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Today is Friday the 13th. In 2023, it falls twice – in January and in October. This date is considered unlucky by many people. But where did the belief in bad luck come from?
Friday the 13th happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year.
Unluckiness of “13” and Friday the 13th
According to folklore historian Donald Dossey, the unlucky nature of the number “13” originated with a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla.
The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Dossey: “Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day.” This major event in Norse mythology caused the number 13 to be considered unlucky.
Also, there seems to be a correlation between the superstition and various things, including the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion, in which 13 individuals were present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death.
Friday the 13th, or rather Tuesday the 13th
The events at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries influenced the beliefs of Spanish-speaking countries and Greece. Instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck. Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares, the god of war (or Mars, the Roman equivalent).
In addition, in Greek the name of the day is Triti (Τρίτη) meaning the third (day of the week), adding weight to the superstition, since bad luck is said to “come in threes”.
Friday the 13th is believed to bring bad luck to many people. Like any superstition, it is opposed by some and supported by others. The numbers in the studies conducted by researchers can prove bad luck’s reliability, so let’s take a look at them:
According to the study by Scanlon et al. (1993), the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transportation accident may be increased by as much as 52% on the 13th. However, the authors clearly state that “the numbers of admissions from accidents are too small to allow meaningful analysis“.
On 12 June 2008, the Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics stated to the contrary, that fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th. At least in the Netherlands, in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average of 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday. But the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.