Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday the 13th Came on a Friday this Month!

So far today I have read posts about illnesses, cockroaches, carrion, dead frogs and rats. What is it…Friday the 13th or something?

I really never thought much about Friday the 13th as being unlucky, so this evening I did a bit of research. It seems that the number 13 has been a mystery since we humans first realized we had ten fingers. It seems that our prehistoric ancestors were limited having only ten fingers and two feet to represent numerical units, so they could only count to twelve. Anything beyond that—i.e., beginning with thirteen—was an incomprehensible to our primitive ancestors. Therefore, what was inconceivable to them was deemed to be a threat.

What I do not understand about this theory is, if our ancestors could distinguish and use the ten fingers on their hands, why did they not do the same with the ten toes on their feet? It’s my guess that they weren’t covering them up with shoes.

Regarding the day Friday, I read that in ancient Rome, Friday was execution day and later—in England—it was called “Hangman's Day.” I’ve been unable to definitely confirm either of those. Of course, Jesus was crucified on a Friday—maybe.

I also found that the word/day Friday came from a Norse deity worshipped on the sixth day—identified as either as Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility) or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility). This Frigg/Freya goddess corresponded to Venus, the Roman goddess of love for whom the Romans named the sixth day of the week: dies Veneris. Of course, this idea of a goddess being so honored horrified medieval Christians, for who any suggestion that God could be other than male was associated with witches and other detestable creatures. (I really must write a post on goddess religions in the near future to counteract such offensive beliefs that deliberately insult females).

I really don’t put faith in any of the theories as to how the combination of the sixth day of the week and the thirteen day of the month came to be considered unlucky. But if you want to do more research than I have done, you may want to start with these links and follow others until you come up with what is for you a plausible explanation:

Friday the 13th is Unlucky
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th - History and Superstition
The Superstition Behind Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is a day fraught with peril

Actually, for me, whenever I think of Friday the 13th, I think of Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo and it is from Pogo that I thought of the title for this post:

For me, Pogo was the best comic strip ever written. Heinz Politzer called Pogo the "folk play of the American masses…that "instead of a message . . . contains the mirrored image of its readers." I think he was right. As a kid I identified with the character Pogo—yeah, I identified with a possum! And, although I don’t think Pogo himself ever credited the 13th day of the month (whatever the day of the week) with being unlucky, the characters in the comic strip certainly did.

I have this Pogo phrase “Friday the 13th falls on a ____day” so ingrained in me that when the 13th day of any month comes around, I think of it.

More about Walt Kelly and Pogo in a later post—maybe on Earthday!


  1. Hey, Pogo was my favorite comic for years and I really missed the whole crew when they were no longer there. ec

  2. Me, too! I inherited some early Pogo books from my cool Uncle Lawrence, and have added to it over the years.

    IMHO, Walt Kelly was the greatest poet /cartoonist who ever lived.

  3. I love that little guy. He's cute!

    I don't get it... earthday?

  4. Mreddie: I, too, miss Pogo and the whole Okefenokee Swamp gang. For a while I had thought that Berkeley Breathed & the Bloom County gang were carrying on Walt Kelly’s traditions, but now I think Breathed has neither the philosophical depth nor the stamina of Kelly. I need to collect some books of Kelly’s cartoons before he is completely forgotten and his works are no longer available.

    Thomas: I agree that Kelly is the greatest cartoonist/poet who ever lived. I add that he was a great philosopher and satirist in the tradition of folks like Samuel Clemmons and Will Rogers. I think he was also perhaps the most courageous: his satire of Joe McCarthy as Simple J. Malarkey when McCarthy’s witch-hunt and anti-communist hysteria was at its most powerful was an act of real guts.

    Kylz: Pogo is cute, isn’t he? Why Earth day? Walt Kelly drew a cartoon that is not only famous but actually has become, in my mind, symbolic of what earth day is all about. Picture a swamp (or a park for that matter) covered with trash and junk and debris. Surveying the scene is that cute little possum, Pogo, who says to his companion, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That scene was used on the first Earth day to explain what it is all about. As with Friday the 13th, I can’t think of Earth Day without picturing Pogo and that phrase.

  5. I have a couple of Pogo books. That's a good comic strip!

  6. Interesting post. I myself only thought of it as Friday and that day is never a bad day.
    Have a great Saturday the 14th.

  7. I remember Pogo! When I was old enough to realize the satire, I never missed a day reading it. It was one of maybe 3 or 4 comic strips that I always read.

  8. Azsonofagun: I need to get some Pogo books!

    Kylee: Thank you! Saturday is almost over as I write this and it has been far less than great! Maybe Sunday will be good?

    Ex-Louisville Guy: It took me a while to recognize the satire, too.

    Frank40299: Welcome to my blog! Thanks for the comment. I love Pogo, too!