Friday the 13th Superstition: Tribute to Misogyny

From the Team

Walpurgisnacht (Night of the Witches

Walpurgisnacht (Night of the Witches” by Ary Stillman

Irrational fear of Friday the 13th is called Paraskevidekatriaphobia (first coined in 1911).

Friday the 13th of July, 2012 is the third and last Friday the 13th of this year, thirteen weeks after the April Friday the 13th (separated by thirteen weeks from the first Friday the 13th in January 2012). We will have another three Friday the 13th’s in the year 2015.

This day, today, is considered one of many witches sabbath’s.

The first mention of the witches sabbath is thought to have occurred in the 11th century, and is included in one of the Burchard’s of Worms works. One such mention of this infamous sabbath was written in reference to the myth of the “Diana Rides”. Diana is one of the three maiden Goddesses of childbirth and womanhood who vowed to never to marry. These “rides” were considered to be out of body experiences – spirit traveling, a way to know the future and commune with those both dead and alive a great many distances.

From Burchard of Worms onward, paranoia and hysteria around witches slowly but steadily increased, culminating in more and more religious works and folklore referencing the dangers of witchcraft and witches. Not surprisingly, these “witch” powers were at first very reminiscent of previously exalted Goddesses. They soon would deteriorate into broom-flying and demonic orgies, including vilification of the poor (the missing teeth, pronounced warts, living in shacks in the woods, many relatives in one home and cooking the entrails and blood of animals – all similar to the Dark and Middle Ages look of impoverished village people).

And slowly, a population to despise was created, with fear of Friday the Thirteenth becoming a symbol of the propagandist machine against poor women.

Mythological scholars such as
Joseph Campbell, have dubbed this the “Great Reversal” – the rebuking of agrarian Goddess traditions, thought and philosophy and the rise of capitalistic misogyny and patriarchy. Goddesses became witches, who hated children and men and sought to be in league with the devil to tear down the church.

Similar to the description of feminists today isn’t it?

When the mythological birth mothers of humanity – Eve and Lilith, become Satan’s whores and ball-breakers, the systematic destruction of women’s strength is imminent. As the number 13 is associated with the feminine (women’s cycles are in keeping with the lunar cycles of the year – 13 in all) it is theorised that fear of that number also developed (or was developed in the minds of the Christian religious). Prior to the 13th century, 13 was considered a very lucky number, symbolising renewal, rebirth – the passage of time and the hope of things to come.

The word Friday is of Norse origin, derived from the goddess of fertility and sex, Freyja. So to mix Friday with 13 for a woman should be one of the best days of the year? One would think. Yet Christian folklore continues to demonise Friday, citing expulsion from Eden and Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion as occurring on Freyja’s day.

Freyja, Norse goddess of sexuality, with staff, renewing the earth

Freyja, Norse goddess of sexuality, with staff, renewing the earth

By no coincidence, Freyja’s companion was a cat… Thus the initiation of the Black Cat crossing one’s path a symbol of bad luck. To the contrary, Freya gave 12 of her followers a cat as a gift for their devotion. For the Nigerian Yoroba people, Oshun, goddess of love and fertility has cats as her companions, and those born under her are encouraged to keep them as pets.

Oma Oshun, Nigerian Yoruba Goddess of Love and Sensuality

Oma Oshun, Nigerian Yoroba Goddess of Love and Sensuality with her other companion, the bird

Though some people have argued Friday the 13th is a new invention of the 19th century – witch trials from the 13th-18th centuries tell a very different tale. One most disturbing case of 1307 where King Philip IV ordered the execution of over a hundred members of the charity Knights Templar because he suspected them of witchcraft. The real case, was that the King was deeply indebted to the Templars, so with the sanctioning of the Pope was able to confiscate their lands and burn their members.

Any spectre of dissent or ability to interfere with a government’s economic standing has always been a form of witchcraft in the minds of powerful nations. Different from the Knights Templar affair, in most cases, it was the anger and ferociously malicious hatred of the feminine that spurred most of these “superstitions” we have today. As William Hamby of the Examiner.com put so aptly:

“Friday the 13th, the day of
bad luck and ill omens is really a
double tribute to misogyny”.

So enjoy your day today – it was much longer thought of as a good day than bad. And every time you see a Black cat cross your path, think of Freya, and wonder about a gift that may be coming your way. If you so happen to find 13 cents at the bottom of your bag, know that you’re walking in the divine cycle, in tune to the lunar moons.

And if such trivial non-scientific frivolities don’t suit you, say to hell with this hateful, classist and sexist superstition. Today is Friday, and always thank God for that.

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