The superstition has a lot to do with a mundane group of medieval men.
Perhaps the biggest precaution you could take to avoid any misfortune is to understand why Friday the 13th came to be known as an unlucky day. Then the urge to perform some superstitious act of self-protection might seem unnecessary.
According to Becky Little, writing at the website of National Geographic, it all has to do with the Knights Templar. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code describes how members of this medieval chivalric order were arrested in the year 1307—on what for them was an unlucky date: Friday the 13th.
Brown’s book might have put a superstitious spin on things, but Little points out that the arrest was much more prosaic. The Knights had money, because part of their mission was to act as a sort of bank, and King Philip IV used heresy as an excuse to shut the Order down and confiscate its funds, which he needed.
But as we all know, conspiracy theories—like belief in Friday the 13th—are so much more fun and interesting. A couple of theories arose in regards to the Knights Templars:
- They were created by an organization called the Priory of Sion to excavate in Jerusalem and find information about the bloodline of Christ.
- They discovered treasure, or the Holy Grail, or some heretical secret (e.g., that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, or never rose from the grave).
- The Templars became the Freemasons.
Indeed, the Knights Templar are “more interesting as protectors of an ancient secret, rather than single men who gave out loans,” as Little puts it. “But if you tell the more sensational tale, you cover up the real story: that sometimes leaders are greedy, and they make false accusations. And sometimes people make things up to give recent phenomena like Friday the 13th a more profound, historical origin.”
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