NOTE = Yes, I KNOW that today is merely January 13’th and NOT the infamous Friday the 13’th but some years this date does fall on a Friday. And since this date of Jan. 13 has some significance I decided to keep this posting as it was, as there is something to be said about FRIDAY the 13’th which afterall comes on a different date each year. So the next time FRIDAY the 13’th comes along, I’ll refer you back to this posting. OK?? SO now for January 13’th…
“The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggat-riskaide-kaphobia, frigga meaning ‘Friday’ and triskaide-kaphobia (or paraske-videkatria-phobia) being a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning ‘Friday’), and dekatreís (meaning ‘thirteen’) attached to phobía (from phóbos, meaning ‘fear’). The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.”
This is what the on-line encyclopedia “Wikipedia” first says about this day – which is traditionally considered the UNLUCKIEST of all days: the infamous, the chilling, the black and horrible FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!! Yes, there are indeed other, far more important things that happened on this date of January 13, aside from it’s accidental falling some years on a Friday, and thus its association with superstition, not to mention a string of truly forgettable Hollywood horny teenager/slasher movies. But, as mentioned both above and below, the mysterious Knights Templar came into being on this day, and that makes it not only an important event in history, but gives it a significant link with the myths and superstition with which this combination of the Thirteenth and Friday have come to be associated.
What is so bad about 13?
First of all, let’s deal with the number 13. Well we’ve all dealt with some form of prejudice against this number: airlines around the world frequently just skip the 13’th row of seats – the row following the 12’th is numbered 14. The same thing often happens with the thirteenth floor of office buildings. Not long ago this sentiment was tested in a psychological experiment: a new luxury apartment building with a floor that had been numbered “13” quickly rented units on all floors except that one. But when that floor number was changed to “12-B”, the units went quickly. How the deuce did all of this silliness get started? The earliest roots seem to be in the Norse mythology of the pre-Christian days. It seems that there was a banquet at Valhalla – the celestial home of the Norse gods. And twelve gods had been invited.
But Loki (above),the god of strife and evil showed up uninvited, thus raising the guest list to 13, and in the ensuing food fight, Balder, the favorite of all of the other gods was killed. This MAY have something to do with the term “balder- dash” meaning nonsense, but that is a subject for somebody else’s Etymological Blog.
“13” – It Gets Worse!!
Of course, this seeming presentiment against poor old number 13 spread south of Scandinavia like the ash from one of those trouble-making Icelandic volcanoes, and by the Christian era was well set in the Mediterranean world. It was reinforced by the guest list at that most fateful off all dinner engagements – the Last Supper at which the number of diners with Christ and his twelve apostles came to THIRTEEN! And we all know how that turned out for Jesus. Of course, one could say that that lead to the establishment of Christianity, which hasn’t been such a bad thing. One of course could also argue that point, but not on MY Blog. Nevertheless, one can see the pattern here. Twelve good gods are there and then Loki the bad guy shows up. Christ and eleven apostles and then there is Judas, the ultimate traitor. Thirteen at the trough is
shaping up as just about the ultimate social faux pas. Naturally once this ball gets rolling folks just start adding to it. In 1798, the British publication Gentleman’s Magazine added more fuel to this fire by quoting actuarial tables of the time that on an average one out of every 13 people in a room would die within a year.
Friday the Thirteenth and the “Knights Templar”.
Then there was medieval folklore to contend with. According to one authority:
“The Knights Templar were a monastic military order founded in Jerusalem in 1118 C.E., whose mission was to protect Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. Over the next two centuries, the Knights Templar became extraordinarily powerful and wealthy. Threatened by that power and eager to acquire their wealth, King Philip secretly ordered the mass arrest of all the Knights Templar in France on Friday, October 13, 1307.”
In fact, it was on this very day, January 13 in 1128, that Pope Honorius II granted a papal sanction to this military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God. The self-imposed mission of the Knights was indeed to protect Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land during the Crusades, the series of military expeditions aimed at defeating Muslims in Palestine, and retaking the city of Jerusalem from possession of “the infidel”.The Templars were in fact required to take strict vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. But as their numbers and power increased over the years, they became a threat to the European Kings and Princes. This was what lead to King Phillips’ brutal suppression of them in 1307. But, over the course of the centuries, myths and legends about the Templars have abounded, including the belief that they may have discovered holy relics at Temple Mount, including the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant or parts of the cross from Christ’s crucifixion. These imagined secrets and plots and conspiracies involving the Templars have inspired a whole load of books and movies, including the blockbuster novel and film The Da Vinci Code. So you can see why this whole connection between this mysterious Midevil Order, their unhappy fate, and the number THIRTEEN and it’s occurrence on a Friday has added to the whole cloak of suspicion that has come to be associated with this day and date.
But what about “Friday”?
But why on Friday the 13’th? Well in addition to the above difficulty for our friends the Knights Templar, tradition – silly tradition one may say, but tradition nevertheless – holds that all manner of bad biblical stuff came down on the 13’th. Eve getting Adam to bite the apple, Noah setting sail with his pairs of beasts during the great flood, the bonanza for “Rosetta Stone” that occurred with the whole Tower of Babel collapsing and leaving all of us… well, babbling and of course Christ’s death on the cross – all of these are supposed to have happened on FRIDAY the 13’th. But the actual root of this bad seed of the calender apparently comes once again from our old friends the Vikings. Friday was named for the goddess Frigga (below), the free-spirited patron saint of
love and fertility. When these big old Norsemen converted to Christianity, poor Frigga was banished to a distant mountaintop, and labeled a witch. It was subsequently whispered that in retribution for her unceremonious banishment, Frigga would call a meeting of eleven other witches plus the devil himself on every Friday, a total bad guys (or girls) council of THIRTEEN to meet every Friday to plot all manner of mischief and deviltry for the coming week. Indeed for a long time in Scandinavia, Friday was called “The Witches Sabbath”.
This Whole anti-13 Business is Very Silly….
This whole anti-13 business seems rather odd in America. Our founding colonies number 13, and thus all manner of 13s appear in our currency: the number of steps on the incomplete pyramid on the back of the dollar bill, the number of leaves on the olive branch as well as the number of arrows that the eagle is grasping in his claws all come to 13. And in my own experience 13 hasn’t been such a bad deal: the shortstop for the Big Red Machine (baseball team) of the 70’s was Davy Concepcion, number 13. The same
goes for the Peruvian Powerhouse Gipy Duarte (above) on the Lady Longhorns Volleyball teams of 2000 – 2004. Both were number 13, and both treated me and a lot of other lucky fans to exceptional and exciting careers. How about you, my “Today in History” readers? What has been your experience with the number 13 in general and Friday the 13’th in particular?
Please do write in the comment box at the bottom of this Blog and tell me!! And IF you have difficulty posting a comment here on Blogspot, write to me at my regular e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me about your experiences with this “unlucky” day there!!
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“Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things” by Charles Panati, Harper & Row Publ., New York, 1987.