Superstitions are an interesting phenomenon and have been part of the human race/psyche since the beginning of mankind. Fear of the number 13 is called Triskaidekaphobia. (Love how that just rolls off the tongue!)
Some of the origins that fueled the fear of this prime number date back thousands of years. One story is about the Hebrews where shortly after the Chiefs of the Thirteen Tribes of Israel enjoyed a Feast of the Passover, the tribe of the youngest chief – Benjamin – was wiped out in battle.
Then, there was The Last Supper where 12 of Jesus’s disciples sat down to eat with him but, the treasurer of the group, Judas Iscariot, arrived late and became the 13th at the table. Jesus had said long before that one of his inner circle of 12 would betray him. He identified Iscariot as the betrayer during this last supper and subsequently, Jesus was crucified – on the 13th, which also happened to be a Friday.
As well, the Norse Myth tells about 12 Norse Gods who held a feast at Valhalla, home of Woden who became Chieftain of all the gods. Loki, God of Strife and Mischief, crashed the party making 13 at the table (yet again). At the end of the meal, Loki caused a fight which eventually led to the death of Baldur, the most popular of the gods.
The superstition is also related to how hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested and burned at the stake by King Phillip IV of France on, you guessed it, Friday the 13th (October 1307 to be exact).
Here are some miscellaneous superstitions about the number 13 which are still held today:
Fascinating stuff, right?! So, combine the fear of the number 13 with it landing on a Friday, and then add a black cat crossing your path, well you might as well give up! That is, if you are truly paranoid about all of these things.
I, myself, have loved the number 13 for as long as I can remember. My interest stemmed from the influence of my father who was a high school teacher and who taught about Triskaidekaphobia every Friday the 13th. In fact, his classes were so popular that students from other classes signed up to listen to all the interesting and peculiar tales surrounding this simple number. Often, my dad said it was standing room only when he did these lectures. My dad also was interviewed on the CBC English-Language Radio C-PAC channel based out of Quebec. I have the cassette tape somewhere but, for the life of me, I cannot find it! I do remember, however, that before the interview starts, this awesome “Triskaidekaphobia” song performed by Les Brown & His Orchestra starts playing. (Originally written by Bobby Troup). Here’s a YouTube link to this crazy fun song - https://youtu.be/uIPiUY6Ymh0
Anyway, add the number 13 to a Friday and you’ve got the superstition called Friggatriskaidekaphobia! I dare you to try saying that three times! Usually, there are as many as three Friday the 13th’s in every calendar year. The previous time that there was only one Friday the 13th in a calendar year was in May 2016. However, in 2021 we only have one Friday the 13th in August.
Did you know that there are ’13 Clubs’ which meet every Friday the 13th, with exactly 13 members present, in defiance of but also in response to the power of these two superstitions? Kinda cool! I’d love to go to one of these club meetings. Capt. William Fowler of New York founded it in 1882. At the first dinner, these 13 skeptics performed as many unlucky feats as they could such as passing under a ladder, dining on 13 courses, the first by the light of 13 candles, etc. The club evolved into a national organization that boasted such members as Grover Cleveland and Theordore Roosevelt.
More fun facts, the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel offers special zombie, vampire and "Rocky Horror"-themed ceremonies on Friday the 13th. And, in Ontario, Canada, motorcyclists gather every Friday the 13th for rallies that draw thousands of participants. The tradition dates back to 1981.
Now here comes an extra phobia to add to the fear of Friday the 13th and that is of black cats. One such silly notion is of a black cat crossing your path. Of course, if I ever see a black cat, or any cat, cross in front of me, or anywhere near me, I always try to get close to it to pet it! However, the superstition goes that if on a Friday the 13th in particular, a black cat walks towards you it is said to bring good fortune, but the luck will turn sour if the black cat walks away, as it “takes the luck” with them. I say balderdash! It’s just a sweet, furry kitty! But, many people still truly believe this to be so!
Back to the Middle Ages, black cats were considered bad omens and furry devils who were assistants to witches. Of course, “witches” were mostly natural healers and referred to as “wise women” who were very misunderstood and, hence, feared. So, as is typical human nature, “We (humans) destroy the things we fear…” over and over again all throughout time. So, sadly, these healers, and their cats, were rounded up and burned at the stake. Such an unbelievably horrible fate!
Black cats feature in many superstitions around the world, at times representing very good or very bad luck. In the US to this day, they are thought to bring misfortune. But in Britain and Ireland it is both lucky and unlucky to see a black cat. In Scotland there is a superstition that if a strange black cat arrives at a home, prosperity is coming to that household. And, sailors believe that if a black cat wanders aboard a ship and then it sets off to sea, the ship will be doomed to sink on its next voyage!
Purrsonally, I love cats – and the number 13 - and Fridays are the beginning of the weekend so, what’s not to like about Friday the 13th? Hope it’s a lucky one for you and don’t forget to pet that kitty who crosses your path – it is most certainly good luck to do so! Better yet, get that kitty one of our super potent Big Fatty catnip toys! Karma will surely be on your side then! Meowza!
Catherine - Co-Founder
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