Paraskavedekatriaphobia, or Why Jason Will Get You
Friday, October 13, 2006
Is Jason a modern Knight Templar? Keep reading to find out
In case you need a bit of etymology, the name “Friday” comes from the Norse goddess Frigg, who was responsible for, among other fun things, spring, cats and fertility. As Christianity spread through Northern Europe, Frigg (also known as Freyja) was specially looked down on, since you couldn’t have a deity propagating sex and cats, and being female on top of that. So Friday stopped being the fun day of the week and went on to become an unholy one. Funnily enough, in cultures where the word “Friday” does not have this Pagan origin it is Tuesday that is the unlucky day of the week.
Of course, Christianity had plenty of ammunition to cast Fridays down. According to the most common interpretation of the Bible, Jesus died on the cross on a Friday, and it is still remembered as such every Easter. That alone would make Fridays a big no-no, but over the centuries every event from Eve plucking the apple from the tree, to Cain slaying Abel, to Noah watching it start to rain has been placed on a Friday. It is obviously impossible to verify these claims, but the legend spread nonetheless.
Then comes the number 13. It is argued that in prehistoric times, human beings only had 10 fingers and 2 feet to count units, and 13 therefore represented the unknown, beyond the comprehension of early man. Another account says that 13 is the number of menstrual cycles in a year, and, as such, was a revered numerical value in pre-Christian, matriarchal cultures. As Christianity spread, the calendar shunned its 13 months and downsized to 12. This change was enshrined by Pope Gregory XIII, quite the patriarchal figure, as he devised the modern day calendar that is still in use today.
But the most accepted version of 13’s bad luck is again rooted in Norse mythology. Loki, the god of lies and mischief, crashed a dinner party in which 12 other gods were present. Loki incited blind Hod to “accidentally” kill his brother Balder the Good (you can’t get much lowlier than that), and, since then, the 13th of everything has been an unwelcome event. This version of the 13th guest at dinner has been mirrored in the Last Supper, which also had 13 guests and a famous betrayer of trust. 13 came to be equally associated with witchcraft, as each coven should have 12 members and the 13th would be the devil, making it a very serious coven indeed.
The mythology has spread, as over the world streets lack a number 13, airports don’t have a boarding gate 13 and buildings will rename their 13th floors. Interestingly enough, the good name of number 13 is being reclaimed by modern Wicca, and some modern Gaelic cultures have preserved their ancient custom of hallowing Fridays.
So is Friday the 13th simply a matter of stacking bad upon worse? Since truth is stranger than even Dan Brown fiction, it turns out that the day that hundreds of French Knights Templar were rounded up and arrested by King Philip IV of France was Friday, October 13th 1307. Since the Knights Templar had enough power to hide the body of Mary Madeleine in a chapel in Scotland and keep Jesus’s descendants unknown to the world for centuries, giving all further Friday the 13ths in history a bad name must have been easy as pie.
Knights Templar notwithstanding, it seems that Friday 13th was not in itself associated with special misfortune until the 19th or 20th centuries, when the old superstitions about Fridays and about the number 13 merged into an “unluckiest” day. The new fever caught on, and was fuelled by a certain popular series of slasher teen movies that featured a hulk with a machete and an old-school hockey mask. From the 90s onwards, there have been several medical and psychiatric studies that have tried to ascertain if there’s any truth behind the day. Results, while somewhat fascinating, have been rather disputed and not very significant.
As one of these medical studies concluded, “Staying at home is recommended.” Unfortunately, since tomorrow’s transit strike appears to have been averted (it now seems obvious that it was not a strike, but rather a case of the City of Guelph looking after the welfare of its citizens on such an ominous date), it is very likely that you will have to leave the house. Do so at your own risk.