In only a few days, we have not only a Harvest Moon but a Harvest Moon that falls on Friday the 13th. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox. It's recognized and revered globally as a reminder for the approaching change in season and coming harvest.
Friday the 13th, however, is the leader of all things superstition in the Western world. For such a deep-rooted fear of this seemingly unlucky day, it's surprising that nobody can pinpoint where it comes from and why it is so widespread. We at least know that it starts with fear around the number thirteen. There's even a fancy name for it: triskaidekaphobia. Some of the most famous historical figures such as Churchill, Roosevelt and even Napoleon were plagued with this superstition. In fact, Christopher Columbus was on that list, too. In the '50s, The Columbiana, a group of Italian Columbus experts, found that he actually landed in the Western Hemisphere on October 13th, 1492 and changed the date to the 12th to avoid such a bad omen.
With thirteen steps to the gallows, thirteen turns in the hangman's noose and the number of the Death card in Tarot, there's plenty of reasons that people place so much fear in the number. Though there's no 'tell-all' for why you should fear the 6th day of the week paired with the 13th day of the month, it's said that the modern basis for the superstition *probably* has something to do with October 13, 1307. In a time where everyone who was anyone was either torturing or being tortured until you admitted or committed heresy, the Knights Templar were known to be the good guys. It was on this day, that the Pope of the Catholic Church and the King of France (I'm lookin' at you Clement V and Philip IV) rounded up the Knights Templar to be burned alive while their leader was crucified. Ah, the Middle Ages.
Then, of course, the two most notorious stories are the Last Supper and a Valhalla dinner party. What do the two have in common with bad omens? Quite a lot, actually. It's said that either Judas or Jesus was the last to arrive at the Last Supper, making it thirteen guests. Jesus was crucified the very next day, a Friday, and I don't think I need to explain why everyone hates Judas. In Norse lore, it says that evil and mischief were first introduced to the world by the unexpected arrival of Loki. He was also the thirteenth guest, upsetting the balance of the twelve Gods already in attendance.
In numerology, the number 12 is considered to be a number of completeness; with 12 months in a year, 12 hours in a day followed by 12 hours of night, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 branches on the Kabbalah, 12 tribes of Israel etc. So, it's not hard to see why it's a sacred number. Because of this, 13 came to be seen as imbalanced and cursed. Combine that with a Friday, the 6th day, and you've got a whole mess of misfortune.
Or do you?
Back in the 1800's, a man by the name of William Fowler, set up a jolly ol' supper club that had it out for bad luck. It was called the Thirteen Club. On Friday, January 13th, 1882, at 8:13 in the evening, 13 men met for a 13-course-dinner (yum), wearing all black as they walked under ladders before sitting down to eat in room no. 13. The supper room was decorated with open umbrellas, food made to look like coffins and cakes shaped like black cats. On the table, there was a banner that read ’Nos Mortituri te Salutamus‘—Latin for “We who are about to die salute you.” They would smash mirrors, be sure to spill salt which would under no circumstance be tossed over the shoulder and wouldn't dare knock on wood.
The original group boasted five presidents, remained in "good health" and continued gathering to provoke superstitions and congratulate themselves on not dying.
At the time Fowler created this club, he'd built 13 public buildings, and retired from combat on August 13th, 1863 after surviving 13 battles. He contested, that all of these things brought him good luck and that all of them would live healthy lives until they died in their sleep. Which he eventually did. Now, whether or not that's "good luck" we can all agree, dying in your sleep after a "healthy life" is about the best way to go.
Now, let's get to the good stuff.
It turns out, that up until the Kill All the Pagans and Take Their Stuff Revolution, thirteen and Friday were both considered very lucky. That's right, Friday was (and still is) the day of the Goddess. It was, a day to celebrate the Divine Feminine and all the juicy fertile energy that comes with it.
In fact, look at our names for "Friday".
The English name for Friday comes from Old English: Frīġedæġ,(Yeah, I don't know how to say it either) meaning "day of Frigg" Frigg is a Germanic Goddess of Love. (German spin on Venus)
The word for Friday in most Romance languages, come from "Dies Veneris" or "Day of Venus"
In Japanese, Friday or 金曜日, translates to Venus. (literally: gold planet)
In Scandinavian languages, it's the "Day of Freya" or "Fredag" in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. If you're not familiar, Freya is the mythical Goddess who embodied everything love, war, female sexuality, beauty, and whose chariot is pulled by two cats...who let's be real, were probably black. #jealous
You get the point. Whether Venus, Aphrodite, Xochiquetzal, Oshun, Freya or Frigg(I'm still unsure the difference between these two) pretty much every culture had their own interpretation of the Goddess of Love and Fertility. And Friday was a day to celebrate Her and maybe even receive a blessing or two. Additionally, in Paganism, thirteen is a sacred feminine number with a unique association to the Divine. This is because it not only corresponds with the number of lunar cycles in the year but also the annual number of menstrual cycles. (13 x 28 = 364 days) In all aspects, thirteen, originally, was a symbol of blood, fertility, lunar potency, and The Goddess.
Sacred as can be, cultures globally revere this number. Aztecs saw the number 13 as the number of regeneration. It's still the age that Jewish boys are transitioned into men. In Wicca, traditional covens are made of 13 witches. Interestingly, the 13th card in Tarot is Death which often represents not a physical death, but a transformation and a chance for change. And Egyptians believed there to be 13 stages of life, the last of which is death -- the transition to the eternal. Chinese women, still, when making lunar offerings, are sure to place 13 on the platter. The moon and feminine energy are synonymous and have been for hundreds of thousands of years. It's an ancient, sacred belief still kept by many today.
Near the Lascaux caves in France, you'll find the "Earth Mother of Laussel" a 27,000-year-old(!!) carving of matriarchal spirituality holding a crescent moon/horn bearing 13 notches.
You can imagine, as the Christian church gained traction in the Middle Ages, the Pagan associations weren't forgotten. Especially given that Friday was considered unlucky for Christians not only because of the Crucifixion but also the day of Original Sin and the Great Flood. At this time, witches and pagans were still congregating in the forest to do their thing and that meant if Friday was a Holy Day for "heathens", it must be deemed evil for Christians. So for a while, in the Middle Ages, Friday was coined" Witches Sabbath" or "Devils Day". For the last time, guys, Pagans don't believe in the Devil. It's an entirely Christian concept, but I digress. Gradually, what was a doubly-holy day in honor the Divine Feminine, became known as a day of bad omens, black cats and upside horseshoes.
So what do you think? Is Friday the 13th simply a result of the Christianification of Paganism or is it something darker?
Despite what is or isn't, when you look up at the Harvest Moon this Friday, the 13th of September - Thank Goddess and knock on wood! While the day is shrouded in superstition, many still consider Friday the 13th what it originally was. A day that was dedicated to the celebration of fertility and femininity that brings the world a blend of just the right conditions, energies, and elements that make all of us, us.