Friday the 13th is a day steeped in superstition. The origin of fears surrounding Friday the 13th is unclear. There is reportedly no written evidence of Friday the 13th superstition before the 19th century, but superstitions surrounding the number 13 date back to at least 1700 BC.
In the ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, dating to about 1772 BC, the number 13 is omitted in the list of laws.
There has also been a longstanding myth that if 13 people dine together, one will die within a year. The myth comes from both the Last Supper, when Jesus dined with the 12 Apostles prior to his death, and a popular Norse myth, in which 11 close friends of the god Odin dine together only to have the 12-person party crashed by a 13th person, Loki, the god of evil and turmoil.
In fact, the number 13 has been considered cursed across the world for thousands of years. The number 12 is historically considered the number of completeness, while its older cousin, 13, has been seen as an outlier. There are 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours of the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus, 12 Descendants of Muhammad Imams, among many incidences of the pattern historically.
In 1881, an organization was started called The Thirteen Club in an attempt to improve the number’s reputation. The 13 members walked under ladders and spilled salt at the first meeting in an attempt to dissuade any negative associations with the number.
Despite these efforts, the number 13 continues to have an unlucky association today. Thirteen is so disliked that many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue, many high-rise buildings avoid having a 13th floor, some hospitals avoid labeling rooms with the number 13 and many airports will not have a gate 13.
Friday has also long been considered an unlucky day. One theory hypothesizes that Friday has been considered unlucky because Jesus was crucified on a Friday according to Christian Scripture and tradition. Another states that the superstition regarding Friday comes from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, published in the 14th century, where Friday is considered a day of misfortune and ill luck. In numerous publications in the 17th century, Friday the 13th was outlined as an unlucky day to take a trip, to begin a new project or to have a major life change (such as a birth, a marriage, among other events).
Whether there is any merit to the superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th will remain uncertain, but that will not stop millions of people across the world from worrying about the unlucky day.