- fear of Friday the 13th
just some stuff to clog up the Tailgate:
Ever wonder how all this started? No? Well, me either...
From: email@example.com (Nancy J. Gill)
Subject: It's on a Thursday This Month-(LONG)
Date: 9 Apr 1995 05:36:41 GMT
I recently checked out a book from the library called "Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain"(copyright 1994, published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-75818-7). The author, Jack Hitt, decided to side-step an anticipated mid-life crisis by abandoning his safe comfortable American life to follow the pilgrimage route to Santiago de
Compostela, Spain, the putative final resting place of Saint James the Apostle. Lasting two months or more, depending on the starting place, the walk traditionally winds up just before St. James’ feast day, July 25. Along the route of "Europe’s oldest form of packaged tour," he encountered a varied cast of characters, and a host of legends. One in particular caught my eye:
"The king of France at the turn of the fourteenth century was known as an uncommonly handsome man. He was called Philip le Bel, the Beautiful, an ironic epithet for a king of Gothic pitilessness. Because of the French king's constant financial problems, relations between Paris and Rome had degenerated into a ludicrous state. The Beautiful had exhausted all the usual mediaeval methods for balancing the books. He had stolen property, he had arrested all the Jews, he had devalued his currency. As a last resort, he tried to tax the church.
Pope Boniface VIII was a fat and dissolute pontiff. One contemporary described him as "nothing but eyes and tongue in a wholly putrefying body . . . a devil." The Beautiful himself openly referred to him as, "Your Fatuity." But Boniface knew the rules of the game as well.
In retaliation for France's new fiscal arrangements, the pope issued a dictum forbidding the taxation of the clergy.
So the Beautiful closed French borders to the exportation of gold bullion, cutting off Rome's transalpine money supply. To rub it in, he arrested the bishop of Pamiers and charged him with blasphemy, sorcery, and fornication.
So the pope issued a bull condemning the arrest and revoked some of the Beautiful’s papal privileges.
The Beautiful burned his copy of the bull in public. The pope delivered a stinging sermon filled with ominous warnings that the church was a creature with one head, not a monster with two.
The Beautiful issued charges, in absentia, against the pope himself, alleging blasphemy, sorcery, and sodomy.
The pope excommunicated the Beautiful. He compared the French to dogs and hinted that they lacked souls. His nuncios leaked a rumor that the pontiff might well excommunicate the entire country.
The peasants were stirred by such threats and the Beautiful quickly grasped that revolution was a better future to them than excommunication. So he acted fast, dispatching an army to Anagni, where the pope was staying. He placed the eighty-six-year-old pontiff under house arrest. The locals managed to save him, but a month later Boniface passed away. Some allege he succumbed to shock at the outrage; other sources say that he beat his head against a wall until he died.
After a pliable pope assumed office, the Beautiful returned to his economic problems. His wife died in 1305, and since he no longer would have to kiss a woman's lips, he applied for membership in the Knights Templar. The permanent knights of the
Paris Temple may have suspected that his intentions were less than pious and did something almost unspeakable: they blackballed the king.
The following year, the grand master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, returned to Europe from the Mediterranean in a show of luxury. He was accompanied by sixty knights and a baggage train of mules laden with gold and jewels. Around that time the Beautiful was more desperate than ever to solve his messy state finances: he tripled the price of everything in France overnight. Open rebellion broke out in the streets. Rioters threatened to kill him. He fled to the Parisian temple and begged the knights for protection. It was all too humiliating.
So in the fall of 1307, the Beautiful arranged a state action impressive even in these days of data highways and rapid deployment teams. On September 14 he mass-mailed a set of sealed orders to every bailiff, seneschal, deputy and officer in his
kingdom. The functionaries were forbidden under penalty of death to open the papers before Thursday night. October 12.
The following Friday morning, alert to their secret instructions, armies of officials slipped out of their barracks. By sundown nearly all the Knights Templar throughout France were in jails. One estimate puts the arrests at two thousand, another as high as five thousand. Only twenty escaped. The initial charges were vague, but they didn't sound good: "A bitter thing, a lamentable
thing, a thing horrible to think of and terrible to hear, a detestable crime, an execrable evil, an abominable act, a repulsive disgrace, a thing almost inhuman, indeed alien to all humanity, has, thanks to the reports of several trustworthy persons, reached our ear, smiting us grievously and causing us to tremble with the utmost horror." What followed was so foul, according to folklore, that Templar sympathizers cursed the day itself, condemning it as evil--Friday the thirteenth--whose reputation never
I had never heard this derivation for the bad reputation enjoyed by Friday the thirteenth, so I went looking for corroboration or denial. I checked the AFU FAQ and found no mention of any basis for the bad-luck notoriety. I found a listing on-line, in the Time-Warner publishing area, that pushes the New-Testament explanation, i.e., by placing the blame on events surrounding the death of Christ:
Copyright:1994 Douglas E. Winter.
"Of all superstitions, perhaps the most pervasive -- and yet least explicable -- is the aversion to the number thirteen. Many buildings (particularly hotels) tall enough to have a thirteenth floor will not number it as such. We are told that the registration of Princess Margaret's birth was delayed so that she would not be entered as number thirteen. So firm is its grip upon us that even
hospitals, those supposed bastions of rational thought, decline to label their operating theaters with the number.
What is it about the 'devil's dozen' that poses such evil portent? The answer, as with so many superstitions, is biblical. Thirteen gathered in the upper room on the night of the Last Supper. 'And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.' (Mark 14: 17-18). 'Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot . . for he it was that should betray him.' (John 6: 70-71).
As for Friday the 13th: a lamentable intersection of unlucky number and dire day. 'And on a Friday fil al this meschaunce,' wrote Chaucer in 'The Nun's Priest's Tale'. The superstitions surrounding this fateful day -- particularly Good Fridays -- are numerous: a child born on Friday is doomed to misfortune; do not feed anyone butter churned or eggs laid that day. Courting,
and especially marriage, on Friday is a folly. Do not move to a new home or new job on that fateful day; do not rise from an illness; and please, please do not take a journey -- for as the fishermen say, 'A Friday's sail, always fail."
This had more meat to it, more background--but was it still too neat? Well, this one appeared to back Winter up:
MAGIC AND SUPERSTITION
copyright 1968 Douglas Hill
Published 1968 by the Hamlyn Publishing Group
"Thirteen is especially unlucky terms of dinner parties, referring back to the Last Supper or the Norse feast: it is believed that one of the thirteen diners will die within a year. But the fear exists in every occurrence of the number. Throughout the western world people can still be found numbering their houses '12 1/2,' to avoid living in number 13. The state lotteries of France, Italy, and elsewhere never sell tickets with that number. Hotels and hospitals, and similar institutions, often have no room numbered
thirteen; and many big hotels, like the new Cavendish Hotel completed in London in 1966, also have no thirteenth floor. Fear is also aroused if the thirteenth of the month falls on a Friday--in itself a notoriously unlucky day, largely by association with Good Friday."
Last Supper, Good Friday...yup, got all the elements. But what’s this about a Norse feast? Is that pre-Christian? Better look some more. Hmmmm, what’s this, then:
EVERY MAN'S BOOK OF SUPERSTITIONS
copyright A. R. Mowbray & Co Ltd 1970
Published 1970 by Philosophical Library, Inc.
"When making beds, mattress should never be turned on a Friday or a Sunday. Sunday is taboo, of course, because of the biblical prohibition working on the Sabbath--the Jewish Sabbath being transferred to the first day of the week in Christian practice and Friday because of the general bad luck attributed to it. Many people consider that this attribute of Friday is due its
being the day of the Crucifixion, but the belief in its ill luck probably goes much farther back in history and m have something to do with the sacrifices offered to the goddess Friga in Norse mythology.
And there is still an uneasy feeling among both seamen and passengers when a voyage begins on a Friday. If the Friday happens also to be the thirteenth day of the month apprehension is doubly strong.
Perhaps the best known of meal-time dangers is the belief that it is unlucky to sit down thirteen to table. So widespread is this superstition that most hostesses will go far out of their way to avoid such a catastrophe. Should any invited guest unexpectedly fall out leaving only thirteen for the meal, almost anyone will be dragged in to fill the vacant chair. The old belief is that the first
person to rise from the table will die within a year. Slight protection against this fate is supposed by some to be afforded if all the company rise together. Nevertheless it is safer to avoid the unlucky number if possible. Usually the host or hostess will try to arrange matters so that neither a person falling out nor an unexpected guest will leave thirteen. It is thought that this superstition may have had its origin in the Gospel story of the Last Supper in the events which followed the Passover meal partaken of by
the twelve disciples and their Master. Judas, who rose first from the table, was the first to die as recounted in the New Testament It is probable, however, that it goes back farther in time than that, for divination by numbers played a large part in ancient religions."
So here we have Norse Mythology again being used to link the bad character of Friday to a much earlier time than the previous references. Well, there was only one other book in the library that might be of use in the research project. Of course, it was terribly old, and written in such a fey voice! But never mind--I can make one last attempt to pin down the Norse reference:
Copyright: Charles Platt 1925
Republished by Gale Research Company, Book Tower, Detroit, 1973
"The rise of the compound Three-Ten for Thirteen is so very general all over the world, that it seems clear that to the primitive mind of early Man it had no real meaning--he stopped at Twelve. So persistent are these old instincts that, even today, we stop at "Twelve Times Twelve "in our school multiplication triplication tables, though there is absolutely no reason whatever why we
should do so, except for our inherited instinct that it was, and therefore still must be, the utmost limit of mathematical thought.
Thirteen, therefore was not used as number, but as a vague word meaning anything beyond Twelve. To the untutored savage, as to the animal mind of today, anything unknown conveyed an immediate sense of danger. Thirteen was not really an unlucky number, but a fateful one--a number full of vague and unimaginable possibilities and therefore a number to be avoided by any
This curious point is amply proved by the many superstitions that cluster round this number, for they are all based upon the number itself. In the majority of hotels, for instance, there is no room bearing this number, and the visitor who sleeps in the thirteenth room slumbers quite peacefully because it bears the number 14 on the door. The ill-luck, you see, is not attached to the room, but to the number, which carried to the savage mind such dreaded fear of the Unknown. Possibly that may have been a million years ago, but the fateful character still clings to the number.
Many people believe that the superstition about sitting thirteen at table dates from the Last Supper and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That is not possible, for the idea goes back centuries earlier: but it does seem clear that this world fatality gave the idea new life and sent it bounding forward along the years to come. As a matter of fact, this was not an isolated case of at thirteen at table, for Christ and the chosen disciples worked together regularly every day, and must, surely, have risked the fateful thirteen
many thousands of times.
In Scotland, Thirteen is known as the "Devil's Dozen"--a title characteristic of the worst associations of this much abused number. I have already made reference to the question of Thirteen sitting at table together. But the Romans considered that the fatality followed the number whenever and for whatever purpose thirteen people gathered together.
The Fish was an emblem of Freyja, and as such was associated with the worship of Love. It was offered by the Scandinavians to their goddess, on the sixth day of the week, i.e., Friday. I have already pointed out that many primitive customs were "adopted" by the early Christians, in order to make life easier for their converts--this was a case in point. Fish has been accepted by Catholics as the correct diet on their sixth day fast.
Unfortunately this worship of Love on the Friday of each week gradually developed--or degenerated--into a series of filthy and
indecent rites and practices.
Here then we have the obvious clue to the Day's bad name--no decent man would be associated with such practices! Friday started its career as a good day, almost a sacred day--and in many countries it is still the day of all days for lovers. Then love degenerated into lust, and now the day is universally shunned!
This trick of attributing to poor old Friday all the disasters that have ever befallen Mankind is a very general one--in addition to Eve's "indiscretion," as I may call it, Friday is popularly, but not historically, supposed to have seen the murder of Abel, the stoning of Stephen, the Crucifixion, the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod, the flight of the children of Israel through the Red Sea, the Deluge (of course !), the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel and many others, right up to William Tell and
the other Apple!
Give a poor dog a bad name, and you might as well hang it!"
Wow! Thirteen has been ‘fateful’ as long as there have been numbers, and Friday has been disastrous since ‘Eve.’ I think Mr. Hitt may have been misled by Spanish conspiracy theorists, anxious to give more importance to the Knights Templar, their
attackers, and their defenders. And guess which group succeeded the KsT?
So that’s what I found out about the background of Friday the thirteenth. My sources weren’t impeccable, but they were the only ones available to me. I’m sure there are many other sources with other derivations. Who’s got another version? Which one’s right? Who knows?