Today is Friday the 13th. It is also a New Moon. It is a day of blood.
Friday is Frigga’s day. (Or Freya’s, depending on who you listen too: and although she is not the same goddess, she is related in that she too is a goddess of love and fertility.)
Frigga is the queen of the chief Norse god Odin, is the goddess of heaven and of married love, of fertility, motherhood and domesticity. Also, of frigging, one assumes.
She liked to dress up in finery, too – beautiful clothes she wove herself, and rich jewels. I can imagine her, decked out for her weekly celebration of womanhood, in vibrant fabrics and a glittering array of jewels. She is blue, and orange, and yellow, and green.
She is associated with Venus, which is why Romance languages call Friday things like vendredi (French) and viernes (Spanish) and venerdi (Italian) and vineri (Romanian) while Germanic languages stick to Frigga-based words such as – apart from “Friday”, obviously – Freitag (German) and vrijdag (Dutch) and fredag (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish). Some European languages, such as Hungarian, Russian and Portuguese, distance themselves from the pagan roots of the day name, and use a word meaning “sixth day” or “fifth day” (depending on whether they count Sunday as the first or last day of the week).
Friday, a day sacred to the goddess queen, mistress of the skies and of the heart and of the hearth, a seer and a magician as well as a noble, loving spirit. A woman.
And thirteen, a number that is considered to have great power in many belief systems, and seems to hold the world in thrall somehow. It is the number of that most striking of Tarot cards – Death. And as such, it is deeply womanly, tied in with the 13 lunar cycles each year, that bring us the blood of death which is also the blood we shed in preparation for new life.
It is more than that.
Did you know, for example, that 12 spheres around a 13th sphere create a compact geometrical shape in 3-dimensional space? A thing of perfect simplicity and beauty?
And in history, we see twelve disciples and their leader, Jesus; we see 12 knights of the round table with their leader, Arthur.
There are 12 constellations related to the sun.
A coven is said to be made up of 12 witches and 1 other: Freya was sometimes said to be the 13th witch in a coven, sometimes it is a man in black, some say it is Satan.
Baker’s dozen, anyone?
13 also occurs and recurs in nature. For example turtles, often used to symbolise motherhood, have 13 cornea plates on their shell. Crabs have 13 plates on theirs.
13 is the seventh number in the Fibonacci sequence to (1,1,2,3,5,8,13), an important, mysterious and powerful sequence of numbers that is also related to the Golden Section. It is also a prime number. I can’t get enough of prime numbers, myself.
So there is something all-round magical about the number 13. But for our purposes today, the most magical thing, the most sacred thing, is the link of this number to the moon and to menses. It is the number of lunar cycles, the number of menstrual cycles in a solar year. It is the number of a woman.
Friday the 13th is therefore doubly lucky, doubly womanly, doubly sacred – if you are the sort of person to make these connections. Friday, the day of a powerful goddess – allied with 13, a sacred and powerful number intimatey connected to womanhood.
Small wonder that the Church had – shall we say, at least – an interest in creating a slur on and a fear about this day, for which Pagan women must have felt something of a connectedness. We hear of the unlucky Last Supper – held on a Friday, with 13 present – at which Jesus’ fate was sealed by the 13th man, Judas – and after which the Lord was crucified (on a Friday). We hear stories of Knights Templar holding Friday the 13th sacred, and being brought low on Friday 13th.
Interestingly, although the Romans did not on the whole go in for weeks as a measurement of time, they did regard Friday as unlucky and tended to carry out executions on that day. They were not over-fond of the number 13 either, preferring the number 12 as the more natural. They had 12 months in the year, for example, rather than the 13 months of other cultures.
Which all means that the aversion to Friday and to 13 was not wholly created by anti-Pagan activity on the part of the early church (although it is fair to suspect that the church may have encouraged it). It does not mean that this aversion is unrelated to misogyny, though: Rome was for centuries a pagan empire, but it was by no means woman-centred. It was, you know, a patriarchy.
So if Pagan women have long honoured both Fridays and the number 13, and if as a result Friday and 13 are seen as feminine (and, worse, as related to monthly bleeding), then it is hardly surprising that the patriarchal culture of Rome would have developed a disdain, an aversion, a contempt of some kind for those associations.