unlucky day. While science may scoff at such notions, there’s no denying the power that superstitions hold over human psychology. The next time Friday the 13th rolls around, you’ve got the inside scoop on all the strangeness surrounding it. Maybe you’ll walk under a ladder or break a mirror just to tempt fate. But if your day goes haywire, don’t say we didn’t warn you! Stay safe out there and enjoy your Friday the 13th – if you dare.

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Martin Cid Magazine (MCM) is a cultural magazine about entertainment, arts and shows.
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