Friday the 13th: Where does superstition come from, why is it ‘unlucky’ and how many are there in 2023?

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On Friday the 13th, some superstitious people will even go so far as to avoid travelling at all.

If you had a bad start this morning and couldn’t figure out what was wrong, today’s date could be to blame. Friday the 13th, a date considered unlucky by some, returns for the first time this year, but it is not the only one on the calendar - unfortunately.

The date, which brings nothing but bad luck to superstitious individuals particularly in the Western world, is frequently connected with misfortune. Some people would spend the day avoiding mirrors, sighting a black cat, and even ladders, and they would also avoid travelling.

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The day is rife with spooky occurrences and superstitious behaviour, sometimes serving as inspiration for horror films, with Friday the 13th franchise boasting a staggering 12 slasher films.

But this is not just some Hollywood urban legend. Some hotel buildings have gone to considerable lengths to get rid of the 13th floor and would skip straight to the 14th floor while some hotels do not have “room 13” altogether. Even major airlines such as Ryanair, don’t have a 13th row in their planes.

While there are many theories surrounding the ‘spooky date,’ Friday the 13th has instilled irrational fear in some people, causing them to spend the day indoors and doing nothing to avoid all kinds of possibilities. So where does the superstition come from and how many Friday the 13ths are there in 2023?

Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky?

There are several theories as to why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky. One of the most popular superstitions relates the date of Friday the 13th to the fall of the Knights Templar. On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France captured hundreds of Knights Templar.

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According to the History website, it says: “Founded around 1118 as a monastic military order devoted to the protection of pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land following the Christian capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, the Knights Templar quickly became one of the richest and most influential groups of the Middle Ages, thanks to lavish donations from the crowned heads of Europe, eager to curry favour with the fierce Knights.

“By the turn of the 14th century, the Templars had established a system of castles, churches and banks throughout Western Europe. And it was this astonishing wealth that would lead to their downfall.”

What is so ‘unlucky’ about Friday the 13th?What is so ‘unlucky’ about Friday the 13th?
What is so ‘unlucky’ about Friday the 13th? | Stock picture

What are some other theories?

Another popular explanation for Friday the 13th’s unluckiness is the narrative of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion. Leonardo da Vinci’s picture of the Last Supper depicts 13 people in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, the 13th of Nisan, the night before Jesus’ death on Good Friday.

The 13th person at the dinner is considered to have been Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Furthermore, the association of Friday the 13th with bad luck can be traced back to Thomas W Lawson’s novel Friday, the Thirteenth, which was published in 1907.

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The plot revolves around a banker who leverages Friday the 13th superstition to cause a Wall Street panic on that precise date. According to Henry Sutherland’s 1869 biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on Friday, November 13, the composer considered Friday to be an unfortunate day and the 13th to be an unlucky number.

Can sighting of a black cat bring you bad luck on Friday the 13th?Can sighting of a black cat bring you bad luck on Friday the 13th?
Can sighting of a black cat bring you bad luck on Friday the 13th? | Pexels

What is the fear of number 13 called?

Triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 13. explains: “Most people with triskaidekaphobia have an immersive and ongoing phobia / fear of the number 13.

“The premise of phobia or fear of the number 13 is usually challenging to explain, but in some cases, its causes are linked to panic-related experiences or genetic conditions. Fear of the number 13 can be handled by a psychologist using exposure therapy in combination with drugs.”

The word has Greek origins, with tris meaning three, kai meaning and, deka meaning 10 and phobia meaning fear. Paraskevidekatriaphobia refers to the specific fear of Friday the 13th, not just the number 13.

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How many days of Friday the 13th in 2023?

The only good news is that Friday 13 only occurs twice this year. Today and in October. In 2024, the date will also appear twice (in September and December)  and will only happen once in 2025 (in June). But in 2026, the dreaded date will appear three times - February, March, and November.

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