Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

By Jean Henry Mead

An estimated 20 million people in this country fear Friday the 13th. Some are so paralyzed with fear that they avoid going to work, traveling or even getting out of bed, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina. The fear results in an $800 to $900 million lost in business for the day.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. According to folklorists, there is no written evidence of a Friday the 13th superstition in the U.S. before the 19th century. The earliest known documented reference in English occurred in an 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossin, according to the Wikipedia:

[Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; and if it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died.

There is also a myth that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners. Were there not thirteen people at The Last Supper?

Friday has been considered an unlucky day since the 14th century when The Canterbury Tales was published. Friday has also been considered an unfortunate day to travel or start new projects. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s. And Friday has also been known as the day that Jesus was crucified.

Another theory involves the arrest of the legendary Knights Templar. According to one expert the Knights Templar was a monastic military order founded in 1118 C.E. in Jerusalem. Their goal was to protect Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. The Knights Templar was a powerful as well as wealthy group over the next two centuries. King Phillip felt threatened by them and was determined to acquire their wealth. And on Friday, October 13, 1307, he ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar.

Today, although a large number of us are afraid to leave home on Friday the 13th, Dutch insurers report that fewer accidents are reported on this day because people are consciously more careful. However, the British Medical Journal reported in a 1993 study that there was a significant increase in traffic accidents between Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th.

So, whether you consider black cats and walking under ladders unlucky on Friday the 13th, take heart. If you toss salt over your left shoulder, carry a four leaf clover in your lapel and drink a blender full of goat’s milk seasoned with grated frog’s tongue and gnat’s eyelashes, you'll forestall any unfortunate occurrences that may happen on this day, particularly if you stay in bed and read a good book until sundown.


Chester Campbell said...

I'm not walking under any ladders today!

Beth Terrell said...

Drink a blender full of goat’s milk seasoned with grated frog’s tongue and gnat’s eyelashes?

I'd better grab a handful of salt and start looking for 4-leaf clovers!

Mark W. Danielson said...

I've been flying between Boston and Indianapolis all week with no problems other than the weather. At 4 AM this morning, I blocked out to return to Boston and had a very odd aircraft problem and had to return to the gate. Maintenance finally resolved it and we were off 90 minutes late. Later, after returning from lunch, I attempted to enter my hotel through its revolving door just as a woman tried to go through the other side. You guessed it -- I got caught. No damage, but it would have been nice if the woman had looked. Then the TV remote didn't work in the room, except it's not the remote -- now they have to work on the TV. That wouldn't be so bad except I have to get some sleep in order to fly all night. Superstition or not, it hasn't been a good Friday the 13th, but there's always hope.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Sorry, Mark, I shouldn't make fun of the superstition. I was hit by a car and fractured my neck on Friday the 13th, so it took years to get over the fear whenever the day rolled around. I hope your bad luck is over!