If you have friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th), you might consider staying in bed on Friday the 13th. If you have selenophobia (fear of the moon), too, 2014 isn’t your year. Friday, June 15, 2014 will bring us a full moon on Friday the 13th. This won’t occur again until 2049 so make this a memorable day, if you can.
But why is Friday the 13th viewed as unlucky?
There is no real consensus on why Friday the 13th is viewed as unlucky. Some say it’s because Jesus was crucified on a Friday and Judas, the man who is said to have betrayed him, was the 13th disciple at the Last Supper. In Norse mythology, the number 13 is reviled because of Loki who, appeared as an uninvited 13th guest at an Asgardian feast, and killed the beloved god Balder with an arrow made of mistletoe. One other theory is that, in the Dark Ages, the Witches’ coven consisted of 13 members. I’m here to tell you that there is not set number for a coven. But the superstition that marked Medieval Europe has stuck with us in many ways.
Numerologists and mathematicians both agree that 13 is “a bit beyond completeness,” falling as it does after the number 12, which is considered to be the perfect number. Think of all the twelves in myth and lore — 12 Olympians, 12 Apostles, 12 months in the year, 12 animals in the Chinese horoscope… then 13 comes along, after perfection. Damn you thirteen.
There is another symbolism to the number 13 of which most are not aware: there are 13 moons in a year. While there are only 12 months, the moon goes through 13 full phases during that time. American Indians who kept time according to the lunar calendar named the 13 moons. Other cultures who went by the lunar calendar include the Hebrews, Hindus and Chinese. Some social archeologists believe that this was the first way mankind kept time. Some of them theorize that women were the first time keepers due to their own cycle being the same as the moon: 28 days total.
No matter how the superstition came about, many still view Friday the 13th as bad luck. But, while there are some bad things that occurred on Friday the 13 throughout history, there are also many good things that happened on that day.
Here are 10 lucky events that happened on Friday the 13th’s throughout history.
1. A great quote was born (11.13.1789).
On Friday 13 November, 1789, Benjamin Franklin penned a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, a fellow inventor. In it, he told Leroy that the U.S. Constitution had finally been completed. He wrote: “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” The words have lived on — in a truncated version — and become one of Franklin’s most famous quotes.
2. The accordion was patented (01.13.1854).
You may hate it or love accordions but, on Friday, January 13, 1854, the instrument was patented by Cyril Demian. Some say that the accordion was invented by Friedrich L. Buschmann, who patented his Handäoline in 1822 in Berlin. But, since we don’t know if Herr Buschmann did so on a Friday the 13th, for our purposes, we shall fall into the Demian camp. Either way, without the accordion, we would not have Lawrence Welk, Myron Floren or this guy.
3. Unjustly maligned Alfred Dreyfus is exonerated restored to the French military. (10.13.1906).
In a textbook case of antisemitism, French artillery Captain Alfred Dreyfus was the victim of railroading and racism in the fall of 1894. When French Intelligence intercepted messages flowing between the French military and the Germans, they acted on a vague description and conjecture. The man they decided was the spy was a Jew from Alsace, which had been under German rule for almost 100 years. On flimsy “evidence,” Dreyfus was tried and convicted of espionage. He was sent to Devil’s Island March 12, 1895 and stayed there for 4 years while his wife and brother worked to get him a retrial. Even though the evidence pointed to Dreyfus’ innocence, a military court found him guilty of treason at the retrial. After 10 days of public outcry against that verdict, President Emile Loubet pardoned Dreyfus, who resumed his military duties on Friday, October 13, 1906. Alfred Dreyfus died in 1935.
4. The birth of Hollywood (07.13.1923)
The iconic sign — which originally read HOLLYWOODLAND — was unveiled on Friday July 13, 1923. It was an advertisement for a real estate development, and was only expected to last for a year or so. But, being built of pipes and telephone poles, (and with a lot of help) it has weathered the vagaries of Southern California weather remarkably well. As part of Griffith Park, the sign that adorns Mt. Lee and has become the symbol of the movie industry. The sign was declared a Historical Landmark in 1973.
5. Athens, the cradle of democracy, taken back from fascist powers in WWII (10.13.1944).
Italy invaded Greece in 1940 but were pushed back by Greek forces. This brought Germany in to help their ally and, after a blitzkrieg, Germany and Italy — the Axis Powers — occupied Greece. The occupation nearly destroyed that country: 40,00 starved to death as the economy was devastated. Nazis killed many more. The three-and-a-half year long occupation of the cradle of democracy ended on October 13, 1944 when troops from America, Russia and Britain moved in with Greek troops to liberate Athens, driving the Germans north.
6. A great character actor is born (12.13.1957).
Steve Buscemi was born Friday December 13, 1957, in Brooklyn, New York. It is said by some cinephiles that Steve Buscemi can save any movie by his mere presence. That may be an exaggeration but Buscemi’s filmography is impressive: he has worked extensively with the both Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino and is often cited as one of the best actors of the century. In case you wondered, his surname is pronounced “Buss-ehm-ee.” Buscemi worked as a NYC firefighter from 1980-84 and, after the World Trade Center fell, he worked anonymous 12-hour shifts with his old firehouse to dig through the rubble.
7. The first equal opportunity employment act for government workers (10.13.1967).
On October 13, 1967 President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order meant to rid the U.S. government of discrimination on account of gender. Executive Order #11246 applied the same criteria to government employees and contractors as Congress did to private employment with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was another step along the path to equality for all Americans, something for which we are still fighting.
8. A new rock band adds their sound to rock and roll (02.13.1970).
Black Sabbath released their eponymous first album on Friday, February 13, 1970. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne would go on to become one of rock’s most-loved bands. This freshman effort laid out their musical philosophy, taking a blues-flavored sound with heavy guitar and drums and applying occult-themed lyrics. The result struck a chord in the music-buying public and Black Sabbath became stars.
9. Poland rejects Soviet-era Communism (07.13.1990).
On July 13, 1990, Poland began a bold new model for the country. Their lawmakers voted to sell off all state-owned companies, privatizing them. It was the “foundation of the new economic system in Poland,” according to the deputy Prime Minister. Poland was replacing their communist model with the Solidarity government and had been making radical reforms since January of 1990. They had whittled inflation — the major problem — down from 1,000% to 3.4%. They had more work to do but this was a good start for Poland, a country trying to make its path into the 21st century.
10. The Olympics return to their ancestral home (08.13.2004).
In 2004, the Summer Olympics were held in Greece, the birthplace of the ancient and modern Olympics. The opening ceremony in Athens took place on Friday, August 13. The games were the largest to that date, with 201 countries participating. Watching the games were 3.9 million people worldwide. U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps took the most medals with eight: 6 gold and 2 bronze. The shot put event was held in Olympia, the site of the ancient games.
Sure, there have been some awful things that have happened on Friday the 13th but when you take everything into consideration, there really are no more bad than good. Like most of life, it’s a mixed bag. So enjoy this rare Friday the 13th, go out and look at the full moon, weather permitting. It’s something you may never see again and isn’t enjoying the little things what life is all about?
Sources for this history of Friday the 13th.
A fascinating reading list for the curious.
- Live Science
- The Electric Ben Franklin
- Encyclopedia Brittanica
- Chronology of the Dreyfus Affair
- The Hollywood Sign
- Axis Occupation of Greece
- Steve Buscemi Bio
- The American Presidency Project
- RockStory – Heavy Metal: Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
- L.A. Times: Poland to Sell State-Owned Industries
- Athens 2004