Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th: is it Fraught with Peril or all in Your Mind?

That’s a good question isn’t it, and I had a lot of fun reading all the myths associated with this day.

My thought is that this fear is all in the mind and probably connected to ones upbringing and environment. I always find things like this fascinating, but then so is the subject of ghosts and UFO’s, etc. Usually anything out of the ordinary hits my buttons.

I’d like to share a few facts about Friday the 13th. Did you know that usually every year contains two of them but this year we’ll have three, each 13 weeks apart? Now isn’t that interesting? The last time this happened was in 2009 and the next time will be 2015, but it is very unusual because this a leap year and the next one of those won’t roll around until 2040. In case anyone is worried about this we already had one of them (Jan 13) and the next one is July 13.

No one exactly knows how superstitions get started and they go back so far in history it’s almost impossible to find the origin. I can give you some very interesting facts though. Some people get so distraught over this day that they refuse to leave the house to go to work or to shop or get on the road at all. Studies have shown that there are more accidents on this day, but I think it is probably due to people who think bad things are going to happen, so they do.

Here are some crazy things and interesting facts associated with Friday the 13th.

1.) If 13 people sit down to dinner, one of them will die within the next year. This one started with the ancient Hindus as well as the Vikings.

2.) Many tall buildings don’t have a 13th floor. There are some towns that don’t have a 13th Street or 13th Avenue. I think most of us know this already or have run across it at some point.

3.) The ancient Egyptians thought that life unfolded in sections and there were twelve sections in all with the thirteenth being death, but not the dust and decay we think of – instead it was rebirth of a glorious transformation into the afterlife.

4.) Others consider the number 13 to be feminine and to coincide with the 13 lunar phases we have every year. The solar calendar eventually dominated over the lunar one with the rise of male-dominated civilization and it became the calendar we all know today, thus making the lunar calendar of 13 moons bad luck. Of course we still have 13 moons a year, but now we call it a blue moon when the moon is full twice in one month.

5.) There were 13 people at the last supper and the 13th man betrayed Jesus leading to the crucifixion, which incidentally also took place on a Friday.

6.) Legend says never change your bed on a Friday because it will bring bad dreams.

7.) If you cut your mails on a Friday, you cut them for sorrow.

8.) If you start a trip on a Friday, you will encounter misfortune.

9.) Supposedly the reputation of Friday being a bad day goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve tempted Adam with the apple on a Friday. Tradition also says the Great Flood began on a Friday, God tongue-tied the builders of the tower of Babel on a Friday, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on Friday and of course, as mentioned earlier, Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified. It is therefore a day of penance for Christians.

10.) In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (known as Hangman’s Day in Britain). In other pre-Christian cultures it was a Sabbath day, or day of worship, so if you involved yourself in other activities that day you didn’t receive blessings from the gods, and therefore, maybe this was the reason why it was bad luck to start any projects or take any trips on a Friday when you should be spending the day worshipping.

11.) Once the church got involved in the Middle Ages, Friday became known as the “Witches’ Sabbath” because surely anything to do with pagans was not holy. Friday became a heathen day as the church went to great lengths to suppress pagan activities.

12.) The name “Friday” was derived from a Norse deity worshipped on the sixth day, known either as Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility). Frigg or Freya corresponded to Venus, the goddess of love to the Romans. Pre-Christian German people considered it a good day to get married for this reason, but that all changed when Christianity came along. The cat was Freya’s sacred animal. Immediately she was recast in post-pagan folklore as a witch, and her day became associated with evil doings.

13.) There are lots of legends revolving around this but one is of particular interest. The legend says some witches used to observe their Sabbath by gathering in a cemetery at the dark of the moon. On one occasion, Freya came to join the group of twelve and gave them one of her cats, thus making the coven into a group of thirteen. From that time on, by “tradition” there are always 13 witches in a coven.

14.) If your name had 13 letters you would have Devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Theodore Bundy).

15.) It is also said that 13 turns make a traditional hangman’s noose - anything less would fail to snap a neck. Hmmm……

16.) The first person to die in a car accident was killed in New York City on Sept. 13, 1899.

17.) The ill-fated Apollo 13 launched at 13:13 CST on 4/11/70. The sum of the date’s digits is 13. The explosion that crippled the spacecraft occurred on April 13.

18.) Butch Cassidy was born on Friday, April 13, 1866.

19.) President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal.

20.) Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.

21.) The seals on the back of a dollar bill include 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 stars above the eagle’s head, 13 war arrows in the eagle’s claw and 13 leaves on the olive branch.

22.) Fidel Castro was born on Friday, Aug. 13, 1926.

And here are some crazy foods to avoid on Friday the 13th if you’re superstitious about the day.

1.) Bananas on a Boat: Bringing a banana on a boat has long been thought to be unlucky. The superstition started with fishermen who believed that the presence of a banana would bring bad luck for that day's catch. Others take the myth more seriously, thinking that a banana on a boat will bring death.

2. Salt: Spilling salt is possibly the most popularized food superstition. Luckily, this one has an easy remedy. While spilling salt is thought to be unlucky, throwing a pinch over your left shoulder is said to counteract the bad luck. This supposedly wards off evil because the Devil sits on your left shoulder.

3.) Cutting Noodles: While noodles are thought to bring good fortune and a long life in Chinese culture, cutting those same noodles brings about a different fortune (bad luck and a shortened lifespan).

But how do any of these practices, beliefs and events make Friday the 13th an unlucky day?

One theory is that a single historical catastrophe happened some 700 years ago. This event was the destruction of the Knights Templar, a legendary group of “warrior monks” formed during the Christian Crusades. By the 1300’s they’d had grown so powerful that even kings and popes feared them. The decimation of them was a state-church conspiracy that has been written about in several books. Supposedly, this infamous day was a Friday the 13th of October, 1307. Thousands of Templars were arrested in a pre-dawn raid and accused of all sorts of practices, submitted to torture and even burned at the stake over the course of the next seven years, but no charges were ever proven.

However, none of these things have been proven to have any significance to the fear of Friday the 13th today. There have been no records found to substantiate that folks in early times had a fear of Friday the 13th. We must conclude that this got started in modern times and is a mere accrual of bad omens.

A significant portion of the population in North America and Europe today are afraid of Friday the 13th and will not undertake anything on that day. This condition is known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, which are actually two phobias. One is the fear of Friday and the other is the fear of the number 13, called triskaidekaphobia. Christian theology is the most familiar source of both of these phobias.

Here we can go back to what was discussed earlier: thirteen people at the last supper, Jesus being crucified on a Friday, the apple in the Garden of Eden being eaten on a Friday and the Great Flood beginning on a Friday. Some historians trace the Christian distrust of Fridays to the church’s overall opposition to pagan religions.

Some people come to fear Friday the 13th because of misfortune they've experienced on that day in the past. If something really bad happens you’re pretty unlikely to forget about it. But if you think about it, bad things happen all the time. Therefore, if you have a mindset that something awful will happen on Friday the 13th, you’re probably inviting it to come your way.

When people cling to beliefs they become superstitions even if there is so scientific data to verify what is behind this particular belief.

Throughout the years there have been significant studies to analyze data occurring on Friday the 13th versus any other day. These studies have looked at emergency room visits, traffic accidents, retail sales and everything in between. Of course there is an increase in accidents and a decrease in sales because of fears that come along with people’s beliefs of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day.

One must conclude that the belief of bad luck can actually lead to bad luck. Some people are just more accident-prone on this day because they are anxious and can’t get the fact that something bad may happen out of their head.

What do you think?


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