origin story

Thirteen has been considered unlucky for a really long time. Its origins seem to be in Norse mythology. During a banquet held at Valhalla,(1) twelve guests were invited. But Loki – the god of mischief – gate–crashed the party, making thirteen. A fight ensued to evict him. In the battle, the god Balder was killed, once again making twelve.

This idea moved slowly from the Scandinavian nations south through Europe. As Christianity moved towards dominance, the idea of thirteen was sort-of grafted onto it. There’s a fairly strong parallel between the dinner at Valhalla and The Last Supper, which had thirteen guests,(2) one of whom was dead with 24 hours.(3)


Now. Onto Friday.

When the Scandinavians named their days of the week, they borrowed the name-scheme from the Romans, who of course borrowed them from the Greeks. The Romans named Friday after Venus,(5) so the Scandinavians found a goddess similar to Venus and named their second-last day after her: Frigga. This is where we get Friday.(6)

Okay, so as the Scandinavians and Germans were converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished to a hill and became a witch.(7) Legend held that every Friday, Frigga would have a gathering of witches and the devil – a gathering of thirteen – to plot revenge for their banishment. All Fridays were, for a while, considered bad. In fact, they called it the “Witch’s Sabbath.”(8) So a bad day(9) with a bad number(10) was extra bad.(11)

Not every culture shares the Friday the 13th thing. In Spain, for example, it’s Tuesday the 13th that’s bad. But many Western cultures consider 13 pretty bad.

So there you go. Courtesy of your friendly neighborhood nerd.(12)

  1. The home of the gods.
  2. Christ and his apostles.
  3. Christ, obviously
  4. Fear of the number thirteen, by the way, is called triskaidekaphobia.
  5. Dies Veneris.
  6. Most of our current day-names come from the Norse gods: Sun’s day, Moon’s day, Twu’s day, Woden’s day, Thor’s day, Frigga’s day, Saturn’s day or Shabbat’s day (Saturday’s the weird one.)
  7. The Christian leaders are now infamous for how the turned old gods into devils.
  8. Great name for metal band.
  9. Friday.
  10. 13.
  11. But not super bad, because it’s a stupid movie.
  12. I had another footnote but felt that leaving it would be courting disaster.

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