Friday the 13th brings about feelings of bad luck and dread and an overall ominous vibe that makes many of us feel overcautious. It’s said that this day is the unluckiest day of the entire year. How did this spooky day become associated with $13 tattoos? The truth is nobody can really pinpoint the exact origin. However, we’ve tracked down the history of Friday the 13th tattoos as best we could! Interested? Keep reading to find out more.
A Friday the 13th can occur up to three times a year. Each one is a sort of holiday for tattoo shops, akin to a Black Friday type of sale that occurs for just about every other retailer the day after Thanksgiving. Before we delve into how the 13th became associated with tattoos, let’s backtrack to the historical significance of Friday the 13th. Frankly, there are many origin theories, but these seem to be the most widely accepted.
According to Nordic legend, Baldur, Odin’s son, was one of the most beloved gods due to his generosity and courage. After he dreamt of his own death, his mother, Frigg, in an attempt to protect him, traveled around the world asking every creature alive for an oath promising no harm to Baldur.
Loki, god of mischief, became irritated by the rally around Baldur. He disguised himself as an old woman and found out from Frigg that the only thing that could ever hurt Baldur was a mistletoe plant. Frigg admitted she had not found it worth it to ask for an oath from this small plant. At a party celebrating Baldur, Loki secured some mistletoe and tricked another god into throwing the mistletoe at Baldur, which instantly killed him. Loki was said to be the 13th – and uninvited – guest at this party.
Another possible origin of unlucky number 13 is derived from Christianity. In the Bible story of the Last Supper, Judas was a disciple and the 13th member at the supper table. Judas eventually betrayed Jesus, which led to Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
It is said that in a meeting of witches, 13 attendees are required. A complete witches’ coven is made up of 12 witches. The additional – and 13th – member required to complete the Witches’ Sabbath was said to be the Devil himself.
Whatever the theory, one thing is certain—tattoo artists have reclaimed the “unlucky” number 13 and turned it into a cool, fast and cheap statement. Nowadays, customers line up in tattoo shops across the world that offer Friday the 13th specials to get a small tattoo inked on their bodies for a mere $13. Tattoo shops often stay open for long stretches of time, often 24 hours and referred to as a “tattoo marathon,” in order to accommodate the waiting customers. These tattoos are usually small, about the size of a quarter or slightly bigger, contain the number 13 somewhere in the design and cannot be customized. What you see on the tattoo flash sheet is exactly what you’re getting—nothing more and nothing less.
Oliver Peck, famed tattoo artist and owner of Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, Texas, gets the majority of the credit for hosting the first tattoo marathon on Friday the 13th in December of 1996. While $13 tattoo specials may have just started 20 years ago, there is historical significance in that sailors used to get tattoos with the number 13 to ward off bad luck. It is said that almost 90 percent of sailors had a tattoo by the 19th century and that the number 13 was a conscious effort by the tattooed community to embrace and even celebrate that whichothers might fear.
How do you feel about Friday the 13th? Will you venture out in search of new ink on the next Friday the 13th? Show us your special Friday the 13th ink below!