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Is This The Real Origin Of Friday 13th?

October 2017Mr Porter

Departure of crusaders for battle in Syria, fresco from a Templar chapel in Cressac, France, 12th century. Photograph by Mr Erich Lessing/akg-images

For generations, people have considered Friday 13th unlucky: the sort of day to stay in bed, far beyond the reach of innocently placed ladders, falling pianos, broken mirrors, wandering cats and all omens of popular superstition. Irrational? Yes. Childish? Certainly. Still ever-so-slightly worrying, even though you’re a post-Enlightenment adult with far more pressing cares, in the order of VAT returns and autumn colds and the impending nuclear apocalypse? Uh-huh.

And yet. Friday 13th is still… here. It’s a long-running horror franchise. It’s enough of a worry-factor for Western society that the date is said to wipe the best part of a billion dollars off the average American business day.

There have been lots of mooted origins for paraskevidekatriaphobia (the fear of this superstitious date), reaching back to the origins of Christianity, when there were 13 people passing the potatoes at the Last Supper. But the date is most keenly linked with the legendary organisation known as the Knights Templar: religious fanatics and armed defenders of the Holy Land during the medieval crusades.