Interwatches Blog


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Origins of Friday the 13th

For the superstitious people , there is no single day of the year more terrifying than Friday the 13th. Popular superstition, bad luck is sure to befall a person on this day. Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute assures that up to 21 million people in the United States today suffer from a morbid and irrational fear of Friday the 13th.
For paraskevidekatriaphobics (people intensely afraid of Friday the 13th), 2009 was an especially dreadful year, sporting three: one in February, March, and November as it contains three thirteen’s dates.

It may be surprising to most people that the Friday the 13th superstition is a relatively new one, originating in the early 20th century. Friday the 13th superstition is thought to have started at the Knights Templar, a military order established in 1118 to defend the Christian city of Jerusalem. After the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem from the Muslims, protection of Jerusalem and the outlying Kingdom of Outremer was left to the knights. When the city was recaptured by Saladin’s Muslim forces in 1187 and all subsequent attempts by Christian Crusades to retake the city failed, the Knights Templar found themselves out of work. However, they had become extremely wealthy and powerful from their military conquests, and they never disbanded their organization or changed the clandestine ways their meetings were held. Their power and secrecy attracted the attention and distrust of King Philip IV of France. On Friday, October 13, 1307, the king sent out an order to arrest all the Knights Templar in France, accusing them of blasphemy and witchcraft. Many were burned alive, including the group’s Grand Master, Jacques de Molay.

Another superstition, the one in which if 13 people sit together at a table, one will die within a year. This version has been documented as far back as late 17th century Europe in the memoirs of John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester. Many variations on this superstition abound, including that if the 13 sit together, the first to rise from the table will die, the group can avert death by joining hands and rising as one, and if someone sneezes, the oldest or youngest will die within a year.

The 13 at a table superstition is generally thought to have originated from the Last Supper, where Jesus and his 12 disciples sat down for one last Passover meal, and Judas, one of the 13, betrayed Jesus to his death.

Before this superstition however, ancient cultures considered the number 13 by itself to be unlucky. Native Americans, Mayans, Ancient Egyptians, and even Neanderthals also considered this number as a bad luck one. Today, we carry on this tradition by omitting the 13th floor from most skyscrapers and the 13th row from many airplanes.


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