"I'm not superstitious. I'm a witch. Witches aren't superstitious. We are what people are superstitious of." — Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
Humans and superstitions go hand in hand. Perhaps in a world with so much uncertainty, they give us a sense of control--such as astrology or other divination tools. We pick up to knock on wood not to make something come true. That we shouldn't walk under ladders, or it's bad luck if a black cat walks across your path.
For thousands of years, eclipses were also bad omens before we understood how to predict them. I'm not a particularly superstitious person, but as a witch, I understand the desire to want to feel powerful in the face of so much uncertainty. Superstition comes from the Proto-Indo-European roots of "standing over." For me, it's a word from a different consciousness, one that feels powerless and at the whim of forces beyond our control.
This Friday the 13th--the second of 2023--curiosity got the best of my inner black cat. I've never quite understood why the number 13 or Friday gained such notoriety. In this blog post, I'm doing my best to delve into the origins, history, and curious beliefs surrounding Friday the 13th in service of debunking the myths and embracing the intrigue of this peculiar date. And perhaps alleviate triskaidekaphobia, aka paraskevidekatriaphobia or Friggatriskaidekaphobia.
Origins of 13
Some scholars attribute the fear of Friday and the number 13 to ancient religious and cultural beliefs. I see the comfort with 12 as mathematicians and scientists consider it a “perfect” number. The ancient Sumerians developed numeral system based on the use of 12 that is...we have 12 months, 12 zodiac signs, 12 new moons in a year, 12 days of Christmas, a dozen, two 12-hour parts to 24-hour days. In Judeo-Christian tradition and the Last Supper, Jesus was betrayed after 13th guest, similarly in Norse mythology when a 13th uninvited guest arrived and killed another God. Mythologically there were 12 labors of Hercules and 12 Gods of Olympus.
In Judaism, bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs occur at 13 years old and there were 12 tribes of Israel. Which leads me to my next thought...is 13 only unlucky in Western culture? Or those who saw the movie thriller about it from the 1980s? According to Chinese numerology, the number 13 conveys the meanings of 'assured growth' or 'definitely vibrant' and seen as an auspicious number.
During the time of ancient Egypt, the number 13 was considered fortunate due to its connection to the 13th stage of life, which was believed to be linked to the afterlife. The Isis and Osiris parable emphasizes the intentional association of 13 with fatal bad luck, resulting in negative karma. Unfortunately, most people misunderstand the significance of this symbolism and perceive 13 as a harbinger of misfortune, rather than recognizing it as a representation of wisdom and transformation. Mathematically, 13 is a prime number that cannot be exactly divided by any whole number other than itself, and the oddness of the number perhaps suggests a magic all of its own.
Friday the 13th and the Goddess
While Christianity seemed to dislike the 13th and Friday--Good Friday associated with Jesus' crucifixion--the pagans saw its beauty. Friday--named after the German goddess of marriage Frigga--relates to the planet Venus of connection, beauty, and was traditionally the best day to get married. Though to me Venus shares the alchemy of the number 13, it's cycles of light related to the sun fits the Fibonacci Sequence. In addition, the Fibonacci Sequence associated with sacred geometry and spirals, explains many natural cycles has 5, 8, and 13.
The number 13 has many relationships to menstruation, fertility, and the moon--13 lunar cycles in a year, the average age someone begins menstruating, and 13 as the halfway point in the menstrual cycle. The Earth-based, pre-Christianity culture of that time most likely worshipped female fertility. In fact, Venus of Laussel and 18-inch limestone statue of a nude, pregnant woman discovered in south of France from the Paleolithic culture (um that is around 25,000 years ago) has 13 notches on a crescent shape. Perhaps the system of tracking menstrual and moon cycles, they even have the same Proto-Indo-European root me- meaning "to measure."
Another version of this connection I've heard with Friday and the 13th was in Norse mythology and Freya. Though it has been unclear how much Frigg and Freya relate...the story goes that Freya the goddess of love was exiled as a witch on a Friday. Then she and 11 over witches would meet weekly with the Devil on a Friday--as the 6th day of the week and hence why 666 became associated with the Devil. And why Friday was considered the witches sabbath and 13 the ideal number for a coven.
While it's difficult to say when things started to shift, though likely ancient Greek times and Middle Ages became a particularly patriarchal time that has continued through modern day. Phases where Pagan and Christianity became more and more at odds and witch became a dirty word or something to be feared.
Other 13 correlations:
m is the 13th letter of the alphabet derived from early Hebrew and Greek that was a symbol of water, perhaps another symbolism to relate to the moon and fertility as water.
the 13th card in tarot is the Death card, not just physical death and literal dying, but transformation and rebirth.
As a modern witch, reclaiming Friday the 13th as something magical and transformational, can be a way to remember our deep connection to Earth.
More recently I learned Taylor Swift loves the number 13 and sees it as an omen for good things. Even writing it on her hand in the past and seeing it before she has won awards. For the record, she has Black Moon Lilith, the planetary body of the witch in harmony with her Moon.
And unlike the full moon's impact, there isn't any scientific basis to support the notion of Friday the 13th being exceptionally unlucky. Friday the 13th, may be a day shrouded in mystery and superstition, but the reality is that it is just like any other day...except if you are a witch or Taylor Swift.;) So, brace yourself for the next occurrence and remember – luck is what we make of it and according to Wikipedia, this lucky day happens 212.35 days so we have many chances to make it lucky--and 2024 offers two changes again on Friday, September 13 and December 13. Already something to look forward to.:)