Friday is the Sabbath of the Moslems, corresponding to the Sunday of the Christians and the Saturday of the Jews. In Egypt Friday is therefore blessed above all other days, while Saturday is the most unfortunate.
However, although Friday was the day selected by Mahomet for the holding of the Moslem Assembly, it was not wholly devoted to religious worship, and at the conclusion of public prayers business was transacted as on any other week-day. Among Mohammedans Friday is considered the most lucky of days; and it is also the most popular for commencing any enterprise of importance, whether building a house, planting a garden, embarking on a voyage, contracting a marriage, or making a garment.
One reason for Mahomet's choice of Friday as the day for public prayers was probably because this day was consecrated by the people of many nations to Alilat, the celestial Venus or Urania, whom the ancient Arabs worshipped. Mahomet said that whoever bathed on Friday and walked to the public religious service, taking a seat near the Imam or Khalifah (the leader of a Moslem tribe), and listened attentively to the sermon, avoiding meanwhile frivolous conversation, would obtain the reward of a whole year's prayers at night for every step which he took between his home and the place of this assembly.
The Moslems among the peasants inhabiting the frontier region between Afghanistan and Hindostan have a special reverence for Friday; for they believe that on that day God rested, after having created the world. On Friday eve, according to their belief, the spirits of the departed are wont to revisit their former abodes, and hence the custom prevails of sending delicacies to the mosque at such times.
Friday was the most popular day for weddings among the Jews in mediaeval times, and its selection appears to have been due to expediency, because of its nearness to the Jewish Sabbath, and the convenience of associating the marriage ceremony with the services in the synagogue on the latter day. The bridal pair fasted on the morning of the wedding, and ashes were sprinkled over their heads during the ceremony.
According to the teachings of the Talmud, a second soul was believed to enter men's bodies every Friday evening and to remain throughout the following day, its presence being indicated by an increased appetite for food.
On Friday, says an old tradition, is held the Witches' Sabbath or Assembly, and one should be careful not to speak of these creatures on that day, for their hearing is then especially acute, and disrespectful remarks will render one liable to incur their spite.
In the popular belief of the Swabians, Friday is the day when the witches celebrate their joint festival with the Devil on the Heuberg, Dear Rotenburg, and afterward scour the country, intent on working all manner of mischief upon the people and their cattle.
According to a Scotch superstition, however, witches were supposed to hold their weekly meetings on Saturdays, in unfrequented places. The formal proceedings on these occasions included an address by the Devil, and the holding of a court, wherein each witch was expected to give a detailed statement of her doings; and those who had been idle were given a beating with their own broomsticks, the diligent being rewarded by gifts of enchanted bones. A dance followed, the Devil playing on the bag-pipes, and leading the music.
The Irish are careful not to mention fairies by name either on Wednesdays or Fridays, for these invisible creatures are unusually alert on these two days.
On Fridays especially, their power for evil is very strong. On that day, therefore, a careful watch is kept over the children and cattle; a lighted wisp of straw is waved about the baby's head, and a quenched coal is placed under the cradle and churn. And if the horses are more than usually restive in their stalls, it is a sure sign that the fairies are riding them; therefore the people spit three times at the animals, and the fairies thereupon immediately take their departure.
In Ireland Friday is facile princeps among unlucky days, and especial care should be taken not to open the door of one's dwelling to any stranger on that day. Neither butter nor milk should be given away, nor should a cat be taken from one house to another on a Friday. To undo a sorcerer's spell, one should eat barley cakes over which an incantation has been said; but the cakes must be eaten on a Monday or Thursday, and never on Friday.
In Welsh tradition the water-sprites are thought to keep an especially watchful eye over the sea on Fridays, making it rough and tempestuous.
On a Friday morning in the year 1600, says an old legend a ship set sail from a Northern port, having on board a young man and a maiden of rare beauty, whose strange actions and demeanor seemed to betoken that they were supernatural beings. The vessel never reached port, but one stormy night a phantom ship was seen, enveloped in an uncanny light; and on its deck stood the youth and his sweetheart, a weird vision, as the spectral craft moved along over the stormy sea against the wind.
In Hesse Frau Hölle, the modern Freyja, is the special guardian and protectress of newly married people, and so tenacious has been this old belief in the minds of the Hessian peasants that the day of Venus is still in high favor among them as the most propitious for weddings.
In some places it is unlucky to receive any news, whether good or bad, on a Friday; and, according to a Shropshire saying, "if you hear anything new on a Friday, it gives you another wrinkle on your face, and adds another year to your age." Indeed, the term "Friday-faced" was used to denote a gloomy or dejected visage, as in the following quotation:--
Marry, out upon him! what a friday-fac'd slave it is! I think in my conscience his face never keeps holiday.
In Servia children born on Friday are thought to be invulnerable to the assaults of the whole army of hags and sorcerers. In Germany Friday is reckoned the most fateful of all the week-days, whether for good or evil. The beliefs vary in different portions of the empire, but there is a universal prejudice against setting out on a journey, moving into a new house, or changing servants on this day. In eastern Prussia, whoever bakes on a Friday will get but little bread; but Sunday baptisms are thought to offset the unlucky auspices of children born on Friday. The North German farmers consider Friday the best day on which to begin gathering the harvest.
In olden times Friday was the most favorable day for courtship and weddings in Germany, and, unless a bride first entered her new home on that day, domestic strife was likely to ensue.
If she wished to tame a bad-tempered husband, her first care was to prepare for him a soup made with the rain-water of a Friday's shower. The magic charm of words wherewith cattle were freed from the mange was spoken on a Friday morning; and a hare which had been shot on the first Friday in March was of great therapeutic value, especially its eyes, which were dried and carried about as a sovereign remedy for defective vision.
Only on a Friday did the church-bells strike the hour for the release of bewitched spirits, and the delivery of enchanted souls from their spells.
Doctor M. Höfler, in his "Volksmedizin und Aberglauben in Oberbayern" (p. 208), says that Bavarian peasants still cherish many superstitions about the sixth day of the week, the day sacred to Freyja, the old German Goddess of Love. Moreover, wonderful amuletic virtues are attributed to hens' eggs laid during Good Friday night, and whoever eats these eggs is thought to be thereby insured against bodily harm. How long this immunity holds good does not appear; but probably until another Good Friday night egg is eaten. In farmers' households these precious eggs are therefore eagerly sought by the house-mistress, who is wont to give them to her husband and the farm-hands; or else she uses them as an ingredient of the dough figures which ornament the Easter bread.
In some districts of Hungary the following peculiar custom is in vogue:--
Whenever any one's name-day happens on a Friday, that person selects a piece of one of his cast-off garments, rubs thereon a few drops of his own blood and saliva, and then burns the fragment of clothing. By so doing he burns up also all the ill luck which else might have befallen him during the next year. In southeastern Transylvania a rag mystically dealt with as above is hung on a tree before sunrise on the day in question; if it disappear before dawn of the next day, the person who thus superstitiously celebrates the occurrence of his name-day on a Friday may laugh at ill luck for a year.
The Magyars begin no work on a Friday, for it is bound to miscarry; neither do they give any milk out of the house on that day, for by so doing they imagine the usefulness of the cow to be impaired. In Bihar County, Hungary, a loaf of bread baked on Friday and impaled upon a stick is accounted a safeguard against the spread of fire. The natives of this district likewise entertain various curious fancies which are decidedly unique. For example, when a newly born child is knock-kneed, the mother regards it as a changeling. She therefore seats herself on the threshold on a Tuesday or Friday, when witches are abroad, and peremptorily addresses those creatures, demanding the restoration of her own child, whom she believes they have stolen away. "Pfui! Pfui! you scoundrels!" she exclaims, "give it back!"
The Sicilians have a host of superstitions on this subject. The following are among the more interesting items of their folk-lore relating to Friday. On this day the owner of a rented house will not hand over the keys to a new tenant, neither would the latter receive them. In the southern part of the province of Palermo no thief dares steal on a Friday, and the accuracy of this statement is corroborated by the criminal statistics. Indeed, on this day the most timid householder may journey in safety anywhere in the province, a fact which the sagacious traveler in a land notorious for brigandage will not fail to note. This immunity is not attributable to any special veneration for Freyja's day, but rather to a popular belief that thefts and other misdemeanors then committed are sure of speedy detection. Laughter is thought to offend the goddess, and the proverb runs, "He who laughs on Friday weeps on Saturday." In an anonymous manuscript in the municipal library of Palermo appears a statement that whoever cuts out garments on a Tuesday or a Friday runs the risk of making them too short and of losing the cloth. Such clothing has little wear in it, for nothing begun on these days has any durability.
The inhabitants of ancient Gascony are no less credulous, as is apparent from the following bits of Friday lore. Any one rash enough to start on a journey on horseback runs especial risk of falling off his horse, and of being drowned in attempting to ford a stream. It has even happened that newly baked loaves have been found tinged with blood in the oven. However, Friday is a good day for making vinegar, and the casks filled at three o'clock in the afternoon of that day are found to be superior to others. This is because our Lord, while on the cross, was given vinegar to drink, mingled with gall, at three o'clock on the afternoon of Good Friday.
In Normandy, also, Friday is the favorite day for putting water in wine or cider, for the people believe that on any other day the mixture would become sour.
According to a quaint Italian belief, whoever is born on a Friday, will be of sanguine temperament, passionate, light-hearted, and handsome. He will delight in music, both vocal and instrumental, and will have a liking for fine clothes. Moreover, he will be voluble in speech, though of unstable character.
The Tyrolese have a saying, "Whoever is born on a Friday must experience trouble," and they regard it as folly to marry on that day.
The French people share fully the general distrust of the sixth day of the week. This is shown by statistics of the Parisian theatres, where there are produced on an average nearly two hundred new pieces annually, and for many years not one of these has had its first performance on a Friday.
In Alsace Wednesday and Friday are unlucky days, and the former is never chosen for a wedding or baptism. But of the two, Friday is the more undesirable, and no business of importance is done thereon, nor any journey undertaken. It is foremost among witch days, for evil spirits are then abroad, and their activity on a Friday is proverbial. These sentiments prevail in other German districts, and are entertained by people of cultivation and learning. Indeed, it may be affirmed truly that the possession of intellectual force is by no means incompatible with a superstitious belief in the luck or misfortune of particular days. The credulousness of the great Napoleon in this regard is well known. Bismarck is said to have once written to his wife from Letzlingen, a village of Prussian Saxony: "I have not had such good luck in hunting to-day as I had three years ago; but then--it is a Friday." The French statesman, Gambetta, is reported to have arranged his journeyings and business affairs with reference to auspicious hours, as determined by a professional reader of cards; and President Felix Faure, we are told, is similarly credulous. Indeed, so prevalent are notions of this kind in the French capital that tastefully ornamented cards with a list of "hours to be avoided" find a ready sale in the streets.
Among the Slavonians St. Prascovia, the modern successor of Venus and Freyja, is believed to visit the peasants' houses every Friday, and woe to the luckless woman whom she then finds engaged in certain occupations. Local tradition says that sewing, spinning, and weaving on that day are sinful, and are especially distasteful to St. Prascovia, familiarly known as "Mother Friday," because the dust so produced gets into her eyes. She is very apt to take revenge by inflicting upon the offenders divers physical ailments, such as sore eyes, whitlows, or hang-nails. In some districts the peasants retire earlier than usual on Friday evenings, under the impression that Mother Friday will punish those whom she may find awake when she makes her evening visits. These popular beliefs are exemplified in the following tradition:--
There was once a certain woman who did not pay due reverence to Mother Friday, but set to work on a distaff full of flax, combing it and whirling it. She spun away until dinner-time, then sleep fell upon her. Suddenly the door opened, and in came Mother Friday, before the eyes of all who were there, clad in a white dress, and in such a rage! And she went straight up to the woman who had been spinning, and scooped up from the floor a handful of the dust that had fallen out of the flax, and began stuffing and stuffing that woman's eyes full of it! After she had stuffed them full, she went off in a rage,--disappeared without saying a word.
When the woman awoke, she began squalling, at the top of her voice, about her eyes, but could not tell what was the matter with them. The other women, who had been much frightened, began to cry out: "Oh, you wretch, you! you've brought a terrible punishment on yourself from Mother Friday." Then they told her all that had taken place. She listened to it all, and then began imploring: "Mother Friday, forgive me! Pardon me, the guilty one! I'll offer thee a taper, and I'll never let friend or foe dishonor thee, mother!"
"Well, what do you think? During the night, back came Mother Friday, and took the dust out of that woman's eyes, so that she was able to get about again. It's a great sin to dishonor Mother Friday, combing and spinning flax, forsooth!"
Professor Max Müller, in his "Contributions to the Science of Mythology" (New York and Bombay, 1897), cites a tradition of the as yet little known mythology of the Mordvinians, a Finnish race inhabiting the middle Volga provinces of Russia. A woman who had been working all day long on a Friday, baking bread for some orphan children, was taken up in a dream to the still, and when she was nearly exhausted, owing to the effects of the heat, and to the rapidly increasing size of a piece of dough which she had put into her mouth, she was accosted by Chkai, the large-eyed Mordvine sun-god, who told her that she was being punished because she had baked bread for the orphans on a Friday. She was charged, moreover, to tell all the people so. "But who will be such a fool as to believe me?" asked the woman most disrespectfully. Thereupon Chkai placed his mark in scarlet and blue upon her forehead,--an emblem which is thought to bring luck. And after that the Mordvine women were careful to bake no bread, nor to do any other work, on a Friday.
It was a very early custom in England to appoint Friday as the day for the execution of criminals, and until recently the same was true in this country, but through the persistent efforts of the "Thirteen Club," of New York, whose object is the discouragement of certain popular superstitions, the sixth day of the week has been partially relieved of the odium of being "hangman's day" in the United States.
A writer of an inventive turn of mind has suggested that Friday's unpopularity is partly owing to its being late in the week and money runs short to the poor. Saturday being the close of the week, and pay-day as well, there is no time then to be superstitious.
Some modern writers have displayed a misguided zeal in the collection of statistical evidence that Friday has been a most auspicious day in American history, and have cited among other events the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, and that of Cornwallis at Yorktown, as occurring on that day. But will such an argument appeal with success to English readers? If by general consent we should teach our children that Friday was the luckiest day of the week, evidence in favor of this theory would no doubt rapidly accumulate, and the new belief would soon be worth just as much as the old one.