Friday, 13 November 2015

Feeling Lucky Today–Or Not? Origins of the Friday the 13th Superstition

From Wikipedia: The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: "triskaidekaphobia"; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen").

Did you know that over half of all Canadians are superstitious and believe that the date Friday the 13th brings bad luck? People actually cancel flight reservations, doctor appointments and the like – and some of us take it to the extreme and refuse to leave home on Friday the 13th. Hell, there are even articles published in medical journals illustrating the fear surrounding the dreaded date.  

So, what is it about Friday the 13th that people are so afraid of? How did it become a thing? How did it become a date so shrouded in superstition? I mean, there are a ton of things that we’re superstitious about: crossing the paths of black cats, breaking mirrors, walking under ladders – I could go on… But there’s something about Friday the 13th (beyond the whole homicidal-maniac-in-a-hockey-mask-whom-we’ve-come-to-know-as Jason thing – although where do you think the idea for the film franchise came from??).

I have of course been aware, for as long as I can remember, of Friday the 13th and its alleged curse, but I’ve never really paid much attention - not being all that superstitious myself. So this morning, after overhearing some kids talking about their considerable fears of what the day might bring, I thought, rather than scoff at their silliness, why not  conduct a little research and find out the origin of this particular superstition. Here’s what I found out:

Unfortunately, there’s no evidenced historical background on which to base the Friday the 13th phobia. First of all, the number 13 in and of itself is considered unlucky. I know people who avoid that number at all costs; I’ve been in numerous buildings where a 13th floor is non-existent, etc.. Most accounts of the origin of Friday the 13th are based in theological history. Have you ever heard that having 13 people to a dinner party is bad luck? There’s a legend which states that if 13 people sit down to dine together, one of them will die within a year. Well, here’s where the biblical references come into play. The Bible recounts that there were 13 people present at the Last Supper – and that one of them betrayed Jesus, which precipitated His crucifixion. And we all know what day the crucifixion took place on. It’s also been recorded that it was on a Friday that Eve tempted Adam with the apple – and that the Great Flood began on a Friday.

According to Wikipedia’s page (and please check it out to see all references) on the subject, other possible origins of the superstition are as follows:

An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards' 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:
He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.

Rossini by Henri Grevedon
It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth,[9] contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.[5]
A suggested origin of the superstition—Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of theKnights Templar—may not have been put together until the 20th century. It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King (Le Roi de fer), John J. Robinson's 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown's 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry's The Templar Legacy (2006)

So, historically, Friday is just a bad luck day – and put it together with the number 13, as in Friday the 13th, and, well, you’ve got yourself a double whammy of the bad luck!

I personally don’t put too much stock in it, but clearly there’s something to it. What about you? Are you afraid of Friday the 13th?

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