Fear of the number 13 is the most prevalent superstition in the Western world. We even have a name for it: triskaidekaphobia. It is quite common for even the most ordinarily rational and otherwise exemplary person -- Winston Churchill, for example -- to refuse to sit in row 13 in the theater or on an airplane.
J. Paul Getty and Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered from triskaidekaphobia. Napoleon was also plagued by a dread of 13. Christopher Columbus, too, seems to have been afflicted. In the 1950s, the Columbiana, a group of Italian Columbus experts, concluded upon careful study of his ships' logs and notes, that Columbus actually landed on the Western Hemisphere on October 13, 1492. The date, apparently, was deliberately changed to October 12, to avoid the imprint of such an evil omen.
When the 13th day of the month lands on a Friday, the culturally unfavorable attributes of each are multiplied by infinity. Friday is heavily charged with guilt and pain and death in the Judeo- Christian tradition. It was on a Friday that Eve served forbidden fruit pie at her legendary garden soiree. Friday was the day that Adam was expelled from Paradise, the day he repented, the day he died and the day he was cremated. And it was on a Friday -- Good Friday -- that Christ was killed on the cross.
Friday, the day of original sin, the day Jesus died, the day of public hangings, in combination with 13, the number of steps on a gallows, the number of coils of rope in a hangman's noose, the number of the Death card in the tarot deck, is indubitably designated as a day of portent and doom.
The pitiful suicide note of a window washer that was found with his body in a gas-filled room at his home and quoted in a 1960 issue of the Yorkshire Post, underscores its powerful, popular reputation, "It just needed to rain today -- Friday the 13th -- for me to make up my mind." Poor sod.
Ironically, and in definite defiance of the laws of probability, the 13th day of the month is more likely to fall on a Friday than on any other day of the week. The precisely aligned pattern of our calendar -- days, weeks and months -- repeats itself exactly every 400 years. In that 400-year period there are 688 Friday the 13ths. 2012 has three Friday the 13ths. "Just our luck!" some might say.
And, though they would mean it facetiously, they would, indeed, be right. For up until the patriarchal revolution, both Fridays and 13s were held in the very highest esteem. Both the day and the number were associated with the Great Goddesses, and therefore, regarded as the sacred essence of luck and good fortune.
Thirteen is certainly the most essentially female number -- the average number of menstrual cycles in a year. The approximate number, too, of annual cycles of the moon. When Chinese women make offerings of moon cakes, there are sure to be 13 on the platter. Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility, and lunar potency. 13 is the lucky number of the Great Goddess.
Representing as it does, the number of revolutions the moon makes around the earth in a year, 13 was the number of regeneration for pre-Columbian Mexicans. In ancient Israel, 13 was a sanctified number. Thirteen items were decreed necessary for the tabernacle. At 13 years of age, a boy was (and still is) initiated into the adult Jewish community. In Wicca, the pagan goddess tradition of Old Europe, communicants convene in covens of 13 participants. Thirteen was also auspicious for the Egyptians, who believed that life has 13 stages, the last of which is death -- the transition to eternal life.
Held holy in honor of Shekinah, the female aspect of God, Friday was observed as the day of Her special celebrations. Jews around the world still begin the observance of the Sabbath at sunset on Friday evenings when they invite in the Sabbath Bride. Friday is the Sabbath in the Islamic world. Friday is sacred to Oshun, the Yoruba orisha of opulent sensuality and overwhelming femininity, and also to Frig, the Norse Goddess of love and sex, of fertility and creativity. Her name became the Anglo-Saxon noun for love, and in the 16th century, frig came to mean "to copulate."
Friday was associated with the early Mother Creation Goddesses for whom that day was named. In Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Icelandic, and Teutonic cultures She was called variously, Freya, Freia, Freyja, Fir, Frea and Frig. Friday is Frig's Day, Frigedaeg, in Old English, Fredag in Danish, Freitag in Dutch. In Mediterranean lands, She reigned as Venus. In Latin, Friday is the Day of Venus, Dies Veneris; Vendredi in French, Venerdi in Italian and Viernes in Spanish.
Friday the 13th is ultimately the celebration of the lives and loves of Lady Luck. On this, Her doubly-dedicated day, let us consider what fortuitous coincidences constitute our fate. The lucky blend of just the right conditions, chemistries, elements, and energies that comprise our universe. The way it all works. The way we are. That we are at all.
That, despite whatever major or minor matters we might think are unlucky, we have somehow managed to remain alive and aware. This Friday the 13th, let us stand in full consciousness of the miraculousness of existence and count our blessings. Thank Goddess! Knock on wood!
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Flickr photo by eschipul