January 13, 2017


Today is Friday the Thirteenth. Perhaps that isn't very important to you, but an awful lot of people are scared by the date. Some even go so far as to stay home to avoid potential disaster. But why?  Many people think that the superstition is based on beliefs linked to the Last Supper. Indirectly, it is, because it does incorporate the old (17th century) idea that having 13 people sat at a dining table is bad luck.  It also takes in the medieval belief that Fridays are unlucky in general. However, the first recorded mention of Friday 13th being specifically bad news is from 1913.1

Now, suppose your shoelace comes undone. Make sure you walk nine paces before you put it right, or you'll be tying bad luck to yourself all day. Don't blame me if you trip up before the nine paces are over. Broken bootlaces as an omen of ill luck date back to the 17th century, particularly if it happens just as you're about to set off on a journey. 2

A couple of weeks from now, 25 January to be exact, is St Paul's Day and you should watch the weather carefully because it forebodes what will happen in the future. Hope that it dawns fair, for that means this year will have a good harvest. However, rain or snow signifies scarcity or famine; clouds and mist will bring pestilence; and winds will blow in war. 3

Most people know better than to open an umbrella indoors, but did you also know that it's considered bad luck to drop a brolly?  And under no circumstances should you pick it up yourself, although sources vary on what will happen if you do.1

Finally, you all know that a horseshoe is lucky, right?  Well, maybe. It depends which way up you put it.  In some parts of the country it should have the points upwards, to stop the luck running out, but i other areas you'll be blamed for offering the devil a seat if you nail it up that way. Always nail it, by the way, which ever way you decide to go, because the nails increase the luck! Family folklore.

1. Roud, Steve (2003) The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland. Penguin, London. 

2 Simpson, Jacqueline and Roud, Steve (2000) A Dictionary of English Folklore. Oxford University Press.

3. Various authors (1973) Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest, London.

This post has been written for Five on Friday


  1. It is quite a minefield isn't it! Last Friday 13th I had a terrible day, the fridge died, I broke some china, bashed my knee right open and some other things too. Today I am planning on staying indoors in the warm and dry, and away from the ice that is outside, along with the snow! Hope that your Friday 13th is a good one!

  2. I'm not afraid of Friday 13th but I notice I'm always wary and conscious of it. We always used to say it was bad luck to cut your nails on a Friday too. Bootlaces - my grandfather's bootlace snapped as he was getting ready for his early morning shift at the pit, it took him a while to find another so got to the pit late and missed the cage going down. His father, my great grandfather was in the cage, it snapped, tipped sideways and flung my great grandfather and two other men out to their deaths. My grandfather was saved by his boot lace but of course lost his father just a few days after his first child, my Mum's elder sister, was born, he registered both birth and death on the same day:)

    1. Amazing story. Lots of superstitions talk about "one out, one in" and this seems like an illustration of that. I'll have to check more about bootlaces!

  3. That was all fascinating, a real joy to visit.

  4. Love your post on Superstitions. It's always interesting to learn the history of things. My Mum has some really interesting ones that she got from her mum.

    Thanks for sharing your Five on Friday

  5. Interesting to consider our past and how it affects us even so many centuries later. The 13th is my lucky day. My parents were both born on the 13th and they married on the 13th.

  6. I'm not particularly superstitious, but if I spill salt I always throw some over my shoulder.

  7. Oh goodness, I'm going to be a nervous wreck now! I'd better write it all down and take a list with me when I go out to make sure I don't do anything unlucky!

  8. Fascinating superstitions - I find it interesting to discover their origins. I'm not superstitious about Friday the 13th.

  9. I have known it for a long time: the calendar was calculated earlier for the moon and a week had 14 days. Friday was always the 13th day, one day before the change of the moon. And this was supposed to be a particularly critical day, under the influence of the moon.
    That could be the beginning of the supersticion.

    An exact source I do not know, maybe it is also nonsense. Maybe it's witchcraft.
    Masha the witch with the black cat ;-)

  10. Maybe I'm a witch. Thirteen is my lucky number and Friday the 13th is usually a good day. I took a day off this time and watched mysteries on Hallmark channel. It was a great day.


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