Friday the 13th: A Biblical Superstition?
Friday the 13th sparks many superstitions which are rooted in Christian beliefs, but the day holds no significant meaning other than what people attribute to it.
Although there is no scientific evidence to prove that the Friday the 13th is a day of bad luck, many people avoid doing business or flying whenever the 13th day of the month falls on a Friday. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimates that $800 million to $900 million are lost in the U.S. on every Friday the 13th due to people's fear.
According to Dr. Phillips Stevens Jr., Associate Professor of Anthropology at Buffalo University's College of Arts and Sciences, there is a strong taboo about 13 and Friday.
"Most buildings don't have a 13th floor, you won't find 13 people seated a table and some airlines don't have a 13th row," Stevens said. "The taboo comes directly from Biblical stories."
The Biblical story that Stevens is referring to is the Last Supper, where most of the Friday the 13th superstitions are rooted.
In the Bible, Jesus and his twelve disciples gathered for the Last Supper on Thursday. Judas is considered the 13th disciple, if you include Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus and sold him to the Romans, leading to His crucifixion the next day, which was a Friday.
Stevens said that superstitions involve mankind's belief that things in our universe are interconnected and have causal relationships. Therefore people connect certain things with good luck or protection, like the Christian cross. Adversely, many people, including non-Christians, associate Friday and 13 with something that should be avoided due to those events in Biblical history.
"The crucifixion was a great tragedy, it was the murder of Christ and it happened on a Friday," Stevens said. "There were also 13 people at the Last Supper and the 13th was the one who betrayed Jesus. It is considered a very powerful, Earth-changing day."
Joe Nickell, an investigative writer for the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, also believes 13 is historically regarded as disastrous.
"Various religions and mythologies have the number 12 as a representation of completeness," Nickell said. "There are 12 Zodiac signs, 12 months and there were 12 disciples."
He indicates that there is an idea that one more than 12 is a step away from completeness or a step towards evil and disaster. He also points to the Bible as being a source of the superstitions around Friday the 13th.
"In the Bible, some people believe that Eve gave Adam the apple on a Friday, people believe God's Great Flood came on a Friday, people believe the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday and execution day in Rome was a Friday," Nickell said. "Friday is a day that doesn't bode well. When you combine the two, how much more potent could a superstition be?"
Some historians believe that the Christian distrust of Friday is linked to the early Catholic Church's suppression of pagan religions and women, according to Daily Mail.
According to the Roman calendar, Friday was devoted to the goddess of love, Venus. When Norsemen adopted the calendar, they named the day Freya after the Norse goddess of sexuality. The strong female figures once posed a threat to a male-dominated Christian church, according to Daily Mail.
The theory says that the Christian church vilified the day of Friday for this. In addition to the Norse legend, another Christian legend says that 13 is unholy because it signifies the gathering of 12 witches and the devil.
Most of these legends are old and outdated, yet the superstitions around Friday the 13th remain.
Dr. Stevens said that the taboo around the day has definitely subsided in recent years.
"It is less serious these days than when I was a child," he said.
Stevens feels that while the media may continue the tradition, it has little to do the cause and effect of it.
"Sure, the film industry can make it worse, but the superstition is deeply rooted in tradition and the media has little effect on it," Stevens said.
Not everyone associates Friday and 13 with bad luck.
A British couple, Craig and Emma, will be getting married this Friday the 13th, exactly six years after their first date on Friday the 13th, according to Daily Mail.
"Getting married on Friday the 13th doesn't worry us the slightest. Craig is not superstitious at all and I only am a little bit - fortunately not when it comes to Friday 13th," Emma said.
In fact, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said that the day may be safer for drivers, according to CBC.
"While we have no stats to support it ... some insurers have said auto claims drop in some places, because so many people are afraid to leave their homes," said Steve Kee, director of the insurance bureau's media relations.
Joe Nickell believes that there is zero credibility to Friday the 13th being bad luck. He says that by definition, a superstition is not credible and scientifically untrue. He added that the link between cause and effect is magical or fantasy and people imagine things that are aren't real.
"People list bad things that happen on Friday the 13th, but people can also list some good things," Nickell said. "People selectively look at evidence to support their superstitious beliefs."
He went on to see that people "count the hits, but are ignoring the misses," when it comes to Friday the 13th.
The superstitious will have some more opportunities to count hits and misses, regarding Friday the 13th. The year 2012 will bring them two more days of Friday the 13th, one in April and another in July.