Superstitions Unveiled: Witchy Myth and Mystery behind Friday the 13th
“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. Somehow we pick up to knock on wood not to make something come true. 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.
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 a 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 the 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. This leads me to my next thought…is 13 only unlucky in Western culture? Or those who saw the movie thriller about it…