by Donna Henes
Dear Mama Donna,
Why is Friday the 13th supposed to be so unlucky? Is this just a superstition or is there some ancient history attached to it? It seems weird to celebrate bad luck!
—Don’t Need More Bad Luck in Utah
When the 13th day on the month lands on a Friday, the culturally unfavorable attributes of both Friday and the number 13 are multiplied. Friday, the day of original sin, the day Jesus died, the day of public hangings—in combination with 13, the number of steps on a gallows, the number of coils of rope in a hangman’s noose, the number of the Death card in the tarot deck—is indubitably designated as a day of portent and doom.
The pitiful suicide note of a window washer that was found with his body in a gas-filled room at his home and quoted in a 1960 issue of the Yorkshire Post underscores its powerful, popular reputation: “It just needed to rain today—Friday the 13th —for me to make up my mind.” Poor sod.
But until the patriarchal revolution, both Fridays and 13s were held in the very highest esteem. Both the day and the number were associated with the Great Goddesses and, therefore, regarded as the sacred essence of luck and good fortune. Thirteen is certainly the most essentially female number—the average number of menstrual cycles in a year. The approximate number, too of annual cycles of the moon. When Chinese women make offerings of moon cakes, there are sure to be 13 on the platter. Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility and lunar potency. Thirteen is the lucky number of the Great Goddess.
Held holy in Her honor, Friday was observed as the day of Her special celebrations. Jews around the world still begin the observance of the Sabbath at sunset on Friday evenings when they invite in the Sabbath Bride. Friday is the Sabbath in the Islamic world. Friday is also sacred to Hun, the Yoruban orisha of opulent sensuality and overwhelming femininity, and Frig the Norse Goddess of love and sex, of fertility and creativity. Her name became the Anglo-Saxon noun for love, and in the sixteenth century, frig came to mean “to copulate.”
Friday the 13th is ultimately the celebration of the lives and loves of Lady Luck. On this, Her doubly dedicated day, let us consider what fortuitous coincidences constitute our fate. The lucky blend of just the right conditions, chemistries, elements and energies which comprise our universe. The way it all works. The way we are. That we are at all. That, despite whatever major or minor matters we might think are unlucky, we have somehow managed to remain alive and aware. This Friday the 13th, let us stand in full consciousness of the miraculousness of existence and count our blessings. Knock on wood.
Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Wonder no more. Send your questions about seasons, cycles, and celebrations to Mama Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org.