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According to The Huffington Post, Friday the 13th may be one of the most firmly rooted American superstitions — along with black cats and walking under ladders. But where did the superstition originate?

Some believe the discomfort surrounding the number 13 dates back to Jesus’ last supper with the 13th guest being Judas who betrayed him. Friday got a bad rap for reportedly being the day Jesus was crucified and for being the day of executions in some countries.

Fear of the number 13 — a condition also known as triskaidekaphobia — may even predate Jesus, though. One Norse myth tells the story of 12 gods who were having a dinner party at Valhalla, heaven in Norse mythology. A 13th guest arrived — the mischievous god Loki who got the blind god of darkness, Hoder, to shoot and kill god of joy Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

Folklore historian Donald Dossey told the National Geographic that the fear of Friday the 13th has a real impact in people’s decision-making and can even affect the economy. “It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day,” Dossey said, “because people will not fly or do business they would normally do.”

Friday the 13th is not universally a day of ill omen, however. In some Spanish-speaking countries the unlucky day is Tuesday the 13. Martes, or Tuesday, in Spanish derives from Mars, the god of war, and thus connotes death.

Shaman and ritual expert Donna Henes offers another explanation for Friday the 13th, rooted in goddess traditions. “Thirteen is certainly the most essentially female number — the average number of menstrual cycles in a year,” Henes writes in a HuffPost blog. “Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility, and lunar potency. 13 is the lucky number of the Great Goddess.”

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