Rob Tillett has been an astrologer for more than three decades. In previous incarnations a poet, musician, magician, healer, dramatist & composer, he is the editor and publisher of Astrology on the Web and has written many articles on this website.
Rob lives in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, on the east coast of Australia.
Friday the Thirteenth a secret cultural reference... or just an unlucky day?
Once again we must prepare ourselves for the dreaded Friday the thirteenth! Are you taking any chances on this day of fright and fear? If so, you are clearly not superstitious, nor do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, the pathological fear of Friday 13.
However (according to the online encyclopedia) Friday the 13th is actually unlucky for some of us. Psychologists have found that people are especially likely to have accidents or fall ill on Friday 13th, due (according to them!) to a heightened state of anxiety on that day. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina estimates that in the United States alone, $800 to $900 million is lost in business each Friday 13th because people will not travel or go to work.
So a lot of people think Friday 13 is an unlucky day, but why?? To answer this, there are two or three questions we must first ask ourselves about the luck of Friday the thirteenth:
and why the thirteenth?
Most important of all, is it really unlucky?
In ancient times, before the development of Western Civilisation as we know it, people had a very different conception of the world from the view held by most Westerners today. In the first place, their relationship with natural energies and powers was much closer and more intense than that of today's urban dweller. The mechanised, electrified environment of the 21st century city is a place where natural cycles can easily be overlooked — or to be more particular, deliberately overcome.
Life in those times tended to be a series of ritualised and sanctified interactions with nature. These sacred events have crystallised over the years into the festivals, saints' days and holiday cycles we still celebrate today (such as Christmas and Easter), although with little general understanding of their primary intention and meaning.
Angels of the Days
Every hour of every day had its genie, or guardian angel, and every day was ruled by one of the pantheon of divine beings who were worshipped under various names in the pagan world, dating back to the days of ancient Babylon and even beyond, in Armenia, which can be shown to be the very birthplace of civilisation. The names of the days still celebrate their ancient guardians, which were identified with the planetary lords and ladies:
Saturday, ruled by Saturn
Sunday, ruled by the Sun
Monday, ruled by the Moon
Tuesday ruled by Mars (Tiw, the ancient teutonic god of battle was parallel to Mars in the Roman Pantheon, giving us mardi in French and cognate names in other latin-derived tongues)
Wednesday (Woden's day, the saxon Mercury, giving mercredi in French)
Thursday (Thor's day, the thunder god, equivalent to Jupiter, jeudi in French)
Friday, Freya's day (the teutonic Venus, in French vendredi).
Venus was the holy goddess of love in the Roman World and Freya was the most holy primeval goddess of the north. Christian monks decided that her day, Friday, was unlucky, as indeed it was, for Jesus Christ, who was crucified and died on a Friday. The Christian religion has sought to overthrow the goddess in all her forms, but has simply succeeded in causing her to reinvent herself under other names.
The Lunar Year
These "primitive" folks had a rather more fluid conception of the year than we do and their calendar was based on the cycles of the moon. Now there are approximately 13 lunations in our solar year, so the year of the seasons had thirteen months, the thirteenth, according to Robert Graves, being the Sun's "death-month" (The Greek Myths: 1 p.16). If we divide the number of days in the year by twenty-eight, the number of days in a woman's menstrual cycle (and of course the approximate length of the lunar month), again we get the number 13.
The Moon is another expression of the goddess, as the monks well knew. Therefore its cycle of 13 had to be an unlucky number—and Jesus at his last supper sat down to eat with his twelve disciples, making thirteen at the table. Friday 13 is thus considered to be especially unlucky when it falls on Good Friday.
In this light, the pagan Scandinavian belief that the number thirteen signified bad luck sprang from the idea that their twelve gods were joined by a thirteenth, Loki, a cruel god, who brought misfortune to all. This really relates to the lunar cycle versus the solar cycle of the year, and the reshaping of society based on the transition from the 13 month lunar to the 12 month solar year.
Thirteen, a goddess number, is one beyond beyond twelve, and, in the eyes of the new "solar" world order, symbolised a move away from harmony and completion into the "evil" of chaos (read: the feminine). The ill-fated Apollo 13 Moon mission boldly took this in their stride when the mission was launched at 13:13 hours Houston time, from pad 39 (13x3) and had to be aborted on April 13, 1970. Apollo, you might remember, is the name of the ancient Gręco-Roman Sun god, so in this light, the number 13 was sure to be more than a little problematic...
Friday is still the "sabbath" of the Moslems (although it is a day of prayer, rather than rest). Many cultures perceive it to be the best day for marriage, since it is ruled by Venus, the fertile goddess. During the Middle Ages, however, when pagan worship of Freya still survived in the high places, stone circles and wooded groves, the churchmen declared her day to be the day of "devil worship".
Jacques DeMolay and the Knights Templar
Curiously, the last Grand Master of the once-powerful Order of Knights Templar, Jacques DeMolay, suffered his betrayal into the hands of the Church on Friday 13, October 1307. He was imprisoned and later executed by King Phillip the Fair, the French king who had conspired with the Vatican to remove DeMolay. Phillip and Pope Clement V had concluded that the Templars had become altogether too powerful.
For some two hundred years the Templar Knights had been bastions of the Catholic Church, but their secret faith in the Goddess aroused accusations of heresy that then led to their downfall. Indeed the Templars had been major figures in the courtly revival of goddess worship in the twelfth century, which had reawakened the idea of Mary as Queen of Heaven. Impeccable timing then, on the part of the conspirators...
Jacques DeMolay suffered betrayal on Friday October 13 and according to the Mayan Calendar, the end of the Age will come on Friday October 13, but happily not until the year 4772. So those of you who have been sweating about the Mayan end-date December 12, 2012, can relax for a couple of thousand years. In actual fact, the 13th day of the month is slightly more likely to be on a Friday than on any other day of the week.
So is Friday the thirteenth really unlucky, or is this belief just a hangover from the time when the patriarchal, male-centred religion of Christianity was trying to differentiate itself from and destroy its ancient, pagan, goddess-loving competitors? Why don't you decide for yourself?
For a much more detailed examination of the history and culture of Friday 13th, click here.