FRIDAY THE 13TH
It’s a true rarity but today I get to share a bit of History with popular culture icons I absolutely adore. Friday the 13th has given us horror fans so much to enjoy over the years. Not only did the franchise help define the slasher genre but it also helped mold an entire generation of children. The 1980 film was amongst the first bits of desensitized violence and bare breasted teenage lust to really run amok. That’s right. Long before we were screaming at GTA ruining our childrens’ minds we had Jason’s Mom slashing through hordes of fornicators and wholesome counsellors alike. Oh what a lesson on self-righteous vengeance this could be, but I digress.
I want to focus on the origin of the title. Like most good horror writers Victor Miller capitalized on a pre existing fear lingering in the back of our minds. He crafted the title to stir our superstitions but where did this fear of Friday the 13th come from? Is it just fear of the number like triskaidekaphobia would suggest or is there more to it?
We could site 13 guests attending the last supper and work our way down to the Thirteen Club where high society types would dine in groups of thirteen on the thirteenth of each month. Founded by Captain William Fowler the group gathered at the famed Knickerbocker Cottage. They would dine under a banner that read “Morituri te Salutamus,” which is Latin for “Those of us who are about to die salute you.” Clearly this group was anything but superstitious. We lovers of the horror genre have long since danced in Americas counterculture and should all salute their satirical stand against conventional wisdom.
THE TEMPLAR CONNECTION
Great. So the number 13 is responsible for various superstitions. From the lunar cycles to Fibonacci sequences the number thirteen has captivated quite an audience. Reasoning behind its association with bad luck varies from talk of repressed lunar cults to Hammurabi’s Code, but what of the day? Why has Friday the 13th long since been considered a day of great peril and misfortune? What’s the historical significance?
Of course, on October 13th of 1307 we saw the beginning of the end of the Templar Knights. King Philip IV of France decided the religious military order had grown too powerful. Driven by his greed he set out to take the vast wealth the organization had accumulated. He ordered their Grand Master Jacques de Molay dissolve the order at once. I believe Heresy was the official charge.
A month prior to the auspicious date letters had circulated amongst those in the know. They painted out the organization as these wildy evil men involved in all sorts of black magick. Tales of ritualistic sex and blood sacrifice were scattered throughout the land. Whether the allegations were true or not it was enough to tarnish the Templar name. The Knights who were once praised for “keeping the highways in and out of the holy city safe” were now set to stand trial. Nevermind what King Philip had done to the Lombards and French Jews in the years leading up to date, the Templar Knights were now enemy number one in the eyes of the people.
Several hundred Templars were gathered up and incarcerated. They were fed meager rations of bread and water whilst being tortured by their captors. They were strapped with their hands behind their backs and then suspended by their wrists until their shoulders dislocated. Some were flogged and stretched in every way imaginable. Others were periodically burned as their captors yelled out the accusations against them. After weeks of torture many of the Knights admitted to every form of heresy imaginable. From devil worship to homosexuality- laughable by today’s accounts- the charges were finalized. Even Jacques de Molay confessed thus sealing the Templar fate.
Me? I’d prefer a quick death at the hands of Jason Voorhees over the tragedies the Templars suffered. Even the sleeping bag beating bit seems a little less brutal in light of ways we humans have actually surmised to kill each other. Moving on…
Within weeks Pope Clement V had issued papal bulls ordering foreign kings arrest all members of the Knights Templar. While he was horrified at the results of the trials many of the European leaders saw it for what it was, a political ploy. That understanding didn’t save the Templar Knights who were officially disbanded by Clement and ultimately destroyed. Several hundred supposed heretics, including Jacques de Molay, were eventually burned at the stake forever linking Friday the 13th to a day of tragedy and misfortune.
Is it true? Who knows. Like most things that deal with this elder society the truth is shrouded in legend and mystery. We will never know how they ended just like we will never know why they started in the first place. (No one could have honestly thought that eight people could defend the vast highways in and out of Jerusalem) Either way, may you fare better today than the Templars of Olde. When that black cat crosses your path just think of the Thirteen Club and bid that cat good fortune. No matter what you encounter today take it in stride. I mean, hey, at least you’re not being burned at the stake