Yeah yeah yeah. Everyone knows it’s evil, right? A day shrouded in superstition and fear. Supposedly it is the most unlucky day of the year. Well. It created a cottage industry of movie franchises, which I’d say was pretty lucky for Jason, Freddie Kruegar and certain Hollywood moguls…
Nonetheless, many people have a specific fear of this day. So many, in fact, that apparently we now have a medical term for the phobia known as ‘fear of Friday the 13th’. That term is known as ‘paraskevidekatriaphobia’. (I can’t pronounce it either.) This term was apparently coined by one Dr. Donald Dossey, a phobia specialist. According to Dr. Dossey, paraskevidekatriaphobia is the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants and many wouldn’t dare have a wedding on this date. My my my. But it wasn’t always like this.
In many pre Christian and goddess worshipping cultures, Friday and the number 13 were not so bad. In fact, they were actually very lucky 🙂
To the ancient Egyptians, for example, the number 13 symbolized the joyous afterlife. They thought of this physical life as a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in twelve stages, leading to a thirteenth which extended beyond the grave. (This explains why they had such elaborate burial and embalming rituals.)
The number 13 therefore did not symbolize death in a morbid way, but rather as a glorious and desirable transformation. Interestingly, the 13th card in the Tarot deck is Death, which often represents not a physical death but a transformation, a chance for change or an opportunity to release what no longer serves us.
When Egyptian civilization perished, the symbolism of the number 13 was, unfortunately, corrupted by subsequent cultures. Thirteen became associated with a fear of death rather than a reverence for the afterlife.
The number 13 has a unique association with the Divine Feminine. Thirteen is said to have been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The ‘Earth Mother of Laussel’ is a 27,000-year-old carving that was found near the Lascaux caves in France. She is an icon of matriarchal spirituality. The Earth Mother holds a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches.
Primitive women kept track of time by the passing of their menstrual cycles and the phases of the moon, as well as the change of seasons and the wheel of the year. However, as the solar calendar, with its 12 months, triumphed over the 13 month lunar calendar, so did the ‘perfect’ number 12 over the ‘imperfect’ number 13. (But note that they really had to discombobulate those 12 months, giving some of them 30 days, some 31 and poor old February with 28, to make the 364 days…) Twelve became the sacred number after that, with, for example, 12 hours of the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus and 12 signs of the zodiac. Thirteen became unpredictable, chaotic, untrustworthy and evil.
Friday (the Sixth Day) also offers a unique connection with the Divine Feminine. The name ‘Friday’ was derived from the Norse goddess Freya (or Frigg) who was worshiped on the Sixth Day. She is a goddess of marriage, sex and fertility.
Freya/ Frigg corresponds to Venus, the goddess of love of the Romans, who named the sixth day of the week in her honor “dies Veneris.” Friday was considered to be a lucky day by Norse and Teutonic peoples — especially as a day to get married — because of its traditional association with love and fertility.
As the Christian church gained momentum in the Middle Ages, pagan associations with Friday were not forgotten. Therefore the Church went to great lengths to disassociate itself with Friday and thirteen. If Friday was a holy day for heathens, the Church fathers felt, it must not be so for Christians — thus it became known in the Middle Ages as the ‘Witches’ Sabbath’. Friday became a big deal in the Bible. It was on a Friday, supposedly, that Eve tempted Adam with the apple, thus banishing mankind from Paradise. The Great Flood began on a Friday. The Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday. Christ was crucified on a Friday, PLUS, there were 13 attendees at the last supper, the most infamous of course being the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
Interestingly the sacred animal of the Goddess Freya is the cat (probably a black one) which also became associated with evil as Christianity began to encompass the Western world. Freya then became known as (you guessed it!) an evil witch, and her cats were evil as well.
Various legends developed around Freya, but one is particularly pertinent to this post. As the story goes, the witches of the North would observe their sabbat by gathering in the woods by the light of the moon. On one such occasion the Friday goddess, Freya herself, came down from her sanctuary in the mountaintops and appeared before the group.
The witches numbered only 12 at the time. Freya joined the circle, making the number 13, after which the witches’ coven — and every properly-formed coven since then — comprised exactly 13.
So, on this Friday the 13th embrace the luck and grace of the Goddess Freya! Pet your cats, engage in some moon-gazing, celebrate love and fertility with your significant other. Rest assured, the Divine Feminine is with you and there is nothing to fear 🙂