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Growing up, my mom used to tell me how her mom, my late grandmother, used to think of Friday the 13th as a lucky day. Ever since I was little this was something that I always kept in mind growing up and still something I like to think of to this day. So why exactly is this day such a Western phenomena?



Triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13, has actually been documented over several centuries. A large portion of this superstition has heavy religious roots. Friday, for example, is the day of “original sin”, being the day that Jesus was told to have been crucified and died. The bible states that it was also the day that Cain killed his brother, Abel. In addition, it was on a Friday that Eve was said to eat, and serve, the forbidden apple which was also the day Adam was expelled from Paradise, repented, then dies and was cremated. The Last Supper also has provided a superstition that having 13 guests at a table was a bad omen and could bring about death.



Friday was often thought of a day of death as well for it was often the day of public hangings. Now, this is where the number 13 comes into play. The number of steps on a gallows, coils of rope on a hangman’s noose, and the Death card in the tarot deck all have something very much in common. What is that you may ask? The dreaded number 13.

Western cultures and many other ancient civilizations have historically correlated wholeness with the number 12; 12 days of Christmas, 12 months, 12 zodiac signs, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 tribes of Israel, etc. With so much focus on the number 12, its successor has not had such a kind historical outlook. For instance, the ancient Code or Hammurabi reportedly omitted a 13th law from its list of legal rules.

A fellow support of Friday the 13th, Captain William Fowler, founded an exclusive society called the Thirteen Club in the late 19th century. They dined regularly every 13th day of the month in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage, a popular dining/bar facility that Fowler owned for a period between 1863-1883. The group would indulge in a 13-course dinner and each member would pass beneath a ladder and banner which read, “Morituri te Salutamus”, Latin for, “Those of us who are about to die we salute you.” By 1887, the club had over 400 members and throughout its history, five U.S. Presidents were also participants of the organization: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt.



Actually, before the Western revolution, both Fridays and the number 13 were actually thought of in good conscious. These both were associated with Great Goddesses and originally thought to be sacred and full of luck and good fortune. Thirteen is also the number of cycles of the moon and associated with both female energy and fertility. Friday as well was heavily associated with the Pagan Mother Creation Goddesses, or as she may be better known; Freya, Freia, Freyja, Frea, Frig, and Venis. Get the connection? (Friday is Vendredi in French, Venerdi in Italian, and Viernes in Spanish).



While to some Friday the 13th may be unlucky, there is history on either side of the coin. Although, to me, Friday the 13th will always be a day of luck and wonder.



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Kayla McEwen

PS Behrend

Kayla A. McEwen: President and Campus Correspondent  Senior at Penn State Behrend Marketing & Professional Writing Major Part-time dreamer and full-time artist Lover of art, fashion, witty conversation, winged eyeliner, and large cups of warm beverages.
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