Happy Friday the 13th!
Originally posted on Friday, September 13, 2013.
We celebrate Friday the 13th as a holiday in my family. We observe it as a time for celebrating the death and resurrection of Osiris. This is a painful but necessary theological event that makes it possible for there to be something else after a present state has ended. This refers not only to the idea of a literal afterlife, but also to life after any major life-altering crisis. Osiris makes it possible for us to grow back when we’re cut down, and it’s the actual experience of being cut that begins this entire regenerative process. Since there are 13 pieces left of Osiris’ body when Seth is finished with it, and since Friday night marks the beginning of the Sabbath, Friday the 13th just seems like a good occasion for celebrating this particular mystery of life.
As a “superstition,” Friday the 13th appears to go back no further than the year 1869, when it was first discussed in a biography of Gioachino Rossini by Henry Sutherland Edwards. The book notes humorously that Rossini, who had a superstitious dread of both Friday and the number thirteen, died on Friday, November 13, 1868.
Friday comes from the Old Norse Frīġedæġ, or “Day of Frigg,” the Queen of Asgard. In the original Latin, Friday was named after Venus, the Roman Goddess of love (whose name was given to the planet). In Babylon, Venus was the star of Ishtar; there’s even a highland region on the planet that’s named Ishtar Terra in Her honor. As the morning star that appears at the break of day, it became known as Lucifer (“Light-Bearer”). This, of course, was adopted by the Catholic Church as a name for Satan when the Bible was first translated into Latin.
The number 13 has some strong associations with feminine power. There are 13 lunar cycles in a year; women have at least 13 menstrual periods within the same amount of time (on average); the average age of menarche (i.e., a young woman’s first menstrual cycle) falls somewhere between 12 and 13 years of age in North America and Europe (though it can happen at any point between 8 and 16 years of age); and the planet Venus forms a gigantic pentagram in outer space each time that it makes 13 revolutions around the Sun.
When Seth dismembers Osiris, He chops Him into 14 pieces. 13 of these pieces are then buried throughout the world, while Seth keeps the final piece – Osiris’ phallus – for Himself. Now Big Red is a very masculine God, but He’s not the “proper” kind of male that the Osirian patriarchy was willing to accept as “king”; He’s infertile, He’s bisexual, and He’s at home in the undomesticated wilderness. At the same time, there were 13 people at the Last Supper of Christ, which was soon followed by Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus to the Romans. In the Revelation of Saint John, Rome is identified as “the Whore of Babylon” due to its political and religious “prostitution” with every faith and creed aside from Christianity. So when Jesus is crucified by the Romans (on a Friday, no less), He’s being killed by the chaotic and “feminine” world outside of the Christian patriarchy.
In both of these stories, the dying-and-rising patriarch can’t accomplish His miracle of rising from the grave until He’s killed first. In both cases, being swallowed up by the “chaotic” and “feminine” world (through the machinations of an “outcast” male initiator) catalyzes resurrection. Seth-Typhon and Judas Iscariot are really just as necessary and good as Osiris and Christ, and in this context, Friday and the number 13 take on a whole different meaning. They represent initiation: the experience of ending one phase of existence and beginning another. They symbolize how having our lives torn to pieces can actually make us better and stronger people. They are the threat of drastic metamorphosis coupled with the promise of regeneration.
Black cat? Check. Ladder? Check. Umbrella that’s been opened indoors? Check.
In official witch-hunting manuals like the Malleus Maleficarum, European witches are defined as women with paranormal abilities who subvert the patriarchal authority of Christ and His Church by their very existence. They were thought to be in cahoots with the same “demonic” power that influenced the Romans to crucify Jesus (i.e., Lucifer or Venus). Furthermore, witches were believed to be organized in covens that included 13 members each. There was also the Witches’ Sabbath, which came from an earlier anti-Semitic association of Jews with the devil. Since the Sabbath begins on Friday night (which is astrologically ruled by Venus), it only makes sense that Friday would be the best night for covens of witches to congregate.
And then there are the Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military order that played an important role during the Crusades. These knights eventually acquired so much wealth and political power that King Philip IV of France accused them of heresy against the Roman Catholic Church so he could get out of paying them his dues. He accused them of worshiping an idol called “Baphomet,” which was alleged to be a decapitated cat’s head on a stick. The Knights Templar were rounded up, tortured, and burned at the stake on Friday, October 13, 1307. Since then, all kinds of legends have been concocted about them, and there probably isn’t a single secret society that doesn’t claim to be “descended” from them in some way. In the 19th century, the occultist Eliphas Levi painted his famous image of the Baphomet as a goat-headed hermaphrodite (which he appears to have based on an alternate form of Osiris as Banebdjed, the Ram – or “Goat” – of Mendes).
Osiris – is that You?
For each of these reasons, Friday the 13th just seems to relate very well with various Osirian and Typhonian themes. I also enjoy the fact that it’s a “roaming” holiday that can pop up in any month depending on the year. My favorite way to celebrate is by having a picnic in a cemetery. A watermelon is always included in the meal, since watermelon is one of Seth’s favorite foods. It also makes for a great re-enactment of the miracle of Osiris; chopping up the watermelon represents His sacrifice, and eating the watermelon represents taking His regenerative gift into oneself. We also make sure to leave offerings of food and drink for those who are buried in the cemeteries we visit as well, thanking them for allowing us to have our picnic.