Welcome to another Saturday Surprise! If today is Saturday, then yesterday must have been Friday, right? And not just any ol’ Friday, but Friday the 13th! Now, a lot of people think if the 13th of any month happens to be on a Friday, they will run into some bad luck. I have never been victim to this phenomenon, knock on wood, and I am not what I would consider superstitious. I’ve walked under ladders, shared a house with several black cats during my lifetime, and I don’t throw salt over my shoulder. In fact, I was brave enough to get married on a Friday the 13th!
Anyway, I thought it might be a bit of fun to take a look at some of the history and mythology surrounding Friday the 13th.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia: a fear of Friday the 13th. Who knew there was a word for it? Not that I can pronounce this word … I have been trying for 5 minutes now and I give up.
The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. Their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to phobia specialist (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia) Dr. Donald Dossey, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today.
Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on that date (oops!).
One theory for why the number ‘13’ is considered unlucky dates back to primitive man. Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition. Which begs the question: did primitive man not have toes?
Ancient civilizations weren’t unanimous in their dread of 13. The Chinese regarded the number as lucky, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs.
One of the myths I found that I enjoyed was this …
“Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, the god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party anyway, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki incited Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods.
Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.”
I do know that thirteen people in my tiny house would definitely be bad luck, for they would be tripping over each other. We have had as many as nine before, and that was definitely more than enough!
In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman’s Day in Britain).
The name “Friday” was derived from a Norse deity worshiped on the sixth day, known either as Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility), or both, the two figures having become intertwined in the handing down of myths over time. Frigg/Freya corresponded to Venus, the goddess of love of the Romans, who named the sixth day of the week in her honor “dies Veneris.”
Friday was actually considered quite lucky by pre-Christian Teutonic peoples— especially as a day to get married — because of its traditional association with love and fertility.
All that changed when Christianity came along. The goddess of the sixth day — most likely Freya in this context, given that the cat was her sacred animal — was recast in post-pagan folklore as a witch, and her day became associated with evil doings.
One legend has it that the witches of the north used to observe their sabbath by gathering in a cemetery in the dark of the moon. On one such occasion the Friday goddess, Freya herself, came down from her sanctuary in the mountaintops and appeared before the group, who numbered only 12 at the time, and gave them one of her cats, after which the witches’ coven — and, by “tradition,” every properly-formed coven since — comprised exactly 13.
There are many interesting tales and myths surrounding Friday the 13th, some fun, others not so much. But either way, as Terri Bonebright, assistant professor of psychology at DePauw University, says, “It all revolves around superstition. In the case of Friday the 13th, people have been told it will be a bad day, so they selectively remember all the bad events that occur throughout the day.” Makes sense to me.
But then there is this …
In a provocatively study titled, “Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?” published in the 1993 British Medical Journal, researchers compared the ratio of traffic volume to the number of automobile accidents on two different dates, Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th, over a period of years. Their goal was to map “the relation between health, behavior, and superstition surrounding Friday 13th in the United Kingdom.”
Interestingly, they found that while consistently fewer people in the region sampled chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicular accidents was significantly higher than on Friday the 6th.
“Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”
Now, I have a bit of a confession to make. I am gullible. More so when I am tired, and as I haven’t been sleeping well of late, I am very tired. Look at the meme below …
I’m sure all of you see the irony here, see the lie. I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. I was telling my girls about it … I said, “Hey, guess what … last year Hallowe’en was on Friday the 13th!” They both looked at me to see if I was joking, but when they saw no grin (I cannot lie straight-faced) they both burst out laughing. Finally, they had to explain to me … and now I have egg on my face.
So, if you are reading this, then you must have gotten through Friday the 13th without landing in the hospital or worse. And now, it is Saturday morning and time to start enjoying this lovely autumn weekend! Do something fun this weekend! Oh … before you go … one of the suggestions for this feature was to host guest posts, and I would like to do that next week, if anybody is interested in writing a bit of something fun for us all. Colette? I know you have some ideas. Bushka? How about one of your lovely poems? If anybody is interested in taking a turn for next Saturday’s post, drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Saturday Surprise” in the subject line, in case it goes to my spam folder, so I will recognize and rescue it! Have a great weekend, friends!