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Just before dawn on Friday 13 October 1307, troops under the order of King Philip IV of France “descended on every Templar commandery over an area of 150,000 square miles to put 15,000 men into chains.” The Order of the Knights Templar had become too rich and too powerful to be tolerated any longer, and King Philip wanted to relieve himself of his debts to the Templars as well as abscond with their wealth. So he carried out a covert operation to round up the Knights, imprison them, and torture them obtain confessions about gross misconduct and heresy that Philip’s inquisitors concocted.
Thus, the tradition of bad luck on Friday the 13th. Friday and 13, independent of each other, had long been unlucky for their own reasons, but Friday the 13th became known as the day that anything and everything could go wrong. Why? Because the Knights Templar could not have been arrested by the King of France:
And yet, de Molay was tortured and ultimately burned at the stake.
This explanation for the Friday the 13th superstition is quite logical, and the historical events above are all true. But the relation of the superstition and those events doesn’t hold up when examined against the documentation of superstition and folkways. In writing and popular literature, references to “Friday the 13th” don’t start to appear until the early 1900s, but some of those references do call it an “ancient superstition.” A quick search through newspapers from 1607 to 1891 turns up only 12 references to “Friday the thirteenth,” and most of those commented on the confluence of the two already unlucky days: the 13th of the month, and Fridays. The Gettysburg Star & Sentinel on 8 March 1892 published a short story in which a man complains he is the unluckiest person in the world, having been “born on Friday,” and if that wasn’t enough, also born on “the thirteenth day of the month.” In all probability, it is just the confluence of two unlucky days – Friday and the 13th of the month – that make Friday the 13th extra unlucky.
So with this in mind, perhaps we should take the weekend and relook our genealogical conclusions and family legends. Are they logical? Yes. Is there documentation to support those logical conclusions? Hmmm…maybe we can find some!
Information on Knights Templar from John J. Robinson’s book Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry.
“An Unlucky Man,” Gettysburg Star and Sentinel, 8 Mar 1892, digital image, NewspaperArchive.com (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 12 Dec 2013), p.1.