Although I am in last minute prep madness for my class tomorrow (Handouts! More handouts!), I’m pausing a moment to take note of this special day.
Yes, beware, my lovelies, for today is Friday the 13th, associated throughout Christendom with bad luck and superstitions of dire deeds. Ever wonder why?
For starters, Fridays are hailed as a particularly significant day in the Christian traditions.
Obviously, there is Good Friday, which was the day that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. And while it is never specifically stated so in the Bible, traditional Christian lore also says that Adam and Eve supposedly ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday; the Great Flood started on a Friday; the builders of the Tower of Babel were tongue-tied on a Friday; and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday.
Why would so much negativity be heaped on Fridays?
Some scholars suggest that perhaps it was due to the fact that many pre-Christian Pagan cultures hailed Fridays as holy days and particularly Goddess days. In Rome, Friday was Veneris dies, named for the Goddess of love and beauty, Venus.
Similarly, “Friday” was named for Venus’ Norse/Teutonic counterpart, Freya, the Goddess of marriage and fertility, whose day of worship this also was. And like the Hellenic culture’s traditions, in the ancient northern Pagan societies, Fridays were also associated with love and considered a good day for weddings.
Over time, however, Christianity demonized all Goddesses (with a few notable exceptions, like Mary and Brighid). So Friday became an unholy sabbath.
Similarly, the number thirteen also has mythological and religious symbolism.
Both the Hindus and Vikings had myths in which twelve Gods were invited to a gathering.
In the Norse story, Loki, the God of mischief, crashed the party and incited a riot. Tradition in both cultures holds that thirteen people at a dinner party is bad luck and will end in the death of the party-goers.
Following in that vein, the Last Supper in Christian tradition hosted thirteen people and one betrayed Jesus, resulting in the crucifixion.
The number thirteen also has been associated with death in other cultures. The ancient Egyptians, for example, believed life unfolded in twelve stages, and the thirteenth stage was death.
The Egyptians considered death a part of their ultimate journey and looked forward to the spiritual transformation — thus thirteen was not an unlucky number in their world. But like so many others, their beliefs became distorted through the centuries, eventually connecting the number thirteen with modern culture’s more negative and fearful interpretation of death.
Finally, some scholars suggest that the number thirteen may have an unlucky connotation because of its association with the lunar calendar (there are 13 lunar cycles in a year) and with femininity (women have 13 menstrual cycles in a year). And as we know, the power of the Feminine has been feared, vilified, and persecuted by the Christian Church since its earliest days.
But just remember that what’s unlucky for some can be quite lucky for others. For those who fear women’s power, or cower in denial of the natural endings of life, Friday the 13th is a scary day, spawning a whole industry of slasher movies.
But for those who accept with equanimity our Mother’s gift of life, death and rebirth, and who honor women’s power, today provides an opportunity to give thanks.
May it be a most fortunate and blessed day for you.