In 1993, a Harris poll reportedly found that 13% of the people who responded to the poll were afraid of Friday the 13th. Pansies.
It is all said to have begun, as did so much else, with the Knights Templar. On Friday, October the 13th (just like today!), 1307 (699 years ago), Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Temple, and perhaps all the Templars currently in France were arrested by agents of the French king Philippe le Bel, acting hand in glove with the pope of the time, Clement V. The idea was that the Templars had grown far too rich and powerful and they had to be stopped, their power broken and their riches seized.
No longer the Poor Knights of Christ they had started out as, they had become the financiers of Europe (indeed, the original issuers of traveler's checks: you could pay money to the Temple bankers in London, receive a coded token and get your money back, less commission, when you arrived in Rome or wherever and presented your token to the bankers at the local Temple), and both king and pope owed them big-time in the financial area.
So soldiers of France were issued sealed and secret orders, with instructions to open them on the morning of Friday, October 13, 1307, and act accordingly. Which meant to arrest every Templar they could get their hands on and imprison them, and torture them for confessions to the only charges that would stick in that superstitious age: blasphemy and heresy.
Preposterous, when anyone could see how the knights had bravely fought for and honored their faith, but the big lie was cunningly tailored: the knights in Palestine, as it then was, had consorted with Muslims (oh, the horror)! They defiled the crucifix and one another! They worshipped a weird idol called Baphomet!
And so masterly and pervasive was the lying spin (who's gonna call king and pope greedy lying weasels?) that people fell for it then and believed it for many centuries after. There was of course no free press to publish scathing fiery editorials denouncing Clem and Phil and calling them to account. Oh, wait, there's no such brave journalism now either, calling to account Georges II le Chimp...never mind.
But really it was all about money. And Clement the Vile and Philip the Unfair were calling the shots. So all across Europe the Knights Templar were busted up, and many, many died horrible deaths at the hands of pope and country.
There has always been a tradition, though, that some Templars were aware of what was going down that Friday, and had arranged for themselves and the Temple treasury to be spirited out of France before the slaughter began. Sailing from their harbor of La Rochelle in northwest France, they took the Temple fleet around Ireland and over to Scotland, where Robert the Bruce was fighting for the Scottish throne and had been excommunicated by the pope, and where papal writ did not then run.
The refugee knights are said to have fought for the Bruce at Bannockburn, securing him the kingship beyond question, and then to have settled down in the far southwest of Scotland, where Templar gravestones can be seen today, and some at least to have set aside their monastic vows, married and raised families.
I myself, as a Dame Templar in a modern-day Order, knighted at Roslin Chapel (setting of the end of "The Da Vinci Code") in September 1990, wrote a short story about the flight from La Rochelle in MDF Katherine Kurtz's (also a Dame of the Order, and who with her husband Scott MacMillan sponsored me) anthology "Crusade of Fire", a story called "The Last Crusade", in which James Douglas (no, not MY James Douglas...) gets some of the knights off to Keltia...hey, it could have happened! [/shameless self-promotion]
So today I will get out my Templar cross, and say a prayer for the great and noble Jacques de Molay and all those knights so falsely accused and heinously executed. They might be a little freaked that it's a SISTER Templar doing so, not to mention a PAGAN sister Templar, but I think they'd be okay with it by now.
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam...and unto them as well.